Chinese Beer Craze In South Korea: A Hot Take

Chinese beer is gaining traction in South Korea and the reason is surprising. Here is our hot (should we say spicy?) take and what you need to know…

When many people think about South Korea they think of fried chicken with beer (or soju). However, a new culinary trend is finding converts in South Korea and with it comes Chinese beer.

Chinese hot pot or malatang, is growing in popularity in South Korea, especially in Seoul. Malatang restaurants originally were found around Konuk University but are now popping up in Yeouido, Gagnam and Gwanghwamun.

What is Malatang?

The word malatang derives from its main ingredient “mala sauce”. Mala sauce is flavored with dried chilli pepper and the unique Sichuan pepper. The word “málĂ  ” is a combination of two Chinese characters éş» (meaning numbing) and 辣 (meaning spicy). This is reference to the feeling inside your mouth after eating the sauce.

South Koreans are even taking malatang into their homes. They are following recipes they see on YouTube. Plus sales of of the spicy powder and other ingredients for making malatang are increasing.

South Korean e-commerce platform “Wemakeprice” reported sales of ingredients to make malatang increased 96 fold in 2019 when compared to 2018. This led to many discussions and was a top news story on China’s Twitter-like Sina Webo.

Malatang and Chinese Beer a Perfect Match?

Now when Koreans are eating malatang they want the right beer to go with it. It seems only Chinese beer hits the spot. Yes, it seems Tsingtao Beer one of the most well-known Chinese beer brands is the beverage of choice for malatang.

Chinese beer has doubled its market share in South Korea. The market share jumped from 4.9 to 10.2% according to the local South Korean paper The Central Times. With every upwards trend there has to be downside and it seems Japanese beer is losing out.

China and South Korean Flag Mixed Together
Chinese Malatang Finds Converts in South Korea

Japanese beer which has been popular in South Korea is losing market share with Chinese beer feeling the benefit. It seems malatang and Chinese beer is the hot trend for 2020 in South Korea.

“Nobody can resist Chinese food!!!” wrote one blogger. Whilst another joked “no more fried chicken and beer…we now only want malatang with beer”. China often influences trends in South Korea it seems. The Chinese romantic TV show My Love from the Star made fried chicken popular when it was aired in South Korea.

In Conclusion

We wrote earlier this week about imported and craft beer trends in China. In China 70% of premium beer drank is imported. Now it seems China is exporting beer successfully. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and Chinese beer can reach new markets. be it big brands or even some of the smaller craft breweries.

As a beer producing nation, China is maturing. There is a move away from big brand domestic beer. Young urban professionals are choosing craft beers which are more expensive but more flavorful than regular domestic beers. It would be nice to think that behind the growing reach of Tsingtao that Chinese craft beer may follow into the export market too.

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at
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