Memories of drinking her grandmother’s homebrewed makgeolli at the family farm in Jincheon, Cheungchungbukdo, Korea, along with her growing fascination with Korean wild yeast fermentation, led Yong Ha Jeong to intensive study of the art of Korean sool-making. After studying for years with Korea’s master brewers and distillers, she has returned home to Los Angeles to share the glories of time-tested, handcrafted Korean alcohol.
For centuries, Koreans offered the best sool, or alcohol, to their ancestral spirits–spirits for the spirits–
fueling the development of a rich home-brewing tradition. Koreans crafted a variety of sool using three principal ingredients: water, rice, and the most important ingredient, nuruk. The secret to delicious sool lies in the nuruk, cakes of meticulously prepared grain fermented under special conditions to cultivate a unique mix of health-giving microorganisms: wild yeasts, wild aromatic molds, and probiotic bacteria, which feed the fermentation and give flavor and richness to the brews.
Unfortunately, this long-cultivated home-brewing tradition was suppressed under Imperial Japanese rule with a ban on non-commercial brewing during the Colonial Period (1910-1945), and domination of South Korean production by large corporations after the Korean War. However, contemporary revivalists and pioneers of Korean brewing are bringing back handcrafted sool to modern audiences.
Spirits for the Spirits
Photos by Michelle Min @touchtastedesign