KOREAN NAME: 느린마을 이화주
REVIEW: How can the makgeolli industry make a quality product that is true to the origins of this wonderful brew? According to an article in The Hankyoreh, breweries should abide by these three practices:
- Use domestic rice, not imported rice.
- Stop using aspartame and other artificial sweeteners.
- Switch from plastic bottles to glass bottles.
Baesangmyun Brewery is one of the darlings of the makgeolli world right now, so it is no surprise that their Neurin Maul Ihwaju (NMI) embraces all three points. And it’s also taken into consideration the caveat posed in the article: commercial makgeolli produced this way will also mean a much higher price point. In fact, NMI is ₩16,000 at Shinsegae.
You may have your doubts when you compare NMI’s price tag to that of other shelf makgeollis. But consider wine for a moment: would you tell your friends that Carlo Rossi jug wine is good? No, and that’s why you pay three, four, five times the cost of those products for a decent bottle of wine. The same is true of makgeolli but perceptions need to change if people want to drink something quality.
And NMI is truly worth every won! It has a tart zing up front that morphs into something rich and creamy on the palate. And then the aftertaste creeps into a slow breezy burn—12% ABV burn, in fact.
I should say that NMI is not at all what I expected from an ihwaju. Baekseolgongju, my only other encounter with ihwaju, came in a small jar and was so thick that it had to be eaten with a spoon rather than drunk.
While I have an overwhelming love for NMI and I’m sure I’ll be bringing some back to the States next time I visit, I will say that there are two detractors. First, it uses koji, the Japanese inoculated culture starter, as opposed to traditional Korean nuruk. Second, NMI is pasteurized. But with the textured, creamy body of the ihwaju, it’s hard to see any similarities to most pasteurized makgeolli out there.
Body: Thicker than makgeolli but thinner than the pudding-like quality of other ihwaju.
Smell: Dusty, creamy, vanilla, and boozy. Unlike the Baeksolgongju, it doesn’t have any of that mustard, sulfuric quality.
BREWERY: Baesangmyun Brewery (배상면주가)
There is also an English-language site for the brewery they set up in Illinois, USA: http://www.slowcitybrew.com/
ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Pocheon (경기도, 포천시)
PURCHASED: Seoul, Express Bus Terminal, Shinsegae Department Store (서울, 고속 터미널, 신세계)
AVAILABILITY: I’ve yet to see Neurin Maul Ihwaju anywhere else, but I’m sure you can purchase it from the three Neurin Maul Brew Pubs in Seoul. Check out this in-depth post at Makgeolli Mamas and Papas Korea to read reviews about the different locations and get business information.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 12%
INGREDIENTS: Korean rice, koji, Korean honey, wheat coenzymes, leavened yeast, purified water
VOLUME: 500 ml