Spring is here and we are ready to get out into the fresh air and enjoy some of that crisp air and fresh Makgeolli!
We have been visiting a lot of upscale and expensive restaurants of late, and we would like to get back to our roots and visit a more traditional makgeolli bar. We will be visiting the new trendy park in Hongdae/Sincheon area to have some old school Makgeolli and Pajeon next to the lovely green space.
This should be a fairly inexpensive meeting, with very traditional fare and a good variety of basic makgeollies.
If you want to get lively with us then send us an email to email@example.com ^^
With New Years and Seollal all safely under our belt for another year, it’s time to get back on schedule with our monthly MMPK Meetings! We have been searching far and wide to find a suitable location for this month, and we stumbled on a very swish looking gem.
When it comes to Korean alcohol, most locations are fairly casual and cozy, even rustic in feeling. Well, the place we are headed this Saturday couldn’t be more different! We are headed to an upscale cocktail bar with a carefully curated menu of some of the best Korean alcohol money can buy. Makgeolli, takju, cheongju and soju, this bar in Gangnam offers some top quality sool with some tasty looking bites.
If you would like to join us for this meeting, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up 🙂
It’s hot. Really, really hot. So hot that we lost our focus and the weeks rolled by without us realizing this Saturday is our favorite day of the month…MMPK meeting day!! So we thought long and hard about what kind of booze and food would match with this weather, and we thought now is a perfect time to hone our appreciation of the clear liquors Korea has to offer! That’s right, we are talking cheongju & soju paired with some of the best looking food we have seen in quite a while!
The next place we will explore doesn’t necessarily have the widest selection, but stocks a delicious cross section of takju, cheongju and soju. But what we are really looking forward to is how it all comes together with these good lookin’ dishes!
The location is in Hapjeong, just a hop skip and a jump from Hongdae, and is some seriously fine dining. We are always on the lookout for places that are experimenting with food pairing with top shelf Korean alcohol, and this place looks like just the ticket!
If you would like to join us, email email@example.com to get your seat at the table 🙂
If you’re checking your calendars and wondering if we’ve got our math a bit screwy, the answer is yes we are a week late in our monthly meeting schedule! As many of you faithful Mamas & Papas are now aware, we hold our meetings on the last Saturday of every month. However last weekend we had some urgent business to attend to, so instead of just canceling all the makgeolli fun, we have squeezed the meeting for this Saturday!
It’s short notice, but if you’ve got the time you will not be in any way disappointed. This Saturday’s meeting is one we are just giddy with excitement for. Long on the books and finally just opened a few weeks ago, this location is set to be the Makgeolli Mecca of Seoul. With a menu of over 200 different types of makgeolli, takju, cheongju and soju, you could make a pilgrimage every week just to try and get through it all. It has already been visited by many members of the Korean alcohol industry, and it is now our chance to check it out.
The location is in Apgujeong, and the meeting as always will be at 7pm. If you would like to join us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up!
Held at COEX, this exhibition shows wines, spirits, sake and yes of course Korean traditional alcohol! There will be exhibitors from 200 companies spanning 20 countries. We know first hand that there are some artisan brewers showcasing at the exhibition, so if you have any time feel free to get over to COEX and show them support…and of course taste some truly excellent brews!
Industry Show Days: Thursday April 20th – Friday April 21st
Public Day: Saturday April 22nd
Time: 10am – 6pm (5pm on Saturday)
Where: COEX Exhibition Centre
For more details on how to get there and what’s going on visit here.
The spring season for makgeolli festivals and expos continues!!
Thoughts: Ipari is tucked away neatly up on the second floor of a rather unassuming building by the main road that runs through the up and coming Yeonnam neighbourhood about 15 mins walk from Hongdae station. Upon entering the establishment one of the first things you will notice is the modern square bar in the middle of the main room, which itself is outlined in clean yet traditional wooden decor; adorned with ornate soju bottles.
