Today—in Houston—it was raining, and had been doing so for the past few days.
The perfect opportunity to make makgeolli.
We started making a somewhat unique version of makgeolli, or rice beer, a few years back. The summer prior, on a WWOOFing trip to South Korea, we took a short detour to Busan and eventually made our way to Sanseong village. The purpose, beyond the mountain trek, was to eat black goat and drink their local rice beer. While the charcoal grilled goat was phenomenal, the rice beer was completely unexpected. Sour, acidic, complex. It was assertive and lively, offering flavors that are typically masked by generous amounts of post-fermentation sweeteners. Shortly after our return, we started trying to reproduce that makgeolli.
In our second issue of Daily Ferments, we detailed the process for making a couple liters of farmhouse-style rice beer. It is a fitting amount for a beginner, requiring little in terms of materials, ingredients, and space. A key step in the process is cooking the rice. This is typically done by steaming, which—in a 2.5 liter batch with two pounds of rice—is a pretty straight-forward affair. As your target volume increases, however, so does the capacity of your equipment. It wasn't long before we needed to make a several gallons of rice beer for an event and were left with a choice: construct a large wooden basket to fit inside of our 10 gallon brew kettle, or find a functional work-around using our modestly equipped (tiny) kitchen. We chose the later, and decided to try boiling the rice.
For the last couple batches, we have experimented with cooking the rice into a thick porridge. To our surprise, it has been a great success. The final product is a bit lower in alcohol and lighter in body; with a drier finish and a more-rounded, mild flavor (a pleasant balance of sweet, sour, acidic, and nutty). It also seems to hold up longer and be less prone to over-carbonation in the bottle. It is a deviation from the traditional method—and slight variation on the familiar drink—but still produces a pleasing, approachable rice beer.