For Miles R.


To find a good beer in South Korea,

ride for five hours on the Mugunghwa

train from Masan to Seoul in winter,

drinking warm Hite lagers and flooding


the shaky cabin with English voices

debating your one American friend

over the necessity of grains

in the human diet.  In Seoul Station,


ride the five-story escalator down

to the cold, clean streets; take the subway

to Apgujeong where the western-style

restaurants are overpriced. Ogle


a thousand different porcelain-faced

Korean girls at the same time,

as their heels clap along the sidewalks.

Find that the brewery you’re seeking


has been closed for months and settle for

cola-colored beer in a bottle

at 7/11.  Consult travel guides.

Find out that at the other end of the city,


Gangnam, forty-five minutes by subway,

there’s a microbrewery with Belgian-

style ales.  Go there.  Ignore the eyes

of other foreigners on the green-line;


blend their faces into the suited mass.

Off the subway, grab the first street food

with incomparable scent; spicy chicken

skewers, fishy odeng strips, sticky sweet


rice cakes in red sauce.  Walk an hour

and a half in accumulating snow

which stains the cuffs of your jeans with street sand

and slush.  Face the fact that you are lost;


ask a man in the street: Odeeso

Platinum Maekchu?  He will tell you

in perfect English: “Platinum Beer?

Take two lefts, below the movie theatre.”


Don’t be too embarrassed by your shitty

Korean.  Holler with relief into

frozen air when a massive chrome

fermentation tank appears on the


wet snow-laced sidewalk horizon.

Wring your snow-soaked clothes on the brewpub’s floor.

Absorb the yeast-sprouting warmth.  Order two

ales and don’t linger over the inflated


price.  Be patient for a minute.  Freshly

sobered and patient.  The glasses will come;

pale bronze rising to an unmistakable

frothy head born of Belgian yeast, malt extract,


boiled candy sugar. Hold the moment—

dim room, high table with tasteless bar snacks,

your friend from Portland who is all you have

for a brief few months in Asia, the smiling


waiter who bows and sets down your pints.

Delay the first sip, before the taste

is all you expected and still wholly

disappointing, as all things lost, then found.








Photo by Kent Kanouse