We are truly spoiled at times here at The Sool Company, particularly when it comes down to brewing and the facilities we use. Thanks to our regular brewing classes, we have access to several locations here in Seoul where we are able to use large-scale steamers, wide open workspaces for cooling and mixing, stainless steel bowls and fermenters, science things for science-ing what we make, and anything else we can think of to make brewing standard and obscure recipes possible.
We also like to brew a lot, whether it’s for ourselves, friends, events or for our regular brewing classes, so having a bigger workspace in order to make rice cakes, porridges or even to lay out our rice to cool is something we are very grateful for. That doesn’t mean that we don’t brew big at home. Last month, I bought and started using a 30-litre clay pot for brewing into that has presented some new challenges to my homebrewing set-up, but more on that later.
Recently, however, we have been branching out and brewing in newer locations that are not set up for brewing purposes. For example, in November we hosted a special one off brewing class in Chungmuro at the beautiful Yesultong art space. One of a few spots in which we intend to run brewing programs for visitors during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018.
The room we were hosting in was gorgeous, with a fantastic screen, a large meeting table and ornate petrified wooden chairs. A great space to drink and talk about brews and the finer things in life, but completely lacks any of the equipment that we normally use for brewing. We needed a creative solution to make sure our rice could be prepared for brewing, and I thought it would be a good thing to share with all of you.
Steaming large amounts of rice can be quite tough, especially in a confined kitchen or with a small dumpling or vegetable steamer. The process takes some time, and I’ve personally had to steam my in several batches. Meaning I was beholden to my steamer for hours, while I steamed one batch while one was cooling and another sat drip drying.
If you are aiming for consistency, then this is not an ideal situation, as your earlier batches will end up drier and the starches will start to retrograde, causing incomplete fermentation and some rough flavors.
Most Korean neighborhoods are very likely to have a Deok Jib (떡집), a rice cake store, where various starchy rice cakes like Beksulgi (백설기) and Songpyeon (송편) are produced. If one who is familiar with brewing and rice prep looks inside you will notice that their equipment, particularly the steamers and grinders are pretty much identical to the ones that we use for producing or grinding mepssal (short grain rice).
The only difference practically between the way the rice is prepped for brewing and making rice cakes, are the addition of salt and sugar for the latter use. So make sure to say that you are using your rice for brewing and that you don’t want anything added (although a salty brew does sound kinda yummy…)
Most rice cake stores here are happy to produce your steamed godubab with chapssal or mepssal for your brew, as well as to grind up any rice you might want to use for making your own primary fermentation stages too.You can pick up the goods directly, or in some cases they will deliver (and at a set time If ordering well in advance) This solved our issue of brewing in a space where we were unable to steam or grind and it can also deal with the problem of steaming in a tiny Korean house kitchen.
So far we have successfully managed to have our piping hot steamed rice delivered in a couple of locations in Seoul, as well as in Gapyeong during the makgeolli festival and… surprisingly…. in Sydney Australia where we found a Korean rice cake store as well.
So, search out your local Ddeokjip (떡집) when in need or feeling lazy ~ and get your brew on!
Dan is a Korean traditional alcohol specialist with a focus on brewing science. He currently manages and instructs the advanced level classes of the Susubori Academy where he completed his study in Brewing Biochemistry. He also studied under Grand Master Park Rok Dam.