Beer was introduced into Korea in early 20th century. Seoul's first beer brewery opened in 1908. Both current major breweries date from the 1920s. The third participant, Jinro Coors Brewery, was founded in the 1990s, but was later acquired by Oriental Breweries (OB).
The Korean beer market is dominated by two major companies, Hite-Jinro, and OB, and which each sell several brands on the local market. Most restaurants and bars will only have one of these beers on tap, as they are largely regarded as similar in taste and price (they are mostly brewed from rice). Foreign beers are available but are generally expensive - usually at least ₩8,000 and as much as ₩15,000 for a pint of Guinness in bars in downtown Seoul, while local brands usually cost around ₩3,000. Recently, microbreweries have begun to appear, and this area of the market is showing increasing signs of sophistication. Of all Korea's mass-produced beers, only two are brewed from 100% barley malt: Max (Hite) and OB Golden Lager.
The lack of microbreweries in the Korean market has been due to onerous regulations that have constrained small-size brewers to supplying beer to premises that they actually own. These laws were relaxed in June of 2011, allowing several small players a toehold in the local market. One such player is Seoul’s Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro.
A growing trend in South Korea to overcome the local shortfall of various beer styles is home brewing. While ingredients and supplies are still relatively limited, there are many who brew their own beer. Various brewing clubs exist to help guide newcomers through the baby steps of brewing in Korea, one such club being Homebrew Korea. The online community is a meeting place for all type of brewers to gather and share experiences and information related to beer and brewing in Korea.