Reviving Tradition: The Makgeolli Legacy at Geumjeong Mountain

Hey, ever heard of Geumjeong Mountain near Busan? Well, it’s home to the remnants of South Korea’s biggest mountain fortress. But wait, the real gem here is in a village brewery nearby that’s been crafting something special for ages—makgeolli.

Makgeolli: Then vs. Now

Makgeolli’s this fermented rice wine that’s been making a comeback lately. But here’s the twist—modern versions are sweeter and lighter, catering to the newer crowd. The real deal from Geumjeong Mountain? It’s got that tangy, thicker punch that might surprise younger folks.

Meet the Makgeolli Master

Yoo Cheong-gil, the sixth-generation brewery owner, is the guardian of this traditional recipe. He’s South Korea’s only recognized makgeolli master, keeping alive what old wives brewed back in the day.

The Magic of Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli

So, what’s the hype about this Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli? Well, back when they built the fortress in the 1700s, workers sipped on this unique drink during breaks. They spread the word far and wide about this local gem, and bam! It became South Korea’s only official “Traditional Folk Wine.”

The Secret’s in the Nuruk

Here’s the kicker—the magic of this makgeolli lies in its nuruk (Korean yeast cake). Yoo shows off this treasure, a perfectly round piece with yellow, white, and black yeast—a special mix that makes all the difference.

Nuruk: A Labor of Love

Making nuruk is an art. They step on dried wheat mixed with warm water until it’s round, flat, and thick around the edges. This process lets yeast spread evenly and works its magic. The fermented nuruk is then sunbathed for days, getting that perfect brownish hue.

The Brewing Process

The fermented nuruk is crumbled, mixed with sticky rice and water, and voila! Makgeolli’s in the making. This drink? It captures the essence of the land—Sanseong Valley’s clean water and high-altitude yeasts.

Tradition vs. Modernization

While most brewers opt for machine-pressed nuruk, Yoo’s crew sticks to the old ways. Their nuruk-making team, five women with five decades of experience, is the backbone of this legacy.

Keeping Tradition Alive

For Yoo, it’s not just a drink; it’s his family’s legacy. He took the reins three decades ago and now works alongside his son and nephew. But he’s not all about high prices—keeping it affordable makes it a people’s drink.

Savoring the Experience

How do you drink it? Not a time for sipping, folks! Yoo swears by gulping it from a bowl, especially on rainy days. The sour tang goes perfectly with the humidity. Pair it with crispy scallion pancakes—local favorites.

The Makgeolli Journey

Sure, you can find Geumjeongsanseong’s yellow-labeled makgeolli outside Busan, but Yoo suggests coming down to Geumjeong Mountain for the real deal. Why? Well, it’s sensitive to temperature, and this baby breathes—no pasteurization here!

Final Words from the Master

Yoo’s got a point—good things take time. And this makgeolli is no exception. It’s a taste of history, brewed with love and tradition. So, if you’re up for a unique experience, head to Geumjeong Mountain and gulp down a bowl of this ancient elixir.