Beer Collaboration Unites Brewers in Michigan and South Korea

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by Yeseul Oh
A Korean beer company is ready to release a new flavored beer with a Michigan beer brand. [Image : Playground Brewery official website]

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter Taphouse, Michigan and South Korea’s Playground Brewery are collaborating to make a new beer using Korean blackberries. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is a brand owned by Northern United Brewing Company. The craft beer partnership between these two companies started in 2015, and over the years, the two craft beer companies have participated in personnel exchanges for training and sharing brewing techniques. In January, the founder of Playground Brewery visited Jolly Pumpkin's brewing company in Michigan to learn about sour beer recipes from brew master Ron Jeffries. In turn, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales sent several of their employees to Playground Brewery in February. In addition to training, these trips serve to conduct cultural exchange and foster good relations between the two breweries. Some Jolly Pumpkin beer products have been available to buy in South Korea since last year. Now, the two companies are preparing to release a new flavored beer in Michigan.

The partnership between Jolly Pumpkin and Playground Brewery is just one example of international cooperation between US and Korean breweries. Homeplus, a Korean discount store retail chain, started selling ‘SAM'S ALE’ — a beer made in Saugatuck, Michigan — in 2017. Saugatuck Brewing Company named the beer ‘Sam’ because it is a popular and easy to remember American name for Korean customers. Korea is the second largest market for Michigan exports; since 2006, the State’s exports to Korea have totaled $425 million in value. According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Korean beer imports to the United States reached $17 million in 2017, which is a 79% increase from the previous year. The total volume was 22 million kilograms.

Yeseul Oh is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Wahshington Young fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. She is a student of Kyunghee university in South Korea