KOREAN NAME: 막걸리 학교
LOCATION: Seoul, Dongjak-gu, Isu Station (서울, 동작구, 이수역)
INTRODUCTION: Makgeolli Hakkyo is, without too much exaggeration, an oasis in the makgeolli-barren wasteland that is south of the river. And even better: it is a heavy when stacked up against its more numerous—and probably better known—competition in the north. This makes sense considering Wooki, the owner, named his establishment Makgeolli Hakkyo, or Makgeolli School. This joomak is truly an education for anyone looking to get into higher-quality sool. In fact, you can even arrange for Wooki to give you and your group a private class where he’ll lecture on a selection of bottles that were handpicked for your visit.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: Makgeolli Hakkyo (MH) is found in Isu, an area that is a curious mix of college students and older Koreans found wandering up and down the nearby traditional market. As a neighborhood to go out in, there’s not much that would draw you here (with the exception of MH, of course) but at least you can find some good Korean food and a plethora of beer warehouse bars (맥주 창고) and fried chicken joints.
The MH space itself is not particularly remarkable as bars go; the simple layout of tables in the narrow, rectangular room might make you think you’ve stumbled into a café, not a joomak. And I mean that in a nice way: there’s something very comforting and cozy about the blue paint and tchotchkes that line the wooden shelving. And then you’ve got the chalkboards… chalkboards everywhere. And nearly every inch of the chalkboards has been covered with explanations as if you were taking a class from a professor who really, really likes homework. Of course, some of them are menus. But a good number detail bottles’ origins, ingredients, and flavor profiles. The best part about this school is that you can simply drink if you’re not in the mood for learning.
Just keep in mind that you may be bumping elbows with other students: MH seats about 16 people maximum so this is not a great venue for a large group.
BOOZE: More options are available than what are in the fridge in the main room. You’ll have to check the menu or ask Wooki. Also, don’t forget you can order the Saeng Yakju Sampler for ₩15,000. The sampler includes tasters of Dongmong, Sejong Eoju, Jaheehyang, and Cheonbihyang.
- Sejong Daewang Eoju (세종 대왕 어주) – ₩30,000
- Omegisul (오메기술) – ₩18,000
- Ahwang Yakju (아황 약주) – ₩16,000
- Hansanso Gokju (한산소곡주) – ₩15,000
- Dongmong (동몽) – ₩9,000
- Moonhee (문희) – ₩22,000
- Cheonbihyang (천비향) – ₩20,000
- Sejong Daewang Eoju Takju (세종 대왕 어주 탁주) – ₩20,000
- Homo Ludens (호모루덴스) – ₩18,000
- Jaheehyang (자희향) – ₩18,000
- Mangang-e Bichin Dal (만강 에 비친 달) – ₩18,000
- Hocheongang Takju (호천강 탁주 ) – ₩18,000
- Soolchuihan Wonsoongi (술취한 원숭이) – ₩13,000
- Ihwaju (이화주) – ₩11,000
- Dameun 750 (담은 750)
- Hayan Sool (하얀술)
- DaeDaePo Blue Label (대대포)
- Domun Daejak (도문 대작)
- Gaedo (개도)
- Sobaeksan (소백산)
- Haechang (해창)
FOOD: In keeping with the educational experience, Wooki has created a menu of food and sool pairings:
- Clam Stewed in Yakju + Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli (바지락술찜 + 금정산성막걸리)
- Spicy Stir Fry + Hayan Sool (매제볶 + 하얀술)
- Tomato, Spam, & Egg Stew + DaeDaePo Blue Label (토마토싹수가 + 대대포막걸리)
- Soondae Cream Stew + Ahwangju (순대크림스튜 + 아황주)
- Chopsteak + Shintaein Makgeolli (찹스체크 + 신태인막걸리)
All of these items may also be ordered à la carte if you prefer. Other dishes include, squid soondae, potato pajeon, tofu ramen, and more. À la carte dishes range from ₩13,000 to ₩22,000.
BATHROOM: Off site. Get the key hanging on a nail by the door, exit MH, turn right, turn right again, and stop at the gate strewn with makgeolli bottles. Open the padlock, pray that this is not where you’ll be murdered and walk all the way back. The hole in the gro…, er, bathroom is on your right. Honestly, one of the worst bathrooms I’ve used in Korea.
OVERALL: I’ve been a fan Makgeolli Hakkyo since the first time I visited and I still feel that way. It’s like a neighborhood hangout and a place where people in the know go. That doesn’t mean it necessarily has the best selection or the fanciest interior. However, the sool menu is comprehensive and, if you can speak Korean and chat with Wooki, you’ll feel like you’ve learned something about sool. Just make sure to go to the bathroom before you visit.
HOURS: 5 pm – 11 pm or 12 am (closed on Sunday)
ADDRESS: Seoul, Dongjak-gu, Sadang-dong 144-16 (서울 동작구 사당동 144-16/서울 동작구 동작대로25길 41)
DIRECTIONS: From Isu Station (이수역), leave via exit 10. Immediately turn 180 degrees, walk straight, and take the first left. At the first large intersection, turn left. MH will be on your left.