Ahh yes. The Big Question. Some feel that Hite and Cass are interchangeable, while some are loyal to their brands (I’m a Hite guy, but i didn’t really know why). Finally, we’re going to put this question to bed: WHAT IS THE BEST BEER IN KOREA?
We got our friends together to do a blind taste-test. There were eight of us.
It was basically a face-off between two brewing companies: Hite Brewery Company (which makes Hite, Max Prime, Hite Dry Finish and Hite Stout) vs Oriental Brewery (which makes Cass, OB Golden Lager and Cafri). For this taste test, Cafri and Stout were left out because of their type not having a direct competitor from the other brewery.
Note: In terms of sale by volume in Korea, Hite is #1, Cass is #2 and Max Prime is #3.
A Note on Perceived Coolness:
Hite is pretty cool, just because it says “The Hite” on their kegs and bottle openers. The article ‘the’ exudes awesomeness. In fact, Tom and I have often thought of changing the name of this very site to ‘The Busan High Five (Awesome).’
Oriental Brewery, however, has some pretty cool stuff of its own. First, the name is a lot classier and descriptive (what’s a Hite?). Cass actually has some very cool stuff going for it too. They use the phrase “Tok!” which I like, but I don’t know when it’s appropriate to use, though. Maybe when cheers-ing? They also have an awesome catch-phrase: THE SOUND OF VITALITY. Is Cass less filling? Does it taste great? Who cares; Cass sounds good. Also, check out their logo. Way cool.
The Methodology of the Taste Test:
All beer was imbibed out of mugs or plastic cups. To make it uniform, only canned beer was used. I’ve read that untrained palates can’t actually process more than two tastes at once, so we separated the taste test into three groups of two.
1. Simple beers: Cass vs Hite;
2. ‘Premium’ beers: Max vs OB Golden Lager; and
3. Dry beers: Hite Dry Finish vs Asahi*
*I realize Asahi isn’t Korean – but since a) Hite Dry Finish was made to directly compete for market share with Asahi and b) Hite Dry Finish (surprisingly) won an earlier taste test vs Asahi between my friends and I, it would serve as a re-match.
My fiance handled the pouring. It was done by an honor system of “close your eyes!” Participants weren’t told which round it was, but after every two beers, we stopped and discussed the tastes, and the real beers were revealed.
ROUND ONE: CASS VS HITE
Unbeknownst to us, Cass was the first one poured. The taste yielded the same result from everyone: “Ew!” “Tasteless!” “Like cat piss, but… no flavor!” Hite was next: “A little more taste than the first.” “Not bad” and “Still shitty.”
ROUND TWO: MAX VS OB GOLDEN LAGER
We didn’t know it, but Max was first. “Full taste” was the term that came to mind with most of us. All-in-all, we all agreed that it was actually pretty damn good. Then OB Golden Lager. It was clearly better and fuller than Hite or Cass, but not as good as the Max. Somebody might have mentioned “berries!” when describing the flavor.
ROUND THREE: ASAHI VS HITE D(ry Finish)
Months before, we tried a taste test between these two, and much to everyone’s surprise, Hite D was the winner. Tom refused to believe it, so we had to have a re-match. The results, once again, put Hite D on top with the majority of us, although Asahi is still a pretty damn good beer. Hite D was found to be a bit more crisp, and the term “malt” might have been thrown around, although I don’t know if that’s even the right word. You can tell we’re real pros.
Oriental Brewery took a pounding; the clear winners of the night are all of the Hite beers: Hite, Max and Hite D.
The final results of the Battle of Korean Beers:
1. Max or Hite Dry Finish (depending on your mood)
3. OB Golden Lager