Makgeolli: How Korean rice wine is stepping out of sojus shadow

(CNN)– Kim Kyung-seop recalls going to cheap bars after class with his good friends, where they binged on as much makgeolli as possible. “You know the saying, alcohol consumes men? It was like that.” Makgeolli, the often sweet and milky conventional rice white wine from Korea, was selected for its cost, not flavor.In 1989, when Kim got in college, half a gallon of makgeolli expense about 40 cents. He and his good friends would sit around a table, putting makgeolli from a brass kettle into specific brass bowls, as is tradition.Kim, now an adjunct professor at Global Cyber University in Seoul, has actually been teaching makgeolli brewing strategies for 10 years. Yet he remembers his early encounter with the beverage being bitter and unpleasantly sour.” When we were with ladies, we would consume beer. But among the kids, we consumed makgeolli.” Makgeolli– with its less stylish track record– was unfit for impressing women.Two decades later, in bars throughout South Koreas capital, the uninspired beverage from Kims memory was ending up being trendy, this time in the hands of a young generation of makers and business owners.” We worked really hard to get rid of the recognized images people hold of makgeolli,” says Kim. Kim Min-kyu (no relation to Kim Kyung-seop) is one maker who had actually been leading the modification. He released his premium makgeolli brewery Boksoondoga in 2009.Min-kyus teetotaler, devout Christian dad opposed his plan– particularly after having actually invested the household fortune supporting his sons 5 years of training as a designer in New York Citys Cooper Union. His daddy even smashed a clay pot utilized for developing makgeolli in a fit of anger.Min-kyu was not hindered. He thought in the strength of his grannys makgeolli dish. When he was a child, he would visit her farmhouse in Yangsan, a town in the southeast. She would mix half-steamed rice with her homemade yeast and water. And he would listen to the quiet bubbling of air as the mixture fermented into makgeolli. His fondest memories were his grandma generously sharing the ended up brew with the neighbors, after which they would sing and dance.He convinced his household that brewing is an extension of architecture for him. Applying his training, he created the branding, the marketing materials and the brewery structure, while his mother brewed the makgeolli, creating the first bottle of Boksoondoga. Doga indicates “brewery,” and Boksoon is Kims moms name.The timing was fortuitous. Makgeolli was coming out of a century-long dark age. Kim Min-kyu is one of the trailblazers of Koreas brand-new makgeolli scene.BoksoondogaThe history of a drinkMakgeolli is a combination of the Korean words mak (meaning “roughly done” or “a moment earlier”) and geolleun (” filtered”). While the name initially appears in “Gwangjaemulbo,” an encyclopedia presumed to have actually been written in the 19th century, the nontransparent alcoholic drink likely go back a millennium. One early 20th century record claims that it was consumed in every corner of Korea. “Makgeolli is fundamental to Korean culture, its the drink of Korean individuals,” Kim Kyung-seop says.One factor for the appeal is its simpleness. It is a mixture of steamed rice, yeast and water, delegated ferment for a couple of weeks in a clay pot. Lots of households across Korea brewed their own drinks with their special dish. The Japanese colonization during the very first half of the 20th century brought the end of many cottage markets. The colonial government phased out homebrewers in favor of standardized, industrial alcohol makers. All alcohol-making was taxed and licenses were needed, even for self-consumption. A couple of mass-produced beverages controlled the marketplace and, by 1934, homebrewing was outlawed.World War II and the Korean War left the country devastated. The brand-new government continued the policy of securely managing alcohol production. As the food shortage aggravated in the 1960s, using rice– makgeollis key component– to produce alcohols was banned. Makers used wheat and barley as replacements and makgeollis appeal sunk. It was supplanted by modern-day soju, a clear liquor made by watering down ethanol. As the economy enhanced and rice supply overtook intake, the rice alcohol ban was raised in 1989 and homebrewing was made legal once again in 1995. Much custom was lost. Pyongyang Pub, a North Korea-themed bar, has actually opened its doors in the South Korean capital– and it has raised a couple of eyebrows.Bringing it back homeThe healing of the lost art of makgeolli brewing can largely be credited to pioneer scientists like Park Rock-dam. Park took a trip throughout Korea for 30 years collecting dishes and recreating old techniques.The federal government also reversed course on its previous policy, welcoming conventional alcohol as a proud heritage– and potentially profitable– industry.In 2016, the government permitted little scale breweries and distilleries to offer their alcohols by reducing the developing tank size requirement from 5,000 to 1,000 liters. The next year, standard liquors were given the distinct advantage of being offered online and provided directly to consumers.While the Covid-19 pandemic avoided individuals from heading out to bars and restaurants, online and offline sales of makgeolli soared. According to a 2021 report published by Korea Agro-fisheries and Food Trade Corporation (aT), a government-operated company that promotes farming products, the makgeolli market grew by 52.1% while the overall liquor market diminished by 1.6% in 2020. Kim Kyung-seop teaches a makgeolli brewing course.Kim Kyung-seopIn Kim Kyung-seops makgeolli class, half of the students are business owners, many of them females in their 30s or more youthful. 