(Pocheon, South Korea)
Pocheon is consistently rated one of the top small town escapes in all of Korea with hiking trails, an abandoned rock quarry/art valley, and an herb-themed island. Add the fact that they have designated an entire compound to the cultural appreciation and making of the nectar of the gods and I’m there! Just outside of town, down a dusty road, next door to an abandoned barn fully equipped with its own mangy cat, lies Baesangmyun (BSM) Brewery- though they do make one beer: the worlds only 100% rice lager (not to mention the only gluten-free beer I’ve ever had that doesn’t taste like complete poooooo), ‘distillery’ would be a more appropriate title for the location. Whatever you want to call them- this place is worth the trip.
After a stroll through the museum with everything from early harvesting tools and distilling machines to hundreds of pages of recipes and a replica of the founder’s office we made our way to the tasting room and were given plastic shot glasses. We were then told rather than starting light and making our way to the strong stuff we should start strong “so we aren’t already too drunk when we get to the end”. Never one to ignore sound logic- we jumped right in.
First up, was what I would say was akin to moonshine or strong Korean vodka. At first glance, I would have guessed soju, but at 60% alcohol (compared to soju’s 20%ish) I could not have been more wrong. There were three total: 1 sweet potato, 1 persimmon, and one apple. I’m glad I tried it, but I couldn’t taste much past the initial burn- these guys were not for the faint of heart or for someone who enjoys having nose hair. On the other hand, if there are any 500-year-old Korean men reading this article you should be just fine, as the man who housed 5 or-so shots of each right next to me can attest.
Next up was a round of sojus and Korean wines. One standard soju similar to many others to be had in Korea followed by a green plum wine and bokbunja-um which is a black raspberry wine. I loved the bokbunja as it burst with ripe berries and brandy-like burn. Side note; it’s also known as “the old man’s virility”.
Next was sool. Sool, a once popular Korean beverage, nearly died out after the Korean war with the influx of more popular American drinks and is slowly, but surely, being revived back to life almost exclusively by BSM. Though, techically, sool just means alcohol the style has come to be known differently from soju and other spirits. That being said- I hated each one of them. I love the backstory and I support the movement, but I wasn’t a fan of sweet tarts followed by a skunks ass.
Last, but certainly not leased were four varieties of my favorite Korean drink: makgeolli (see my first makgeolli article: here). The first was a bit too far down on the chalky and bitter end, but the next three were delightful. I finished with Slow City makgeolli: Another BSM revival in the heart of Seoul.
We left with some R4 Rice Lager, a buzz, and some inspiration. Though I didn’t love as many of the drinks as I’d hoped, BSM is about so much more than just your palate. I am going to give this place my first and probably only ever split rating. I give the Baesangmyun Brewery an 8 out of 10, but I give the Sansawon cultural experience a 10.1 out of 10.