This interview was conducted with Playground’s Co-Founder and Brewmaster Richard Kim.
Hi! Please introduce yourself to our readers and share a bit about your brewery’s history and vision.
Hi! We opened on 2015 in Goyang city which is located on the Northwest outskirts of Seoul. As you can see from our name, our brewery is based to make people play more and enjoy more in life.
Our mantra is “Don’t pause, Just Play” describing the Korean culture of people hesitating to enjoy themselves. And we try to have people enjoy more of the moment. We have built our slogan to be “Drink Better, Play Better” which is basically our vision to provide our customers something better to enjoy in their lives and we constantly pursuit to improve our beers to improve our customers lives.
Why did you decide to join the craft beer movement in Korea? What were you doing before?
Mr. Chun, our CEO, and I were both working in the Electronic manufacturing business. I got tired of the field of work that I was doing as an operations manager and wanted to pursuit something in the culinary area. Mr. Chun, who owns a logistics company and always enjoyed craft beer, wanted to try to import craft beer into Korea, And I wanted to use have craft beer in my project restaurant. We originally wanted to just import craft beer but after we discussed many ways of making the business viable and came to a conclusion to open a brewery locally.
Tell us a bit more about the Korean craft beer scene from your perspective.
The Korean craft beer scene is still pretty young but is growing pretty fast in my point of view. The Korean craft beer quality has improved at a significant rate due to all the new craft beer breweries that are tirelessly trying to improve and introduce beers in the market. Because of this quality surge, the Korean craft beer market is growing at a faster pace than I thought it would grow.
I believe that Korean craft beer has the potential to be the bench mark of craft beer in the Asia territory!
How do you think Korean craft beer currently compares to craft beer from other countries globally and in the region?
Currently I think Korean craft beer has improved so fast in the past 2 years. I’ve not seen a country yet to have this much improvement on a vast level this fast. I’d say in a few years the quality would be similar to a strong beer state in the USA.
What do you think will take Korean craft beer to the next level?
Since the tax laws for Korean craft beer has recently been relieved a bit, I believe the free market by itself will take the beer to the next level. So much competition and Big beer companies trying to block or monopolize the Korean craft market are actually pushing the small craft breweries to innovate and focus locally.
If you were to develop a uniquely Korean craft beer style for other countries to follow, what might it be?
We already do have a unique Korean craft beer style which is our Gentleman Lager, it is a 7.6% ABV lager. People try to define it with something in the BJCP guidelines. but it is designed to actually have a alcoholic boozy character which is traditionally not liked when brewing a beer.
We call this the Korean lager because the Korean drinking culture usually adds soju to light beer to make the abv go up. This is usually because Koreans want to get drunk but not feel too full.
This has been one of our best-selling beers and we think it is by itself an epitome of Korean drinking culture. Some cultures have similarities so we think this might work in some countries.
How do you envision Korean craft beer shaping Korea’s culture?
We believe the Korean craft beer will be a fundamental tool into shaping the “Support Local” concept. Korea has been a growing country that has had influence from richer countries surrounding it.
Korea has been consuming imported products to think that it had better quality, but now supporting local products are not inferior anymore and there is slowly becoming a movement in supporting local companies.
How do you think the craft beer scene in Korea will change over the next 5-10 years?
I believe taste (preference) takes about 10 years to develop. Slowly but steadily Koreans will start to choose beers that match their drinking style and scene ,and as more people have their likes and dislikes I believe there will be more brands and styles of beers than ever before in the market.
Can you share a bit about your process in developing new beers?
I usually get pretty personal. I think of an idea that I would like or that my friends would like to drink. I listen to all the cons of a certain drink or pros of some drink of food and try to reassemble those characters into a beer style I would like to drink.
What do you think makes your brewery stand out in the growing market?
We keep things personal, our personality never goes dark in this market. Also we have been leading in food pairing as well. The things that keep our core customers happy will keep us relevant in the growing market.
What is your favorite beer that your brewery brews?
I’d have to say my favorite beer is our Monk IPA. It never gets old to me.
What is your favorite craft beer not brewed by your brewery?
I’d say my favorite craft beer from another company would be Kolsch’s made from Caligari brewing and Magpie Brewing.
Thank you for joining us! If you enjoy Playground Brewery’s beers, stay tuned for a special takeover event coming soon in Singapore!