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Chicago To Be Home To First Makgeolli Brewery In United States

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Feb 6, 2012 9:40PM

Makgeolli, or Korean rice wine, is noted for its milky white appearance, sweet flavor and purported antioxidant benefits. The beverage is also experiencing surging sales, with a record high $52.8 million in exports last year. Now, it appears as though Chicago will be home to the United States' first makgeolli brewery.

South Korea's Bae Sang Myun brewery is reportedly opening a makgeolli brewery in Chicago as early as July. Brewery officials told the Korea Herald he company is in the process of obtaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Under terms of the deal, raw products such as rice and nuruk — yeast cakes composed of wheat, rice and barley with fermenting micro-organisms — will be shipped from Seoul, and a brew expert will be brought over to ensure smooth operation. The Chicago brewery will be producing saeng (unsterilised) makgeolli, meaning the yeast is still fermenting and the beverage must be consumed quickly. Once the brewery is in operation, Bae Sang Myun hopes to produce 50,000 cases of makgeolli a month.

Makgeolli sales have increased in the U.S., to $1.9 million last year. But the beverage's purported health benefits has it making an inroads versus other Korean liquors such as soju. Professor Lee Dong-Ho of Seoul National University Hospital told AFP that, alcohol aside, drinking makgeolli is like drinking nutritional supplements.

Bae Sang Myun CEO Bae Young-Ho said he hopes the beverage, with an alcohol content of 6-8 percent by volume, will further open Korean food to American palates. Makgeolli is a perfect complement to Korean pancakes and steamed pork wrapped in kimchi.

Bae Sang Myun also plans to open makgeolli breweries in Los Angeles and San Francisco.