KOREAN NAME: 백설공주
REVIEW: Thick, boozy, intense – Baekseolgongju is totally unlike any makgeolli I’ve tasted before. And that’s because it is not actually makgeolli but a not-too-distant cousin called ihwaju (이화주). Ihwaju can be translated as “pear blossom liquor” and I’ve read that its origins can be traced back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392 CE). But, obviously, it fell out of favor at some point along the way because there seem to be few breweries making the stuff. What’s more, I’ve only seen Baekseolgongju at festivals or special events.
The first and most important factor that makes ihwaju different from makgeolli is that it is thick like yogurt making it necessary to eat it with a spoon. It also typically has a higher alcohol content. I can’t say for sure how the two are made differently but one site I read indicated that ihwaju is made from steamed rice and nuruk, like makgeolli, but no water is added. However, this seems to fly in the face of what’s on Baekseolgongju’s list of ingredients. Anyway, you can check out this short video showing the various stages of ihwaju brewing.
Enough of the background. Baekseolgongju, in my opinion, is a delicious, if not bizarre, treat. I could see many people being weirded out by its consistency or by its taste – it is reminiscent of mustard or horseradish but it is not overbearing or unpleasant in the least, in my opinion. The flavor ends with a nice tart quality that had me smacking my lips.
If you’re up for new experiences or just enjoy trying new types of makgeolli, you should give this one a go – or any ihwaju, for that matter – when you come across it.
Body: Obviously very thick.
Smell: I’ve heard some makgeollis are said to have a sulfuric smell but never encountered this (or at least knew what people meant) until I tried this ihwaju. It’s not overwhelming, mind you, but you can’t miss the smell.
BREWERY: Sul Seam (술샘)
ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Yongin (경기도, 용인)
PURCHASED: Seoul, COEX, Food Week Korea, Makgeolli Expo (서울)
AVAILABILITY: I know you can find this one at Makgeolli Hakkyo (막걸리 학교) in Isu and, according to the Makgeolli Mamas & Papas, it’s served at DooDoo (두두) in Hyehwa too.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 8%
INGREDIENTS: Yongin rice (62.5%), Yongin rice nuruk (12.5%), purified water (25%)
VOLUME: 100 ml