Makgeolli, Korean wine loved for generations

Makgeolli, Korean wine loved for generations

haps Magazine Korea

Makgeolli is Korea’s oldest folk liquor. The signature brew is a favorite among Koreans and foreigners for its clean and refreshing taste. Loved for generations and recently updated with the addition of bananas and honey, makgeolli is an iconic drink with appeal across age groups. Its place in Korean culture isn’t likely to change any time soon.


Makgeolli, white wine brewed from grain, is Korea’s most traditional alcoholic beverage, produced through a long fermentation process. Its sweet, yet slightly bitter flavor is unmistakable and has captivated the taste buds of both Koreans and visitors.

Makgeolli, unlike soju, has gained a reputation among foreigners for its smooth taste and low alcohol proof. The word mak from makgeolli has dual meanings: “roughly” and “right now,” in reference to its intended time of consumption, right after it’s been strained. Makgeolli is best enjoyed fresh, before its flavor changes.

Water and grain quality, along with the care of the brewmaster, determine the flavors of makgeolli. Its fermentation process helps to enrich its nutritional value by increasing dietary fiber and protein.

Busan has an inseparable connection to makgeolli, as the home of the first rice makgeolli brewery following a decade of prohibition in the country. It remains a major producer today.

Geumjeongsanseong (fortress) Makgeolli

Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli is the one and only locally-made makgeolli among many other kinds of traditionally-brewed wines in Korea. Its 500-year history began in the Jeoseon Dynasty era when it was first produced in the Geumjeong-sanseong area. The beverage’s full flavor was attributed to the high-quality water of the region, but the secret to perfecting the fermentation process more likely lies in its main ingredient —  yeast.

Yeast for Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli is used to brew the alcohol through a method known as foot-striking, treading on yeast wrapped in hemp cloth. The distinct taste of Busan makgeolli has fascinated many regardless of nationality, which resulted in its adoption as a toast wine for the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference at BEXCO in 2014. Geumjeongsanseong Makgeolli is best paired with seasoned bulgogi (barbequed beef) or crispy, browned bindaetteok (mung-bean pancake).


It’s easy to make makgeolli. Steamed rice is cooled, yeast and boiling water are added and the mixture is fermented. Make it yourself at Yeonhyojae, a makgeolli school in Munhyeon-dong. The school offers a one-day course aimed at foreign tourists and a 10-week course for those seeking in-depth studies on the craft of makgeolli.

– Information: Call 051-636-9355.

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