Cheers to the years:

A recap of our craft beer bar crawl in honor of our five-year wedding anniversary

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Our first and favorite stop: Pong Dang

If you know Michal and I, you know we enjoy a good beer. In fact, we would rather toast to our five-year wedding anniversary with a craft brew than a fine glass of wine or champagne.

So for this milestone wedding anniversary, smack dab in the middle of a super sticky summer in Seoul and about three months after having given birth, we thought it was perfect timing for a craft beer bar crawl.

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We got a baby sitter for the whole day and traded in the usual bar crawl T-shirts for a snazzy matching couple outfit we found on Gmarket (Korea’s equivalent to Amazon), ala Korean style.

We ventured back to Sinsa-dong where we visited Mikkeller last year because there were a bunch of craft beer spots we recently discovered on a helpful map compiled by the Seoul Brew Club.

With each beer, we cheered to a significant memory of our marriage. Although we ran out time, we didn’t run out of beer choices – and we certainly didn’t run out of memories.

The following describes our bar crawl experience by sharing the special moment from our relationship we reminisced, along with our thoughts on the beer, food and ambiance of each microbrewery or pub we visited.

First stop: Pong Dang

The memory we toasted to: Our sweet Sophia

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She’s wearing our wedding colors!

How could we not start by toasting to our darling daughter? I recently was telling a group of my preggo pals in Seoul about how I thought I could have never loved my husband more than I already had – until the day our daughter was born.

I was determined to give birth without medical interventions, so I was impressed and in awe that through all the pain and messiness of labor and delivery, Michal not only stood by me but helped me through each position and exercise (even climbing 11 flights of stairs with me twice in order to help move the baby down).

The beer we tried: Bold brews
Wide selection of beer brewed in-house but unfortunately flights were not an option. Michal had the nitro breakfast stout and I had the sour ale. I loved mine as it was especially tart but not mouth-puckering. I had a generous taste of his nitro and enjoyed the overall rich flavor, velvety mouth-feel and chocolate undertones.

The food we wished we tried: Skewers and sausages
We had just eaten a multiple course lunch at Si Wha Dam, so we opted out of getting food but regretted it later as it seemed like Pongdang had the best options for what we like to eat when we drink yet the food was still unique to the culture of the country (e.g. a variety of meat skewers and sausage platters).

The atmosphere we had fun with: Hipster haven
More like what we’ve seen in the U.S. at microbreweries. We had some fun tinkering around on the retro video game machines operated by coin, but were disappointed when one ate our money and didn’t work.

Second stop: Vincent Van Golo

The memory we toasted to: The beginning of our globe trotting days

Alright, this one goes back in time before we were married – the summer we backpacked through Italy and France after we graduated from MSU. It was the moment we knew we loved each other and were invested for the long haul.

We both thought the trip was a test for us because during our couple years of dating prior in undergrad we had never done any sort of vacation together as a trial run, not even a short road trip. But thankfully, we ended up having the time of our lives!

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(2008) In the gardens of Versailles – We ended up exploring the grounds long after all other tourists left.

From being in the Pope’s private audience in Rome and getting an umbrella blessed by him (unfortunate we didn’t have anything else on us to bring to the altar) to unintentionally strolling through the Versailles gardens for hours not realizing the gates closed for the night, our first international trip (one of many to come) forged our relationship ahead and cemented our shared wanderlust.

The beer we tried: Decent drinks

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There were only two beers on draft brewed in-house – a pale ale and a hefeweizen. The hefe was the perfect session ale on a hot, humid summer day – light and easy to drink. I avoided Michal’s pale ale as I am not into bitter hoppiness. The owner said he recently opened and was just starting to brew, so he was hoping to expand his repertoire.

We actually talked with the owner for a bit as he spoke good English. He funnily assumed we were college kids on a date, not a couple on their 5th year wedding anniversary, which – given our cute coordinated outfit and choice of venue for afternoon drinks – was fair.

The food we tried: Standard snacks
The food menu had the usual bar food options like fries and chicken wings. We arrived just when the place opened so we had to wait a bit longer for the food to be prepared, but appreciated getting complimentary shrimp chips in the meantime. I liked how the fries were seasoned and the wings were crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside, however the flavor was nothing to write home about as it was a pretty predictable BBQ sauce.

The atmosphere we enjoyed: Artsy and airy

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Just a few of the art pieces adorning the walls

The highlight of this spot was theme and decor. It had a bit of a gallery feel as we enjoyed looking at all the kitchsy pop art by local artists (many pieces conveyed anti-establishment themes). The two floors of the building included balcony and terrace spaces, with a bar on the bottom and on top.

Third stop: Boozy Cat Pub & Taphouse

The memory we toasted to: Our wedding, just another reminder of Proverbs 16:9
Five days before our wedding day, I got a call from the dry cleaner that a new employee didn’t cover the jeweled buttons on the back when turning my wedding dress inside out. The result – The front of the dress looked like a cat took her claws and ran them from top to bottom.

When I saw the shredded mess, the dress I bought more than a year before and had imagined wearing at my wedding every day since, it felt like someone close to me had died. However, the dry cleaner owner was so apologetic that she took me and two of my best friends, Erin and Esther, to nearby dress shops and allowed me to pick out anything on her dime. What could have been a disaster, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I wasn’t restricted with my previous budget and the dry cleaner even had a seamstress as a friend who would take care of the alterations. Looking back on it all now, the fiasco seemed so trivial as it worked out for the better.

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(2011) Jumping for joy with our wedding party in front of the Spartan Statue at our alma mater, Michigan State University

Our wedding day was a series of so many similar surprise moments filled with generosity and love. From the skillfully and cleverly made video montage by my cousin April to the solo piano performance by our friend Joe, Michal and I were continually presented with an outpouring of appreciation and loyalty we didn’t expect. We not only felt loved by each other when getting married, we felt blessed by everyone around us.

The beer we tried: Variety is the spice of life
A good amount on the menu of well-known local and foreign craft beer on tap, especially compared to other typical Korean bars so we had to order two flights to get a full variety. The pours were a little larger than the usual in a flight, so needless to say, we ended up making this our last stop for the bar crawl.

The food we didn’t need to try but did any way: Pass the cheese, please
The food menu was an attempt to be more upscale and hearty, offering pasta-based entrees. We got the most appetizing sounding appetizer – the roasted Camembert (we’re usually a sucker for hot, melty cheese like baked brie) topped with slivers of almonds and a mysterious sweet syrup, served alongside saltine crackers.

For a more expensive cheese (especially here in Korea where high quality cheese is hard to come by), I would have preferred better accompaniments. It’s like serving Moet & Chandon champagne with a bag of Cheetos. And the syrup was not for me – it tasted a bit artificial and was unnecessarily drizzled on both the cheese and the crackers.

The atmosphere we noticed in passing: Average
I liked that it was on the second floor with wide-open windows, making it appear larger and bringing in tons of natural light, but there wasn’t much personality to the decor design.

Overall

Pong Dang wins our heart. It definitely scored high points for the best beer. The food menu was intriguing enough to entice us to try it next time. And the overall feel made it seem like what we’re used to seeing at home.

We definitely want to revisit the area as we could only fit in so much day drinking, and ironically, we had a wedding to catch in Gangnam later that night…

To Michal: Cheers to many more unexpected adventures to come with our marriage!

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