Which Makgeolli should I choose at the supermarket?
We’ve all been there: staring at a wall of similar looking bottles of makgeolli at the local supermarket and wondering ‘how am I supposed to know which one I’m going to like?’. It’s a common question we get here at The Sool Company, so I thought I would give my own top picks for the thirsty supermarket shopper.
Here 3 Magkeollis you can find in supermarkets in South Korea:
1. Slow City Makgeolli (느린마을 막걸리)
Without a doubt, one of the consistent crowd pleasers in the world of accessible makgeolli is Neurin Maeul (also sometimes called ‘Slow City’ for the English translation). We have been in the sool game for quite a few years now and whether it be a tasting class, an event, or even a makgeolli festival, Neruin Maeul always manages to leave drinkers satisfied. The biggest draw card is that it is proudly aspartame free, and has a refreshing sweetness without being overly cloying. The brewery is called Baesangmyeon and there are a number of large and small brew pubs across Seoul where you can experience makgeolli that has been freshly brewed on site. It’s also commonly found in Emart, Homeplus, Lotte and other department stores and supermarkets, as well as some local marts. One cool thing to note about Neurin Maeul is that the flavour will continue to change throughout the shelf life. So, if you prefer something a bit more mature you can leave it in the fridge until it nears the end of its two weeks. And how do you know when that is? Always check the two dates on the top of the bottle, the first is the bottled date and the second is the expiry date! Also for a fun (or super nerdy depending on your company) drinking game, check out our tasting video:
2. Yetnal (고)
Most kinds of makgeolli come in white or green bottles with bright eye-catching colours, which makes Yetnal (translated to mean ‘the old days’) makgeolli quite unusual for its earthy brown colouring. It also makes it quite easy to identify, along with the prominent Chinese character smack bang in the middle of the label. Yetnal is another popular choice among makgeolli drinkers for its aspartame-free status, but also for its bolder more earthy flavours. As with all fresh makgeolli without artificial sweeteners, the taste can change depending on the season or conditions, and Yetnal is no exception. However, when it is at its best, there is a balanced fruity apple flavour with a slightly sour finish. It has been known to divide the crowd at times, the stronger earthy tones not being for everyone, but it still ranks high in the battle for supermarket makgeolli supremacy.
3. Horangi (호랑이 막걸리)
Literally translated as ‘Tiger’, this makgeolli is also hard to miss for its vibrant red label design. Definitely a choice for the sweet tooth, Horangi is much more on the fruity and sweet end of the makgeolli spectrum. Although aspartame free, Horangi is sweetened with erithrytol, which lends towards a slightly minty finish. Horangi can be found in both glass and plastic bottles, with a pasteurized version found in glass bottles. It is commonly found in larger supermarkets and department stores. It’s a bit more difficult to find in the local neighborhood markets, but we find it depends on how much makgeolli your neighborhood drinks as to whether you can source it! Here again, you can see our tasting review right here:
Of course there are a lot of makgeolli to choose from, but these are not only our drinks of choice when shopping at the supermarket, they also score the highest from our wide ranging community of makgeolli tasting enthusiasts. Also a fun fact, the owners of each brewery are all brothers and sister! Talk about keeping it in the family.
Feel free to let us know your favourite supermarket makgeollis in the comments or on our Facebook page.
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.