OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — “Good times and good company,” that’s the idea behind Asian-inspired craft brewery, Dokkaebier. The Oakland-based company prides itself on experimenting with beer by introducing ingredients from Korean culture and all over Asia.

A social lubricant with thousands of years of history, beer is a true love, but also a lot of fun for Youngwon Lee.

“I mean I love it. I drink it every night so, it takes a lot of work to keep my weight as it is,” Lee said.

Lee is the CEO of the aptly named craft brewery, “Dokkaebier.” The brewery’s labels and glasses feature playful creatures from Korean folklore.

“The name comes from a Korean mythical creature called “Dokkaebi” that likes to eat, drink and hang out with people,” Lee explained. “And usually, what they do is they hide in objects during the daytime, they come out at night and hang out.”

Dokkaebier got its start at maybe the worst time to break into business, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a challenging time for everyone but especially difficult for Asian-owned businesses who also contended with a rise in hate crimes.

“That was pretty challenging,” said Lee. “I grew up here, so I was more exposed to sort of racism. Whereas my wife, she immigrated to the States about five years ago, so it was very new to her to really face that as an adult.”

The craft beer world has been a predominately white industry. A 2021 survey done by the Brewers Association shows Asian representation is near the bottom, with just two percent of craft breweries being Asian-owned.

For Dokkabier, the idea of diversifying the industry is intoxicating.

“It doesn’t have to be a white dude with a beer. It can be some skinny Asian guy like me but still make something that’s different and unique,” Lee said.

By experimenting with flavors like kimchi sour, rice kolsch and yuza blonde, Lee is changing the game.

“There’s no such thing as like, Asian-inspired craft beer. It’s kind of a hybrid of Asian culture with traditional craft beer,” he added. “And we’re kind of unique on our own.”

“The most controversial one is our kimchi sour,” Lee continued. “So obviously, a lot of people get scared of the concept or the name of it and everyone is like ‘Hey, what is that? Don’t give me a lot, just a little bit to taste it.'”

From driving hundreds of miles a day to deliver beers door-to-door, to taking over Federation Brewing in Jack London Square, Lee’s three-year-old upstart is booming, and the first, but hopefully not the last, Korean-owned brewery in Oakland.