Not only is Beobju fun to say but the translation is also pretty stellar: Beobju literally means Law Booze. The most famous example of this by-the-book tipple is Kyodong Beobju, which comes in a ceramic bottle decorated with an iconic blue crane. According to their website, their family recipe goes back to the early 17th century! You can order their brew online or even check out the brewery in the historical city of Gyeongju. Check out this earlier post if you’re looking for information on brewery visits.
Anyway, since I haven’t been able to taste the gold standard, I thought I could do the next best thing and try making my own Beobju. But, before I could start, I needed more nuruk. Luckily for me, I had picked up some Baesangmyun Brewery nuruk on my recent trip to the Sool Gallery Sansawon. The employee there gave me a Big Short-esque line: “It’s too good to fail!” At about ₩3,000 per 45 grams, I decided to engage in a little venture brewing.
From my recipe book The Story of Traditional Alcohol Brewed from Our Rice (TSOTABFOR) once again:
“Beobju (법주) was originally brewed at Buddhist temples for use in religious ceremonies but its popularity spread and began being brewed by the secular community. Thus, the recipes for this brew became varied depending on the brewer’s wealth. The upper class used glutinous rice for the primary fermentation, while the middle-class used non-glutinous rice. The name for these recipes is Jeongmi Beobju (정미법주). Commoners used various types of millet, such as soosoo (수수) or gijang (기장), for the primary fermentation, otherwise known as Goryang Beobju (고량법주) or Sokmi Beobju (속미법주), respectively.
Brewer to the king in the Joseon Sookjong (조선 숙종) period, Choi Kooksan (최국선) gained widespread fame for his Gyeongju Kyodong Beobju (경주교동법주). The Korean government eventually recognized this family recipe by naming it Intangible Cultural Property 86.”
Man, I’m a sucker for Intangible Cultural Properties!
Your proportional measurements:
|600g glutinous rice||400g nuruk|
|3500mL water||4g yeast|
|4000g glutinous rice||200g nuruk|
Primary Fermentation, or mitsul (밑술)
- Wash the glutinous rice, or chapssal (찹쌀), and soak for 3-4 hours.
- Drain for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Grind and sift the rice into a pot.
- Add a partial amount of water to the pot while gently boiling. (Make sure when you are adding water to add it in small quantities so that you can avoid clumping.)
- Stir constantly until you have a thick porridge, or jook (죽).
- Cool the porridge.
- Add the porridge to water, nuruk, and yeast.
Secondary Fermentation, or deotsul (덧술)
*Start 3-5 days after the mitsul is underway.
- Wash the glutinous rice, or chapssal (찹쌀), and soak for 6-8 hours.
- Drain for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Make steamed rice, or godubap (고두밥).
- Cool it and add it to the mitsul. Add the deotsul’s water and nuruk.
- Try to keep it at 25°C.
I forgot to get my nuruk activated early; usually, I start right after the rice is done draining. Turns out I don’t think it’s terribly necessary for the Baesangmyun nuruk: I activated it with the yeast and a bit of the water from the mitsul and the mixture immediately started frothing in a way that I’ve never seen before. Good sign?
I did a much better job integrating the water into the ground rice than I did with the Seoktanju. You really can’t go slow enough when you’re adding the water: too much too quickly and your clumping problem will leave you with ragged muscles, tendons, and bone where your arm used to be.
After my bad luck with the Cheongmyeongju and the Seoktanju, I was not taking any chances with the Beobju; I kept a very close eye (and nose!) on how the brew was progressing. It started developing a peculiar smell, something earthy or wheaty, but I quickly realized this was due to the nuruk and not any problems with the brew itself. A taste confirmed that everything was fine. Another point worth noting is that the brew took on a deep ochre hue—again a byproduct of the nuruk.
That peculiar scent persisted throughout the fermentation but, despite my misgivings, I was very pleased with the way my Beobju turned out. There was great separation leaving me with a ton of cheongju but, contrary to what you might think, I prefer the wonju (the mixture of the takju and cheongju). The cheongju on its own is just too sweet. I kind of suspected this brew would be on the sweeter side as both the mitsul and deotsul use glutinous rice but I also suspect the Baesangmyun nuruk contributed to the overwhelming sweetness.
Even after straining, the Beobju remained very brown and the earthy-musk scent only got richer. The earthiness also played out in the flavor, particularly when drinking the wonju. That is, the takju added something deeper, more complex to the cheongju, and almost gave it a sort of woody flavor, like a slight tinge of campari. As a whole, it is sweeter than what I would like it to be but it was a welcome brew after the last two failures.
Total: 14 days
· 600g mepssal
· 400g nuruk
· 2625ml water
· 4 g yeast
· 3000g chapssal
· 150g nuruk
· 750ml water
|Amount Produced:||· 6 L (approx.)|
|Notes:||· Did much better at integrating water with rice powder. I added very small drips and then kneaded the powder with my hands until it was mushy. I ended up adding about 300ml water this way before I began stirring. Then I turned on the burner, stirred more, and slowly added more water. Will be doing it this way from now on.
· Also of interest is the nuruk I bought from Baesangmyeon Brewery at Sansawon. Looks a lot like rabbit turds. Pack has approximately 45 g of nuruk and costs about 3,000 per pack. I wanted to activate it early but didn’t get around to doing it until maybe 10 minutes before I created the mitsul.
|Results:||· Cheongju is too sweet to drink on its own but it works well when mixed with takju. Taste is sweet all the way through, sweeter than I would have liked, but the takju adds some earthy complexity to make it more exciting. Success is success!|
|Lots of separation. Cheongju is a rich ochre color.||Earthy, tobacco, cherry, sweet.||Cheongju: Very thin. Wonju: Takju makes it more velvety. No carbonation.||Cheongju: Very sweet, almost cloying. Wonju: More layered than cheongju alone. A slight hint of bitterness, almost Campari. Pairs well with choengju to balance sweetness.||Sweet burn lingers fairly long. Hint of oaky flavor.|