One of our missions here on Refined is to keep you in the loop of new stuff happening in Seattle. And recently, we were tipped off to a drink we had never heard of that's only brewed in two locations in the U.S., including Seattle! It's called makgeolli, a fermented rice drink that's billed as Korea's oldest type of liquor. But it's new to Seattle and there's only one place that brews it in-house.
Cody Burns is the brew master at Girin Steakhouse, and he says he was obsessed with makgeolli the moment it hit his lips.
"It blew me away. I was in love instantly. I was like, whoa!, what is this? And why have I not had this before? And how come nobody is doing this?" explained Burns. "On a whim, and possibly a drunken one at the time, I decided I want to make this for this restaurant, what a neat addition to what we're trying to do at Girin."
Cody spends most of his days brewing in a tiny space upstairs at the restaurant.
"What I do in this room is steam rice on my rice steaming platform here and I've got it ventilated to suck all the steam out as quickly as possible, get the rice to a particular texture. Once the rice is fully steamed, I take it out and put it on the cooling racks to cool it down to a 66 degree room temperature really quickly. And bringing it down to temperature is really nice, it forms a nice, cool crust on the outside and drops the temperature really fast. And at that point, it can go really soon right into the fermenting vessels. These are like the ubiquitous containers for everything that is fermented in Korean cuisine. Into the container goes the steamed rice, my enzyme and yeast compound, and then filtered water and we mix it up and let the magic happen. The fermentation is pretty fast. About seven days from start to finish before it goes to bottle. Then two days of bottle finishing. And then it's ready to drink."
But how does it taste?!
"I describe the taste as really deep. It has a naturally occurring carbonation and effervescence, and a pretty nice acidity, so it kind of dances on your tongue a little bit like a beer would. The flavors are rice grainy, sometimes a little earthy, and the fruit flavors vary from stone fruits like nectarine and peach, so a little bit of white grape and sometimes green apple."
And if you can believe it, in moderation, it's good for you.
"A natural part of the fermentation process when you're doing it correctly is really high-lacto content. Some trace A and B vitamins and minerals. So as far as something you can drink that's going to get you having fun, it's perhaps the healthiest thing. In Korea, there's actually, there's actually a diet. They call it a women's diet. Why it's a women's diet, I have no idea. But, where they only drink makgeolli for about a week and are getting enough probiotic support and trace vitamin and mineral support that's a healthy thing. When you ask the old timers out in the country what's your secret. How are you in your 90s and living on your own still, you don't need help from your kids, doing your own house work, tending your garden? They always point to makgeolli."
You're definitely gong to want to get out and try it.
"With especially robust meats that are really common in Korean cuisine now, and heavy spicy dishes, it's awesome!"