These days there are more and more ways to get educated about makgeolli (at least, if you live in Seoul). Makgeolli Mamas and Papas Korea host a variety of events, in particular regular tastings at local joomak (makgeolli bars). Makgeolli Makers conduct makgeolli home brewing courses at Susubori Academy. And now the Korean government is getting in on the act with The Sool Gallery (전통주 갤러리).
Located in Insadong, one of Seoul’s most popular tourist destinations, The Sool Gallery holds daily tours to introduce visitors to traditional Korean “sool”, the Korean word for “alcohol”. And it’s completely free!
When I visited in February, there was a fairly international crowd: a Korean couple, a few Japanese students, a Brit and an American were all present. The tour started with an introduction to the different types of Korean booze, the ingredients necessary to make them, and the various fermenting and distilling processes used to create the final product. The Korea Craft and Design Foundation has a display of the implements used to make sool, traditional drinking vessels, and things of that ilk. The presentation ended with a sampling of around 10 different types of soju, makgeolli, and a couple of traditional liqueurs. The whole tour was about 30 minutes or so.
To keep the selection interesting and to ensure return visits, the curators select 10-20 different kinds of alcohol every month that correspond to the seasons and a specific theme. April’s theme is fermented liquor from South Jeolla Province (전라남도).
AFTER THE TOUR
If you’re like me and the tour only whetted your appetite for makgeolli, Majoong and Nuruk Namu are two Insadong joomak that are just a short walk away. Here’s my review for Majoong and MMPK’s review for Nuruk Namu.
Languages: English, Japanese, Chinese, and, of course, Korean
Times: The gallery is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed on Mondays and holidays). Tasting tours are at 1, 3, and 5 p.m. To participate in a tasting tour, it is necessary to make a reservation via email or phone.
Contact Information: The information on both the site and the facebook page is in Korean but, if you call or email the gallery, a representative will be able to answer your questions in English (or one of the languages listed above).
LOCATION: Seoul, Anguk Station/Jongno 3-ga Station (서울, 안국/종로3가)
ADDRESS: 서울 종로구 관훈동 182-2 KCDF B1
DIRECTIONS: The Sool Gallery can be accessed from either Anguk Station or Jongno 3-ga Station but the former is easier. Leave Anguk Station via exit 6 and walk straight. Turn left at the first major intersection (you’ll notice that it’s a foot path that is off-limits to cars). Walk straight until you reach the Ssamziegil building (it has two, large yellow “ㅅㅅ” on the side of the building) on your left. Turn right onto a small road called Insadong 11-gil (종로구인사동 11길). Walk about 50 yards or so and you will see the KCDF building on your right. The Sool Gallery is in the basement of this building.
*Takjoo Journals got a good deal of information from Kim Rahn’s article in The Korea Times. You can read that article here.