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North Korea Is Holding Its First-Ever Beer Festival

The festival features North Korea’s homegrown and state-owned beer, called Taedonggang, named after the iconic Taedong river, which flows through Pyongyang. The festival will run for 20 days and is being held on a restaurant boat that floats on the...
Photo via Flickr user Demipoulpe

If you just so happen to find yourself in North Korea this week and you're a fan of full-bodied ales with an unwavering sense of societal duty, you're in luck. The country known for its isolationism, hyper-aggressive threats toward perceived interlopers, and a leader utterly enthralled with Dennis Rodman, has just kicked off its very first beer festival.

The brand-new festival is largely seen as an attempt to soften North Korea's national image while continuing to promote Kim Jong Un's byungjin policy, which seeks to bolster economic development in the nation while continuing to expand its military might.

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READ MORE: North Korea Is Still Running Out of Food

The festival features North Korea's homegrown and state-owned beer, called Taedonggang, named after the iconic Taedong river, which flows through Pyongyang. The festival will run for 20 days and is being held on a restaurant boat that elegantly floats on the eponymous river.

For those of you might not be familiar with Taedonggang's puzzling past, it just so happens that the brewery is the result of a North Korean envoy tasked back in 2000 with purchasing the Wiltshire brewery Ushers of Trowbridge and shipping all equipment and furnishings—toilet seats included—back to North Korea with the aim of recreating it there.

During the nearly month-long festival, fried chicken, pretzels, and edamame beans are being served for guests of the festival to snack on. Needless to say, the main attraction is still the beer.

And North Koreans are enjoying it—along with the nationalist propaganda that is being served up. According to The Telegraph, relaying reporting from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, one North Korean attendee said the beer was "really refreshing." He added, "It's a little bit sweet as well. I think there is no other beer in the world that tastes better than Taedonggang."

Apparently, that isn't simply deep-seated bias speaking, because the success of Taedonggang is a large reason as to why South Korea ended its ban on microbrewing. In fact, one executive from Vintage Korea, a South Korean company that formerly distributed Taedonggang, told the New York Times that Taedonggang "used the best quality material without thinking of the production cost." Sadly, Taedonggang is almost exclusively sold in North Korea, with only a miniscule amount appearing for sale in China.

READ MORE: The Rise of South Korea's Craft Brewing Scene

So far, there doesn't seem to be any word on who will actually be allowed to attend the festival, but considering the fact that the state was 694,000 tons short on food after this year's harvest and that citizens have been warned to prepare for an "arduous march", we have a feeling not too many regular North Koreans are being treated to the free-flowing beer and snacks.

Let's hope the festival goes well and helps to calm down Kim Jong-Un, who once again threatened to "retaliate against the US with tremendous muscle" if the US didn't cancel the multinational military exercises known as the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which are scheduled to begin today.

Perhaps some refreshing beer will put him in a better mood.