The bar is usually spotted with couples and individuals enjoying Makgeolli and Soju, while in the back there is more typical restaurant seating and private rooms for groups to have more secluded dinner meetings. The layout of the bar allows one to come alone and enjoy a drink of Korean liquor and not feel awkward by taking up a whole table. Something is quite hard to come by in Korean bars and restaurants, where most meals and drinks are consumed by groups.
The food and drinks menus here are very good, with a wide variety of well made, tasty Korean dishes and plenty of good makgeolli to pair with them.
Service: **** 4 Stars
Style: *** 3.5 Stars
Ambience: *** 3 Stars
Overall: *** 3.5 Stars
Fish Jeon: (soft, light, juicy, delicious)**** 4 stars
What we liked: The Service. The staff at Ipari are incredibly friendly, polite and helpful. One of our guests stated: “The service was fantastic. Respectful to all regardless of language ability”. They have a solid knowledge of their food and a passion for the makgeolli they serve. They are happy to make recommendations based on palate or food pairings.
What we disliked: The Price. The food menu is a little higher than you would find in your average bar, however you do get what you pay for. Ipari is “stylish in a cool yet unpretentious way” and the quality of the Korean dishes that they serve is undoubtedly very good. It is a rare place in which you find side dishes that are as good as main courses, and our guests were extremely satisfied with the marinated eggs and the rice porridge that was served as an entree. The portions are not very large however and if you are hungry you may want to order several dishes.
Recommendation: Come here with a larger group or on your own, take a table or a seat at the bar and ask the knowledgeable staff for their recommendation. They have plenty of standard makgeolli and a growing number of premium bottles too. They also stock quality sojus like the aged Ilpoom from HiteJinro, among various others.
How to get there: This place is a good 15 minute walk from Hongdae station through to a somewhat suburban part of the neighborhood. Come out of Hongdae Station exit 3 and walk straight. When you come to the main intersection, turn right and follow the road as it curves up into the suburban part of Yeonnam-dong. You will pass numerous Chinese restaurants along this road, and you will come to a big intersection, but keep walking straight through it. When you come to the overhead bridges, keep walking and just after you pass the second bridge, the bar is on your right. There is a Hyundai Motor dealers directly across the road. The bar has very little signage, and is on the second floor.
As November oh so quickly rolls in, we say goodbye to yet another Makgeolli Festival, and this one was truly something special. As many may know, the last Thursday of every October is designated as ‘Makgeolli Day’. Every year from this day, and following through the whole weekend, you can always expect some kind of celebration in the name of our favorite rice brew. In previous years we have seen various different festivals in Seoul, but this year marks the first event outside the capital, and sets a precedent for what may be a regular fixture on the ‘must-do’ calendar.
Jarasum (Jara Island) has been made famous by the annual Jazz festival, which brings exceptional artists from around the globe for a weekend of good music and outdoor fun.
This past weekend marked the inaugural Jarasum Makgeolli Festival, which set its sights on bringing together not just all the makgeolli from around the nation, but also bringing food pairings from makgeolli bars and local producers.
We were especially privileged to taste the fish from this master (pictured right), who grills some of the best Godingeo (고딩어) ever tasted. He took festival friendliness to a new level, bringing our hungry Happy Hour guests some fresh grilled fish. Look out for this guy next time, he knows what he’s doing 🙂
As for MMPK, we had a lot of work to do!
We were so excited to have the opportunity to bring all the things that we have learned to a festival, bringing tastings galore. For anyone who might have attended one of our meetings or tours, they know that we are passionate about supporting the smaller brewers on the market, and this was a chance to bring those hardworking brewers to the fore! We offered Artisan Tasting Sessions, with a lineup curated to show the best of what is on offer in bars around Seoul. All brews were aspartame free and had a variety of flavor profiles that appealed to a range of palates. The best part about the sessions? Being able to tell the stories behind every brew, and hearing the equally varied feedback on from our eager tasters. Below is this year’s MMPK Artisan Tasting Lineup:
But tasting wasn’t limited to just the Artisans, the expat brewing community also brought their entries for the fourth annual Susubori Academy Expat Makgeolli Brewing Contest. For the past four years, expats in the makgeolli brewing community have been concocting their own special brews to compete for the title. Last year Mark Salinas took the number one spot with a brew incorporating water and mugwart brought laboriously from a hike to Bukhansan (Bukhan Mountain).
