Shinpyeong Brewery, one of Korea’s oldest family-run makgeolli breweries, has just completed a brand new renovation project to bring makgeolli tourism in Korea into the next era.
Shinpyeong Brewery (신평 양조장) in Dangjin is a four-generation family business, and they have just recently completed an impressive renovation to preserve their heritage but also bring the experience of Korean alcohol to visitors. We were treated to a special tour from current owner Kim Dong-gyo (AKA Daniel), the son of the brewery’s Master Brewer, and learned many interesting facts about Shinpyeong’s unique history and evolution.
“My grandfather’s uncle had a brewery around here. He was working there in his teenage years, but then his uncle passed away so he acquired the brewery and made it into Shinpyeong Brewery. That was in 1933.” explained Daniel during the history part of the tour. “When the Korean war broke out in 1950, a brewmaster came to us as a refugee on a ship and stayed at Shinpyeong Brewery. He taught us how to make rice nuruk, so rice nuruk has been the backbone of our brewing process ever since.”
“Until 1998, our brewery could not sell our Makgeolli to any other regions, only in Dangjin where we are based. In 2009, the government created a new policy to try and promote Korean traditional alcohol around the world. Before that policy, we were only controlled by the tax agency, but from that time the agricultural department joined our industry and took over the role of promoting and growing Korean traditional alcohol.” After hearing all about the history of Shinpyeong Brewery, I was struck at how amazing it was that Shinpyeong had not only survived but thrived through the many hardships of the past and maintained its family business.
After the history session, the tour moved into the newly renovated building displaying the worldwide history of alcohol against the backdrop of Shinpyeong’s facility. The dedication put into the design and fine details of this building left me wide-eyed, the two years spent building was visibly worth it. Adding onto that, all of the extensive research into worldwide alcohol really goes to show that Shinpyeong Brewery is not just interested in Makgeolli or Korean alcohol, but alcohol itself! This new building is also a great way of teaching people about the craft, which makes drinking the alcohol all the more meaningful.
One of the new additions to Shinpyeong’s tour program is a makgeolli themed arts and crafts time, so it’s great for kids. First up, we made a Korean brewing themed Hanji (Korean traditional paper) lantern.
Next up, rice Nuruk bath salts-making experience! We put the ingredients in the measuring cups, checked the weight, mixed it all up, and poured them into the glass bottles. There you have it, rice Nuruk bath salts. We also had the option of choosing between lemon or lavender for the scent, I chose lavender. As you can see below the process was very well organized and I had a great time creating my own unique salts.
And finally, the main attraction. Making makgeolli!
Daniel unveiled the Godubap (steamed rice) we would use to make our Lotus Makgeolli, and we then proceeded to flip it around with wooden spoons, and switched to wearing plastic gloves to feel the texture for ourselves. After that, we had a rice weighing competition to see who could get close enough to the exact required weight. I lost. We then put our rice in these big jars with some water and other ingredients and started squishing them down for the juice.
And finally, the tasting! We had the pleasure of trying Shinpyeong Brewery’s Makgeolli with some anju (snacks). Rather than reviewing them all, I would instead just like to leave their tastes as a mystery to discover at the end of your journey through this tour, which I hope you will go on with a group of friends in your free time.
As they say, Makgeolli is best drank after some hard work or exercise, so you can have the satisfaction of drinking this after making your own makgeolli at Shinpyeong Brewery, along with a Hanji lantern, maybe some rice Nuruk bath salts, and learn all about the deep and extensive history of alcohol, Shinpyeong Brewery, and Korea as well.
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