In the Jongno area, between the modern skyscrapers and the historic temples, lie a maze of traditional houses, craft stores, restaurants, old men playing checkers and sleezy motels. Here, in what seems to be the new hot spot for independent art and craft, you can find the treasure that is Art Monster. Not an easy place to get to, but the trip there is extremely scenic, with narrow back-alleys, neon signs and traditional roofs, plenty of young people and even some stray cats.
You can only get Art Monster beer here, no imports or bottles, but we really didn’t miss it. Their selection is one of the most interesting we’ve seen from craft breweries, mostly focusing on German and Belgian styles with uncommon flavors. Unfortunately 4 of their 10 beers were sold out, so we only got to test the remaining 6. With generous tasters, great variety and low prices, the taster set is absolutely the way to go here.
Like many places in the area, Art Monster is a renovated hanok, a traditional Korean house. This normally makes for a lot of smaller, partly secluded seating areas with some interesting open spaces. Art Monster is no different and has a little garden right in front of the counter.
As mentioned, four beers were already sold out, but we got to taste the remaining six. With styles like Belgian Wit, German Leipzig Gose and Grapefruit Session IPA you are in for something else than Seoul’s standard craft beer types. All the beers have distinct flavors, names and funky posters to add to the experience, and the hops and grains used for each beer are listed in the menu so the geeks can settle their arguments peacefully.
While the general level was pleasantly high, but really the Grapefruit Session IPA was the night’s clear winner. I’m normally a bit sceptic to IPAs with fruit in their name, as they tend to be overly sweet, but this one was the bomb. Dry, hoppy, not too fruity, and with the relatively low alcohol content you can get the giant 660 ml serving without spoiling your appetite for more.
In addition to a great and rotating beer menu, Art Monster also has a fine-looking pizza selection. We got three pizzas (for four people), which made for a decent-sized dinner. The pizza dough was delicious, although a tad soft, and the toppings were tasty and fresh. The King Brie cheese was very rich in flavor, as was the pepperoni, and their signature Pizza Artmonster was almost like eating a fresh salad with some bread and cream cheese.
The venue was quite spacious and we had no problems getting a table, but was by no means empty. Guests were mostly younger people, but ages varied and I can imagine this place being busy on weekends. Music plays at a decent volume and was on point for most of the evening, the surprising highlights being some fresh 90s remixes.
Zoom all the way in on your map to make it easier when navigating through the narrow alleys, and keep your eyes peeled for one of the signs showing the way to Art Monster.