Off to a racing start, our busy Olympic Torch has moved on from island living on Jeju to begin a tour of the South Gyeongsan Province. And of course, no visit would be complete without a few laps of capital city Busan.
Busan is a must visit destination while in Korea if you are craving some killer seafood and refreshing sea breezes. It’s a different pace of life to the perpetual buzz of Seoul’s lights and sounds, and what better way to relax than with a bowl or three of some tasty makgeolli? When anyone mentions Busan, Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli is the first thing to spring to mind as it has been on our regular rotation of brews since even our early days of Korean sool discovery. Easily identified by that bright yellow label, many first time tasters of Geumjeongsanseong raise their eyebrows in surprise at its tartness, citrus tang, and creamy texture. It’s a brew that provides welcome relief from an otherwise wide sweet selection. But there is more to Geumjeongsanseong than just a tasty flavour, the brewery itself has an impressive history.
Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli (금정산성 막걸리)
The name Geumjeongsansong is actually that of a fortress village in the Geumjeong mountain with a history dating back to the Joseon period. What makes the makgeolli from here so distinctively sharp and slightly sour lies in their long tradition of making nuruk. Nuruk is the fermentation starter at the heart and soul of all sool, and Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli doesn’t just make their own, they make a style unique to the village dating back 500 years. The large, round discs of ground wheat and water are flattened out until they are the thickness of pizza dough before they are placed in a traditional nuruk fermentation room. This process is still done by hand, or should we say by foot, by women who have been doing it every day for 60 years.
When the nuruk is completely fermented at a temperature of 35 degrees celsius, it is ground up and mixed with water from the bedrock of the mountain to activate the yeasts. They then add steamed rice that has been cooled, called, and ferment the brew for a week at a temperature range of 20 – 25 degrees celsius. The resulting brew is filtered and bottled using modern machinery in the brewery’s efforts to fuse traditional techniques with modern technology. The facility itself is a cross-section of some of the most basic traditional elements of Korean brewing through its cultivation of nuruk, combined with the more large-scale modern techniques for hygiene and quality control.
The resulting makgeolli is at an ABV of 8%, and whilst it does contain aspartame, it is one of the few brews that have a strong enough character that it is not overshadowed by the artificial sweetener. Head brewer, Yoo Cheonggil, has been the first makgeolli producer to be designated the 49th Korean Food Master, and his wish is that his son and his grandson after him will continue the family tradition of brewing Geumjeongsanseong makgeolli.
The good news for all us arm-chair Olympic Torch followers is that we can easily access this brew in Seoul! Every time we order Geumjeongsanseong on one of our tasting tours or at any event, it’s always met with smiles and promptly drained cups. So tonight we will be toasting our hardworking Olympic torch with some grilled seafood and fresh Geumjeongsansong makgeolli….until Friday when we meet again in Ulsan!
In the meantime, you watch our tasting video of the Geumjeongsanseong makgeolli and get a deeper understanding of this brew:
Check our other Pyeonchang Olympics Sool Route stops:
Julia is an Australian specialist in Korean Traditional Alcohol and has been involved in the makgeolli industry for over 6 years. She has been an activist for the promotion of Korean sool both locally and internationally after training at a number of institutes including Grand Master Park Rok Dam.