This year included a diverse and creative selection, with infusions and recipe experimentation the likes of which we had yet seen. During the festival, whomever came to the booth could taste from the ten entrants and vote for their favorite. The winners are yet to be announced, but we will be sure to update as soon as they come through!
If that wasn’t all, MMPK also teamed up with Makgeolli Makers & Susubori Academy to offer free Introduction to Brewing Makgeolli Classes. Twice a day, both on Saturday and Sunday, visitors could get their basic grounding in the world of makgeolli brewing and take home their very own brew.
And then there was the festival itself!
The main tent in the middle of grounds was continually abuzz with musical performances and food stalls, getting particularly rowdy when it hit after 8pm 🙂 And as the days dawned with crisp air (albeit cold enough for eyebrow-sicles in the very wee hours), with blue skies and mountains as a backdrop, it was hard not to be in a good mood. Tents lined up surrounding the main tent, giving out samples of their wares as well as exhibitions of Korea’s finest representations of alcohol.
As each day came to a close, the MMPK tent went into Happy Hour mode. With endless brews and endless meat on hand, crew and visitors ate and drank the night away under the clear, star filled sky until their toes were numb.
After all the preparation, anticipation and running of the event, there is just one thing that sticks in our minds as the most memorable. The people of our community are what make these festivals not just possible, but also joyful and just a rollicking good time. We are nothing if not the people who support us, and that was more than evident this past weekend. So we would like to give a heartfelt ~ Thank You ~ to our Brewers, Volunteers, and Supporters (yes, you all get capitals 😉 ) because without you, we would would never have been able to have such an awesome event.
We can’t wait till next year for the next installment of the Jarasum Makgeolli Festival 🙂
Thoughts: Located on the trendy street of Sangsu which is lined with cafes, brunch restaurants and cool bars, Booze Frog (our own affectionate translation of the name 술 개구리) is a recent addition to the scene of makgeolli bars. While some places offer a menu of ten or so brews, this place has a most impressive four page menu and scores of options to choose from. The atmosphere is intimate and lively, and if you’re lucky enough to get the one table by the terrace, you can people watch the trendsters below with your makgeolli cup in hand.
What we liked: The atmosphere. The interior has been designed like a Spanish villa, and it is a very popular place filled with imbibers. The menu being so extensive, they offer samplers which come out not in small shot glasses, but tall water glasses. If you’re not sure what you like, this is a good way to try different types without having to buy a full bottle. It’s also a great visual to come to the table, though we found it a little difficult to pour without spilling for each person. Mamas & Papas also liked a somewhat unusual aspect, the prawn crackers. It may just come out as free anjou, but multiple Mamas & Papas raved about them saying ‘I would come back just for these’.
What we disliked: The slow service. Taking into account they are a relatively new establishment, so keeping up with its popularity might mean still working out the kinks. We ordered makgeolli and the order was forgotten until they were reminded 15 minutes later. However the owner was apologetic and compensated with free bottles, and his efforts definitely made up for the service lapse. Mamas & Papas were also a little disappointed with the lack of craft makgeolli, as the only bottles listed on the menu were out of stock. The house three color jeon was a bit spicy to go well with the makgeolli, with one Mama commenting ‘It blows out the taste buds so you can’t taste the makgeolli’.
Recommendation: This is a good place for a casual makgeolli experience with a relaxed atmosphere and extensive selection. If you’re in the Hapjeong/Sangsu area and want a late afternoon brew, the open terrace and windows let in some nice light and open air. It’s also good if you want to sample a whole selection of makgeolli you perhaps have never tried before, the owner also speaks some English and can recommend you to order.
