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A Makgeolli (Korean Rice Wine) Tasting Event Accompanying the Exhibition

Date 2015-10-27 Event period ~ Read 1811
Do you remember the exhibition at the Korea Foundation Gallery under the title of “MA:T – Korean Culture Beyond the Recipe” that I introduced to you earlier?
Today, I would like to talk about a makgeolli (Korean rice wine) tasting event organized in conjunction with the exhibition.

The exhibition presents not only a high-quality display of Korean food culture but also various events on interesting themes. I participated in one of such events: “Experience Program III — Makgeolli Tasting Event.” I really like makgeolli, so, I put my name on the waiting list for the event even though the application deadline had already passed. Luckily, I was chosen for the event.

Voila! The place has a different atmosphere from when I saw the exhibition only.
This is Ms. Hyun-ju Lee, Director of the Sool Gallery. She conducted the event and explained makgeolli to event participants. I found her explanation very easy to understand and interesting.

On that day, I came to know about the Sool Gallery for the first time. Established in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; the Sool Gallery in Insa-dong introduces a diverse array of traditional Korean spirits and invites visitors to taste monthly-selected traditional drinks for free (reservations required).

For further information, please visit the Sool Gallery blog :)

Aren’t you often saying that you get a headache after drinking makgeolli? This claim, however, is groundless. Director Lee said the reason you get a headache the day after was because you had too much to drink. I totally agree. Whenever I drink makgeolli, I seem to drink too much because it tastes sweet and delicious. Rumors abound that a chemical called carbide was used in brewing makgeolli. But it is not true.

These days, the quality of makgeolli is thoroughly controlled under the Makgeolli Quality Certification System.
Now shall we start tasting makgeolli? Although familiar with wine tasting, I was not used to makgeolli tasting and wondered how to do it. But, the procedure was the same. First, you observe makgeolli’s color and appearance, smell its aroma, and then slowly swallow it! Makgeolli is usually enjoyed in one gulp. But, it was a sampling event, so, I followed the instructions.

The participants tasted makgeolli one to five times and were briefed on ingredients, brewing methods, and how to distinguish between different types of makgeolli. Makgeolli is classified by main and auxiliary ingredients, types of malt, and whether or not it has been sterilized. An easy way to distinguish such types is to see the color of makgeolli.
Rice makgeolli vs wheat makgeolli: Makgeolli made from rice is generally white. Traditional Korean malt vs ipguk (Japanese-style malt): Makgeolli made from traditional Korean malt is more turbid in color.
Non-sterilized vs sterilized: Sterilized makgeolli is generally thick in color and more transparent.

Can you guess which of these makgeolli samples is non-sterilized?

Yes, it is No. 4, the whitest one. It is Neurin Maeul Makgeolli made from non-sterilized raw rice. It went down smoothly and tasted clean. I liked it the most (after the tasting event, the participants were free to drink and I took advantage of the opportunity).

No. 3 is made from wheat. Surprisingly, it smelled of corn and smokiness.

Made from traditional malt, No. 2 and No. 5 are Song Myeong Seop Makgeolli and Busan Geumjeongsan Makgeolli, respectively. Both are brewed by masters who make malt by themselves and are known for being unwaveringly resolute in keeping their own way of making makgeolli. I could feel such strong will when I drank their makgeolli. Both tasted dry and very sour.

No. 1 is sterilized White Lotus Baekryeon Makgeolli. The taste of non-sterilized makgeolli keeps changing even in a bottle as its fermentation continues. It tastes best two to three days after it is produced and shipped to market; as time goes by, it loses its flavor and becomes sour. This is one of the reasons you cannot take makgeolli with you when you go abroad. Sterilized makgeolli, however, is fresh and tasty as further fermentation is stopped by causing the yeast to cease activity.
The exhibition collateral offers detailed information about makgeolli from ingredients to the manufacturing process.
Let’s look at the enlarged diagram showing the various types of makgeolli once again. I see the ones I drank at the tasting event.
After listening to the explanation about makgeolli, the participants were free to drink more. Do you see the snacks served on the side? Tomatoes, muk (acorn jelly), cheese, and various snacks were offered. I usually drink makgeolli with jeon (Korean pancakes). But, I found that cheese went very well with makgeolli, as well (it was really great).

Then the participants were divided into several groups and made cocktails with makgeolli. We used various types of makgeolli, soda, citron syrup, yogurt, and other ingredients to make cocktails.
My group’s cocktail is the one in the front. In fact, I made it on behalf of the other members of the group. At first I decided to use Geumjeongsan Makgeolli but changed my mind and used Neurin Maeul Makgeolli as a base spirit. And then I added some citron syrup and tonic water!!

The best makgeolli cocktail was chosen among those made by the six groups.

Oh my goodness: my cocktail was one of two first prize winners! For the first time, I felt it worthwhile to have spent a semester in the United States as an exchange student. During those days, I often tried to make mixed drinks with Absolut and Smirnoff. The experience must have made me good at making drinks!
After the evaluation of makgeolli cocktails, we shared the cocktails made by other groups and ate snacks. Many people praised my cocktail and I was really proud. If I may repeat the recipe, it goes like this: Mix Neurin Maeul Makgeolli, citron syrup, and tonic water.
For first prize, I received a bottle of makgeolli named Jahuihyang worth 12,000 won.
So excited to take a photo of it.
Again at home.
I had a glass of it elegantly. It was unexcelled in its soft and refreshing taste.

The small bottle above was provided to the event participants. It is also makgeolli. It is ihwaju named Baekseol Gongju (Snow White) which you eat with a spoon! Ihwaju is traditional Korean makgeolli made from ring-shaped rice cake. It is very thick and you can add water before drinking it or just have it with a spoon. I had it with a spoon and it was very sweet and tasted like dessert. But, its alcohol content is 8 percent and you should not have too much (I think I will have it, bit by bit, behind my mother’s back).

I really enjoyed the makgeolli tasting event. I learned more about traditional Korean beverages, tasted them for free, and even received gifts. What a great event it was in connection with such a great exhibition! I will introduce more through my blog next time and strongly recommend you to participate in the event!

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