Hana Makgeolli brings heritage and rice wine to Brooklyn
Nestled among the industrial buildings of Dupont Street at Greenpoint’s Northern tip, the team at Hana Makgeolli are hard at work preparing for the opening of their new tap room this coming August. Founded by business partners Alice Jun and John Limb, Hana Makgeolli has been steadily growing since its opening in 2019 and currently ships a variety of different artisanal Korean rice wines locally and nationwide.
This past week, our paper caught up with Jun and Limb while they worked on a new batch of Makgeolli.
“I think I got into brewing because I’m interested in my culture as a first generation Korean American immigrant,” Jun said. “My dad did it at home as a home brewer. It’s something that I learned how to do from him during my childhood and that I pursued as a passion project for fun. Once I moved to New York in 2011 for school, I became even more obsessed with it.”
The rice wine Hana Makgeolli produces follows in the footsteps of Jun’s father, utilizing a traditional process that relies on authentic ingredients.
“We make traditional style Korean alcohol,” Jun explained. “At a high level, we’re essentially brewing with rice and only rice currently. It’s a mix between medium grain white rice and sweet white rice.”
She continued: “We’re relying on a wild or natural fermentation starter that’s traditional and that distinguishes Korean alcohols from any other category of alcohol. That starter is called nuruk.”
Hana Makgeolli imports its starter directly from Korea to insure authenticity. The rice used for the wine is imported from California and other domestic locations.
After washing, soaking, draining, and cooking the rice, the team at Hana Makgeolli then allows its brews to ferment for weeks, sometimes even months, to achieve the proper flavor. The rice sediment is then separated from the liquid, thus producing the finished beverages.
Jun and Limb are aided in their efforts by a team of talented local brewers. They are also assisted by their canine helper Chapsal, a big, white, fluffy dog who roams throughout the brewery inspecting the work.
The team at Hana Makgeolli also credits the welcoming Brooklyn community for helping them find success and an audience early on.
“I think what makes Brooklyn special, from our perspective, is how open a community it is and how our guests, consumers, and friends have an open mind to trying something new,” said Jun. “When we were choosing what market to open up first in, we knew that by looking in Brooklyn, we would hopefully have the ear and the hearts and the minds of people. We were able to capture their attention in a genuine and authentic way just by telling our story.”
In addition to brewining, Jun and Limb are currently putting the final touches on their tap room, which they hope to open for tastings in August. With four different rice wines already in production and a healthy audience of fans supporting their work, the Hana Makgeolli team is hopeful that their success will inspire others to pursue a passion.
“Even if it’s not Korean beverages, we would hope that [other people will pursue] anything that they’re passionate about from their culture, background, or where they come from,” Jun said, “even if it’s different from the general market, consumer reports, or what the industry thinks overall about a particular food or beverage product.”
Jun smiled as she lifted a barrel, separating the rice sediment from the finished rice wine. “The main message is that if you love what you do and if you love what you make, the possibilities are endless.”
For more information, visit Hana Makgeolli at www.hanamakgeolli.com or on Instagram @hanamakgeolli.