Nearly two months later, I finally decided that my thoughts on the 14th Wines & Spirits Expo had aged enough (i.e., I was finally sober enough) and I was ready to write!
Straight up front, this was one of the best traditional alcohol, or sool, events that I have been to. Really, the only competition is the John Frankl Lecture and sampling event held at The Sool Gallery, and that was a much different beast.
What made this event stand out was the brewers that participated. Everyone from the more established breweries like Midam, Miin, and Joeunsul, to up-and-comers like Sansoo, Pungjeong Sagye, and Igasoobool (이가수불), to the laconic Tangerine Premium Alcoholic Beverage Team in Seogwipo, Jeju. And these were just a few of the names.
I would estimate there were over fifteen breweries present and pouring freely. Once the reps realized we took an interest in Korean traditional alcohol, they became extremely impassioned about describing where their rice was sourced, or how they only use water from some specific stream in Gangwon-do. Alas, my Korean is still very basic so while I caught the gist, I couldn’t quiz them more on their backgrounds or their brews. Still, it was a very welcoming and inclusive environment and the alcohol was goooood.
Eventually we took a break from the sool and wandered over to visit the beer booths. That too was a mixed bag of mega distributors like Heineken as well as tiny local breweries from Canada and the US. The biggest draw, however, was the booths showcasing wine or different kinds of fruity cocktails. Fair on: it is called Wines & Spirits Expo for a reason. My colleague and I were simply pleased that a space existed for the Korean brewers and we were not hung up standing in line like at the other booths.
At ₩20,000, the ticket to get into the expo is not cheap. But, considering all there is to try, well worth it in my opinion. Be on the lookout for this event come next April.