MMPK’s own Julia Mellor with a write up on Korean traditional alcohol that goes beyond makgeolli and the ubiquitous green bottles. If you’re looking for a little background on where brewing begins in Korea, this is the perfect start. From the Groove Magazine article:
At the heart and soul of all Korean traditional alcohol is nuruk, without which rice and water would remain just that: rice and water. Nuruk is the unique wild fermentation starter that is responsible for Korean alcohol brewing, and it’s what gives makgeolli its character. Using nuruk is one of the fundamental ways Korean alcohol is set apart from Japanese sake. Nuruk is inoculated from the regional air in which it’s made, and therefore filled with a variety of flavor profiles. For me, it’s always somewhat reflected the character of Korea itself; bold and diverse with a fair dose of wild card in every batch.
When nuruk is added to rice and water, the magic of fermentation begins. Under the watchful eye of a careful brewer, the mash is filtered at just the right time and fresh booze is born. At an average alcohol percentage of 15-19%, this strong and smooth mixture is known to the homebrewer as wonju. It is out of wonju that Korea’s three most representative traditional alcohols are crafted. As the heavier sediment settles, clear golden nectar rises to the top. This often sweet and strong elixir is called cheonju or also yakju and was the favored drink of the kings of old. Cheongju can then be distilled to make soju in the traditional methods; some of the top shelf expensive varieties of which have been painstakingly extracted using ancient clay distilling equipment.
So where does that leave makgeolli? Traditionally, after the best cheongju was removed and thoroughly enjoyed by the upper class, the remaining sediment was cast off to the lowly peasants. Ever resourceful, water was added to dilute this thick liquid and then shared far and wide. In this way, makgeolli has always been the people’s drink.
Read the whole Groove Magazine article here.