Makgeolli rice beer surprise

By Honorary Reporter Diya Mitra
Cartoons, Photos = Diya Mitra

Makgeolli is a slightly sweet alcoholic beverage. It’s a traditional Korean rice beer, probably the oldest drink in its history, with a 6 to 7 percent alcohol content. It is naturally fermented and unfiltered, which gives it its milky white color and makes it chalky at the bottom. The word “makegeolli means “undistilled alcohol” or “alcohol that is drunk straight away.” It has a lot of lactobacilli, or lactic acid, and dietary fiber. It is a probiotic, which means it’s good for your digestion and bolsters the immune system. It has long been considered a healthy form of alcohol. In the olden days, it was favored among farmers and the working classes, especially because it was a filling substitute for food at a time when food wasn’t plentiful.
I really liked makgeolli rice beer when I first tried it in 2007 on my first visit to Korea. Ten years later, I’m still a fan. I remember my friends took me to a Hanok neighborhood in Seoul where I tried the drink for the first time. You always remember your first time. 
My friend made fun of me afterward as I fell head over heels for the rice-based beer-like drink. As I mentioned, rice beer was traditionally favored among farmers, and was seen as an older woman’s drink. This is somewhat similar to the image that, say, sherry or some other fortified wine might have. However, shortly after 2007 in Korea, it became very popular and makgeolli bars popped up all around Seoul.
The author enjoys strawberry-flavored makgeolli. I think I had only about three sips at this point, and I was already feeling tipsy.
I went to Seoul in 2010 to undergo a three week language course at Yonsei University. My friend took me to a makgeolli bar. This was about the time that its popularity started to grow.
I should explain a little more about the term ajumma, or middle-aged woman. It’s a respectful Korean word for an aged, married woman. It comes from the Korean word ajumeoni (아주머니). Usually, woman in this category tend to have very distinct features, like short curly black hair, and they stereotypically wear comfortable, floral pants and a dark sun visor. I don’t really qualify for these things, even though I do find the floral pants comfortable for home-wear. Nonetheless, my friend constantly teases me about having ajumma like tastes. This is the same friend that calls me a grandmother in this cartoon.
Enjoy the comic, and next time you’re in Seoul, be sure to try out some of the delicious makgeolli rice beer. There’s nothing like it in the world!