|▲ Yangchon Brewery / CEO Dongjoong Lee|
Korean’s love of drinking, singing and dancing goes as far back as to the Samhan era in the first century. A record in a book of Joseon dynasty mentions about 400 kinds of Korean liquors but the number goes up to around 1,000 if included unrecorded. It was during the Japanese colonial era in early 1900 that most of these traditionally made Korean liquors were disappeared by the Japanese’s deliberate force.
Yet, the secrets has been passed down hand to hand and some passionately business minded carried on their Korean liquor business no matter how small it was for pleasure of Korean way being drunk. Today, Korean traditional liquor brands are newly introduced in the market year by year with fancy designs and tastes.
Yangchon Brewery opened its door in 1923 by the grandfather of the current CEO of Dongjoong Lee. It was 1931, however, that he, the grandfather, started brewing its own brand in earnest at a second storey Korean wooden house. Surprisingly, the house is still standing on the same spot with the building intact and this is where Lee is carrying on his family business by using the water from the same well which also is still there on the same spot. In other words, Yangchon Brewery has used the same water for the last 100 years. Note, water is what makes a liquor good or bad.
The first floor of the house is used for fermentation. The second floor is used as the control room to check the overall process on the first floor through a number of holes on the bottom as well as the ventilators through which the brewers check the smell.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs appointed Yangchon Brewery as ‘must visit brewery’ in 2016. Hundreds of people, including foreigners, are visiting the brewery every year to see how traditional Korean liquor were, and are, made. To add a fun of the visit, Lee is running a ‘makoli – milky Korean rice wine’ café as a side business. The making equipment of the 30s is displayed as props.
“I have this fancy plan to list this brewery and the café as one single package as a cultural asset. If possible, I would like to turn them into a traditional Korean brewery museum” says Lee.
The design and logo on the bottles is the work of calligrapher Taehee Lee. The design won the communication prize at the three global design awards. Unlike old generation who did not care much about design, young entrepreneurs today take it as important as the contents of the business.
Some of the hot sellers of Yangchon Brewery are ‘Yangchon Draught Makoli’ and ‘Yangchon Handmade Makoli’. The latter acceded to the throne and called King of kings as it was the bestseller in 30 traditional bars in 2017.
신태섭 기자 email@example.com