KOREAN NAME: 군산 생 막걸리
REVIEW: I always like to pick up a bottle of the local stuff when I travel to a new city in Korea. So, being in Gunsan, Gunsan Saeng Makgeolli was a no-brainer. The decision was made simpler by the fact that this is the only local, commercially-available makgeolli that does not contain aspartame (more on that later).
All things being equal, the mouthfeel of this makgeolli is unremarkable both in thickness and carbonation. But the scent might make you do a double-take: it’s fusty and in your face, not unlike some of the makgeolli out there infused with ginseng and other roots and herbs. And it tastes almost exactly the way you would guess: the same vegetable notes in the smell reflect a bitter-sour first sip. It eases into a slightly sweeter note but that bitterness lingers. Drink enough, however, and you’ll notice the flavors start to naturally balance themselves out.
In the final review, Gunsan Saeng is neither a chore nor a makgeolli you’d put on your favorites list. But, if you happen to be in Jeollabuk-do (or North Jeolla Province), or you have a soft-spot for the earthier varietals, this brew is worth a try.
As I mentioned, Gunsan Saeng does not use aspartame, but it is made with a host of additives, including the artificial sweetener sodium saccharin. Like aspartame, however, sodium saccharin has a long and sordid past with some researchers pointing out dangerous health risks while others try to mitigate the negative findings as inconclusive.
Smell: Bitter, vegetable, and very funky.
BREWERY: Gwanglim Jujo (광림주조)
ORIGIN: Jeollabuk-do, Gunsan (전라북도, 군산시)
PURCHASED: Jeollabuk-do, Gunsan, Mini-Stop (전라도, 군산시)
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 6%
INGREDIENTS: purified water, imported rice, imported koji, citric acid, coenzyme, purified enzymes, sodium saccharin, yeast
VOLUME: 750 ml
PASTEURIZED: No (Shelf-life 30 days)