The 2014 Makgeolli Festival (막걸리 페스티벌) took place over four days last week – Thursday, October 30th to Sunday, November 2nd – in Seoul’s Insadong (인사동) neighborhood. We showed up on the closing day of the festival and the area was bustling with tourists out shopping and enjoying the live performances, like marching bands and pansori (판소리), which is sort of like the Korean version of opera.
We made our way to the first table laden with makgeolli bottles. In addition to the samples, volunteers were handing out festival pamphlets that included a map of Insadong makgeolli houses, a small blurb about these houses as well as houses found in other parts of Seoul, and a list of the 33 breweries present at the festival. Unfortunately, all of the pamphlets were in Korean. This seems kind of shortsighted considering Insadong is more of a tourist destination than a place Koreans visit regularly.
Insadong-gil, the name of the main tourist footpath between Anguk Station (안국) and Jonggak Station (종각), stretches about 780 yards (715 meters). In that space, we only came across three tables that were giving out makgeolli samples. While there were a couple exceptions, the tables had more or less the same makgeollis on offer: Cheongjoo (청주), Saenghwaygok (생회곡)), Haessalee (해쌀이), Saejong Chal Oksoosoo (세종 찰 옥수수), Oksoosoo Dongdongju (옥수수 동동주), Gapyeong Jat (가평 잣), Song Myeong Seob (송명섭), White Lotus Baekryeon (백련), Neurin Maul (느린마울 – my review here), and a few flavored makgeollis, like chestnut, omija, yuza, and black bean. The samples were free and, if you tried something you liked, you could get one bottle for ₩2,000 or three bottles for ₩5,000.
As I only attended on Sunday, I can’t really speak to the event as a whole. But as you can tell from my description, Sunday was quite disappointing. Considering 33 breweries were represented on the pamphlet, I have to believe that I missed the right day to attend the festival.
SUBWAY: Anguk Station
TIME: October 30 – November 2