10 years ago, almost everybody in class was over 50 and seeking to brew makgeolli as a hobby in their retirement.Since 2009, the number of makgeolli brewing license holders have actually increased by 43%, according to National Tax Service data. Kim says that opening a makgeolli brewery is a lot easier than any other kind of alcohol. While equipment for setting up a beer microbrewery is around 200-300 million won ($ 155,000-233,000), equipment for a makgeolli brewery can be obtained for 10 million won ($ 7,800), Kim states. Furthermore, it just takes four 3-hour classes to brew something thats much better than the mass market makgeolli, he adds.Going globalAn Australian person, Julia Mellor originally came to South Korea to teach English. In 2009, she experienced makgeolli. Now, her company The Sool Company offers makgeolli classes and assessments for those interested in opening their own brewery, but the majority of her clients are from overseas. She states her company quadruped during the pandemic.Her clients are from countries like the US, Singapore and Denmark. Much of them are members of the Korean diaspora. “They enjoy Korean people enjoying it here and they are influenced to bring it back to their country,” she says.” It was so various, so fascinating. It is unusual to find something people worldwide havent become aware of.” She arranged meetups with fellow lovers and eventually taught herself Korean because many resources were not available in English. Individuals in a The Sool Company tasting session hold up their glasses.The Sool CompanyMellor thinks makgeolli will attract foreign audiences. “Its extremely simple to homebrew. You just require rice and nuruk (yeast).” And for her, propagating the makgeolli brings another layer. “This is saving something that was on the verge of disappearing,” says Mellor. Kim Min-kyu says his makgeolli will be sold in the US and Austria this year and other Western buyers have actually been approaching him. His makgeolli is already a hit in Japan, where it ended up being popular during Hallyu, or the Korea-wave in the mid-2000s, a period when the success of K-dramas and K-pop opened the door to other cultural exports like kimchi and traditional beverages.” To foreign customers, this natural fermentation is thought about healthy, tidy and organic. And its a type of alcohol they have never ever seen prior to,” Min-kyu states. Korean “soft power” has actually expanded beyond Asia in the previous few years. He thinks makgeolli can ride this wave. Making it coolDespite the fast advance of makgeolli, the South Korean alcohol market is still controlled by soju and beer, which represent more than 80% of sales. Min-kyu states the biggest difficulty dealing with makgeolli makers is the general public understanding that the beverage is for old individuals. Most of his marketing and advertising concentrates on changing this understanding. In one ad, a sharp-looking male model with shaved head and eyebrow piercings delicately pours the makgeolli into a champagne flute.Changing perceptions relating to the foods best paired with makgeolli is another barrier. In Korean culture, alcohol is often consumed with a set meal or snack. For makgeolli, this is jeon, a Korean mouthwatering pancake made by frying meat or veggies in skilled flour batter. “A cool sip of makgeolli after a bite of mouthwatering scallion jeon acts as a taste buds cleanser preparing you to completely enjoy another tasty bite,” Kim Kyung-seop states. The combo is particularly popular on rainy days. The sale of makgeolli and components for jeon climbs sharply on rainy days across significant benefit shop chains, according to a report by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. But premium makgeolli, with its broad spectrum of body, effervescence and taste can combine well with any kind of food, Min-kyu states. “I consume it with jajangmyeon (a Chinese-Korean noodle dish) and it pairs really well with ice cream too. It tastes excellent with other fermented food because its a fermented drink. I think its delicious with kimchi and truly flavorful cheese,” Min-kyu added.Boksoondoga makgeolli was just recently the primary offering at a gastropub inconspicuously nestled in the trendy Hapjeong district of Seoul. Stylish bartenders deftly poured the drink into stemless wine glasses. The consumers, mostly young professionals, enjoyed the beverages while unwinding to hip-hop music. In a leather-bound menu, beef tartare was being offered along with a range of other premium makgeolli brands.At the tables, more females filled the seats than males did. After each pour, the bartender explained the tastes and the origin. They smiled. They raised the glass to their lips, carefully listening to each note hidden in the drink.Jihye Yoon and Minji Song added to this report

He and his friends would sit around a table, pouring makgeolli from a brass kettle into specific brass bowls, as is tradition.Kim, now an adjunct teacher at Global Cyber University in Seoul, has been teaching makgeolli developing methods for 10 years. As the food scarcity intensified in the 1960s, using rice– makgeollis key component– to produce alcoholic drinks was banned. 10 years back, nearly everyone in class was over 50 and looking to brew makgeolli as a pastime in their retirement.Since 2009, the number of makgeolli brewing license holders have actually increased by 43%, according to National Tax Service data. Min-kyu says the biggest difficulty facing makgeolli makers is the public understanding that the beverage is for old individuals. In one advertisement, a sharp-looking male model with shaved head and eyebrow piercings delicately puts the makgeolli into a champagne flute.Changing understandings relating to the foods finest paired with makgeolli is another obstacle.

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