This Michelin-Starred Chef's New Korean Lager Is Brewed Right Here in San Francisco

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a table of Korean food that features San Ho Wan's new Korean lager beer at the center
SHW is a collaboration between Fort Point Beer Co. and chef Corey Lee's restaurant, San Ho Won. (Fort Point Beer Company)

Here’s a Bay Area food fact: Our region is home to Corey Lee, the first Korean chef in the world to be awarded with three Michelin stars — and also the first San Francisco chef of any background to reach that milestone when Benu, Lee’s flagship restaurant, first took the honor in 2014.

But Lee’s culinary reach doesn’t simply boil down to symbolic gestures, and he does more than serve elevated ingredients on a plate. When he opened San Ho Won — the chef’s first explicitly Korean restaurant — in the Mission District last year, Lee wanted to go beyond the kitchen to accentuate the food’s traditional Korean flavors. That’s the idea behind the restaurant’s latest offering: a fresh Korean lager brewed in collaboration with San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Company.

Michellin-starred chef, Corey Lee, poses casually for a photo
Chef Corey Lee, who teamed up with Fort Point Beer Co. to create a Korean lager for his restaurant, San Ho Won. (Aya Brackett)

Under the direction of day-to-day chef Jeongin Hwang, San Ho Won is known for its upscale, seasonal take on Korean-style charcoal barbecue, with classics like galbi and osam bulgogi (grilled pork belly with spicy squid). Now, the restaurant can also offer a signature Korean beer that reminds Lee of his birthplace in South Korea.

“We wanted a beer that pairs generally well with Korean cuisine and [is] well-suited for Korean drinking customs,” Lee says about his collaboration with Fort Point. “Korean drinking culture is connected to food. We rarely have drinks without food, so we wanted to make a beer that was versatile.”

The result of a six-month process of research, tasting and flavor development, the “SHW” is a 4.6% ABV Korean lager — a style of beer that’s highlighted by its light, crisp body. The beverage will be exclusively available at San Ho Won, as well as Fort Point’s San Francisco locations in the Mission, the Presidio and the Ferry Building.

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To celebrate their collaborative efforts, Chef Lee and his San Ho Won squad will take over Fort Point Valencia on Nov. 14 for “Ssam Bar and Somaek” — a unique experience centered on Korean bites and communal drinking.

a table of Korean food with a beer being poured into a glass
SHW was brewed with Korean food and communal drinking culture in mind. (Fort Point Beer Company)

The SHW lager was specifically made with somaek — a cocktail made by combining soju and light beer — in mind. At the Fort Point event, the drink will be served with small plates such as assorted ssams (lettuce wraps), including pork belly served with sesame leaf and radish saengchae (a Korean mixed vegetable salad). Other dishes will include hwedupbap (assorted raw fish and vegetables over steamed rice) and crispy cauliflower gangjeong (a deep-fried treat, coated with garlic soy glaze). But the beer  will be the central star of the night.

“Earlier in my career when I worked in French restaurants, it was important to develop dishes and offer a menu that allowed people to enjoy a variety of wines with their food,” Lee recalls from his days of working in Napa Valley. “But now, it's not really a consideration. I don't cook with wine in mind. I try to make a dish as tasty and satisfying as possible and find the beverage that goes well with it later. Personally, I think [it’s] perfect to have ice cold [Korean lager] with sizzling Korean BBQ that's lightly smokey from grilling over charcoal.”

Chef Jeongin Hwang prepares meat over a charcoal grill at his restaurant
Chef Jeongin Hwang prepares meat over a charcoal grill at San Ho Won. (Eric Wolfinger)

The chef recalls becoming a fan of Fort Point’s beers during the pandemic, when he — like the rest of us — suddenly had more time to explore different flavor combinations while cooking at home. He enjoyed the balance of Fort Point’s beers and how “food-friendly” they were.

“I distinctly remember texting a picture of the KSA [kölsch-style ale] to San Ho Won’s chef, Jeongin Hwang, after trying it with one of our pandemic take-out offerings and saying that it actually goes really well with Korean food,” says Lee.

Now, the chef can send out photos of a beer of his own.

Tickets for “Ssam Bar and Somaek” are available for Monday, Nov. 14 at 5:30 or 7 p.m. $60 per person. The hour-long event will take place at Fort Point Valencia (742 Valencia St., San Francisco). Sixteen-ounce four-packs will be available for online delivery starting Nov. 9.