Directions: From Sangsu Station come out exit #1 and walk down the hill on the main road towards Hapjeong station. When you reach the carpark at the bottom entrance to hongdae area turn right, and at the next left you should see a CU on the corner. Turn left here and follow the street for about 3 blocks and then you should cross a 4 way street. The bar should be just on the right on the 2nd floor and it’s called Sool Frog (술 개구리)
Note: It’s also accessible from Hapjeong station at about the same distance
Thoughts: Right in the middle of Hongdae: the thriving, bustling beating heart of Seoul’s nightlife, where students, tourists, party lovers, musicians and artists all collide in a seemingly endless network of streets crammed with bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes, you will find this diamond in the rough. Olsoo, with it’s attention to quality and careful selection of Korean traditional alcohol feels somewhat out of place among the cheap barbeque restaurants, soju bars, and rowdy old fashioned makgeolli bars that fill the neighboring area right next to the Hongdae subway station.
The word Olsoo (얼쑤) is the one of the calls of encouragement and emphasis commonly given by the percussionist to solo singer during Korea’s ancient Pansori musicals and translates, perhaps somewhat crudely as “Yah Hoo”. Olsoo is owned and managed by the bar’s chef, who’s passion is not only in modern reflections of Korea’s cuisine, but also in it’s wide offerings in the field of traditional liquor. His staff also share his enthusiasm for makgeolli, cheongju and well crafted soju and are more than happy to offer recommendations and suggestions on what you may like to drink.
JahuiHyang Nabi 자희향 나비 (chalky, mild, floral, aromatic,silky)
Do Mun Daejak 도문대작 (Pungent, nice finish, mild/pleasant bitterness,slightly higher alcohol content)
What we liked: The Menu. A bit of a cop out to mention the menu, however it has such a delicious selection of food on offer that it wouldn’t be fair to leave it off the recommendation. The selection of makgeolli and cheongju on offer here is also very good, with a large number of premium bottles as well as some more interesting and less common varieties of takju/table makgeolli, the selection deserves an honorable mention. We were very happy with the direction this bar has taken in terms of its well chosen, predominantly non-aspartame bottle choices. Mamas & Papas also were quite satisfied with the quality of food, the fried oysters being a particular hit with the general comment being simply ‘Yummy!!’ (Note: Oysters are a seasonal menu found mostly from September to December/January)
What we disliked: The Price. Well, in hongdae, you would be forgiven for thinking that most places in this area offer cheap and cheerful drinks, with the target demographic being students and party goers. However if that is what you are looking for then this place is perhaps not for you. Although nothing on the menu is unreasonable, it is certainly more expensive than other makgeolli bars that are in the vicinity of Olsoo. You are certainly paying for the quality of the produce and drinks you are receiving here though, and we are more than happy to recommend it.
Recommendation: A great place for a nice meal and a chat with a few friends who either are makgeolli lovers, or who want to get into the world of premium makgeolli. If you have the budget, you will be able to sample and compare most of the higher end makgeolli that is available in Seoul; paired with some very tasty dishes as well. It can sometimes get a little rowdy, as it does appear that the also sell common soju as well which is still popular with the local clientele and the company dinner customers as well. However, the atmosphere is fun and it is certainly a good place to start you night in the most happening place in the city.
Directions: Come out exit 8 of Hongdae Station and walk straight. You will reach a roundabout, and Olsoo is on the opposite side of the street, on the second floor. Look for a staircase and a white sign with black writing that says 얼쑤.
For those of you who live in Seoul we have a special treat for you…
Joe McPherson is the founding editor of ZenKimchi, Korea’s longest running food blog, which has now been in operation for 10 years! He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Roads & Kingdoms, Plate Magazine, 10 Magazine, The Korea Herald, SEOUL Magazine, Newsweek Korea, JoongAng Ilbo, and others. He has also consulted for CNN’s “Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain,” National Geographic, The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” and the PBS documentary “The Kimchi Chronicles.” He has been an expert source for The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Lonely Planet, The Los Angeles Times….
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You may be wondering why we are promoting this seemingly non-makgeolli related item. Well of course because we are featured in it. Makgeolli Mamas & Papas have contributed their Top 10 makgeolli bars in Seoul for the guide!
Curious as to what they may be? well you know where to look! Right….. here
Get out and munch some great food alongside some quality makgeolli!