The traditional Korean grain-based alcohol makgeolli and its associated culture including the skill of making milky rice wine. has been newly designated as a national intangible cultural heritage.
With a low alcohol content of about six to seven-percent, makgeolli means "roughly and coarsely filtered", suggesting the beverage contains fine rice sediment along with a grainy flavor.
"Makgeolli is easy and cheap to brew. All you need is rice, water and nuruk the mix of enzymes and yeast that is used to start the fermentation process. As it was easily affordable, makgeolli has for a long time been the alcohol of choice for ordinary citizens."
Due to its easy accessibility, makgeolli has been quenching farm workers' thirst even before the Three Kingdoms period, and was a must-have at gatherings throughout the Joseon Dynasty as can be seen in Kim Hong-do's paintings depicting people's daily lives.
"Makgeolli is the most primitive version of alcohol, having had centuries of history. Koreans' staple food is rice, and the fact that the general public can easily make alcohol out of it is significant enough for it to become an intangible heritage."
In the 20th century, commercial breweries were founded, and as the ingredients underwent a course of change, a variety of unique makgeolli products started to attract the younger generations.
However, in order for makgeolli culture to be more widely recognized, an expert says more efforts are needed.
"We need to establish a brewery research institute for technical support, and for brewers to come up with more unique makgeolli, tax support and smooth rice supply are necessary."
An event to celebrate makgeolli's designation as an intangible heritage will take place on June 26th.
Kim Bo-kyoung, Arirang News.