Innovation and diversity in Korean Business.
Today’s guests, John Walker AM and Julia Mellor are two innovative business leaders. Although they work in different fields, their drive and leadership shows how much the Korean business environment is diversifying.
Alex talks with John Walker AM, Chairman of Eastpoint Partners Asia . The first order of business is to announce that Eastpoint are the newest sponsors of koreabizacast. We thank him and his team for their support.
Alex and John talk about Eastpoint Partners role in developing projects across Asia, as well as his role in Deputy Chairman of the Australia Korea Business Council which is having its 42nd Joint Meeting this week in Seoul. The AKBC meeting is happening at a key time for Australia and Korea. It is imperative for both economies that they discuss the opportunities for Australian industry and Korean industry to cooperate in areas such as, energy transition, sustainable technologies, and particularly the importing of green hydrogen, to Korea, which can be made in huge volumes in Australia. The AKBC Joint Meeting will also have sessions on critical minerals, infrastructure, agribusiness, e-commerce, health & bio and defense collaboration.
Alex then talks with Julia Mellor, Korean Traditional Alcohol Specialist & Director of The Sool Company The world’s leading resource for Korean alcohol education, events & consulting in English.
Alex and Julia discuss how she is changing both Koreans’ and expats’ views of traditional Korean alcohol one cup at a time. She traces her journey from the regular soju, beer and somek experience that almost everyone has in Korea, to the wonderful regional diversity that exists especially makgeolli. Her business, The Sool Company conducts a wide range of events that help people learn more about makgeolli. Tastings, brewing experiences, site visits, almost every way possible to show people how to enjoy themselves in the world of traditional Korean alcohol.
They also talk about how she had to pivot her business as a result of the pandemic. and now as she prepares for a return to normal, how she is ramping up for 2022.
Today’s episode is brought to you by our newest sponsor Eastpoint Partners Ltd.
Korea is always heralded as an innovative place to do business.
Korea is becoming a place where innovative business can prosper
Alex Jensen: I’m Alex Jensen, and it’s Thursday, October 28th from the Korea Business Leaders Alliance
What do investments energy and Korean traditional alcohol all have in common? Apart from perhaps some other things, I can certainly say our episode today will connect all of those as I took my mobile recording device out into the Gwanghwamun area of Seoul for this latest episode, and we’ll get right into it. But let me again remind you to get in touch and get involved in our Koreabizcast community. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share your story or connect any way you see fit.
Alex Jensen: So, then the tranquil surroundings of the Maru lounge at the Four Seasons in Seoul and sitting alongside me is John Walker AM who you may remember we connected with several weeks ago. He’s got a great story in his own right. But today we have a special announcement and a big topic to get into the Australia Korea Business Counsel. John, this is almost your second office, isn’t it?
John Walker AM: It seems to be becoming that way, Alex, it’s quite handy to my real office, and to my home. And it’s a great relaxed atmosphere. And the staff here are so supportive, so very happy to be meeting you back here in Maru.
Alex Jensen: Well, thank you for the coffee, by the way, and for insisting on chocolate powder on my cappuccino, because cinnamon is the default, even in the finest establishments in Korea. Among many titles, John, you are Executive Chairman of Eastpoint Partners, which happens to be our newest sponsor, welcome aboard. Let me say thank you publicly for your support as well.
John Walker AM: Now that’s a great pleasure, Alex, I was really keen to support your podcast, because I think it fills a real gap in the media in Korea and I think the combination of business topics and social topics and things like that really a very refreshing so on. It’s a real pleasure to be a sponsor.
Alex Jensen: So, let’s begin by hearing more about Eastpoint Partners, people will almost certainly know about your fingerprint, but they might not know the name itself.
John Walker AM: Yes, Ales. Well, I established these Eastpoint Partners when I retired as the chairman of Macquarie in Asia in May last year. And really, I said was it off the back of my experience in Macquarie, working with investors and companies to help partner them up across a whole range of different markets. You know, there are some great emerging and very developed companies in the region, but they are lacking capital. And at times, they’re lacking information on how to pursue their strategic objectives.
So, what we’re doing Eastpoint is very interesting. We help companies not only raise capital, but we help them with their business planning and their structuring. It’s quite an interesting model, because I work around the region with a whole lot of affiliates or partners, if you like, that have their own businesses across Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, etc. to pursue this business model. And I’d have to say it’s, it’s turned out to be very, very successful. And we’ve had some great successes in our short history.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, we’ve talked quite a lot actually, in the last few weeks about startups going through competitions and going through incubators and that sort of thing. I get the feeling with what you’re doing a lot of it will be through introductions. What about those someone wants to cold call John Walker and get in touch with you and propose an idea to you. How does that work?
John Walker AM: It’s fine. All they need to do is to ring me up or send me an email and the email addresses a fairly simple one is just email@example.com so very happy to be cold call. Interestingly, six months ago, I had a cold call from the Indonesian government, who wanted someone to support them in establishing Indonesia’s first ever a sovereign wealth fund. Six months later, that fund is in place. $3.7 billion has been raised for one of the sub platforms of that fund. And this essentially came from a cold call.
Alex Jensen: Well, there we go, evidence of being able to approach John Walker and perhaps other executives like him, although I’m not quite sure actually, if there’s anyone quite as approachable as you with your experience, John, if I may say so. And obviously I would be saying that sitting in the seat it’s really much appreciated to have Eastpoint Partner’s support. But you’re also very busy this week with the joint meeting of the Australia Korea Business Council, which starts today in Seoul by the time this goes out, because we’re having coffee the day before. It’s a bit difficult to kind of time travel for this podcast. You’re also sponsoring that though that meeting, can you tell us more about it?
John Walker AM: Yes, I decided that this would be a good opportunity for Eastpoint to raise its profile, and to support the agenda of the both the Australia Korea Business Council and the Korea Business Council.
So that’s our first significant sponsorship as a gold sponsor of this event. It’s very important event in terms of its timing, as we begin to emerge out of COVID, the opportunity for Australian industry and Korean industry to cooperate in themes around the energy transition, the new technologies, the opportunities for the export, particularly of green hydrogen to Korea, which can be made in huge volumes in Australia, given the wind and the sun and the space, the opportunity to be supporting cooperation in the area of biotechnology, the development of new vaccines and other research, the opportunity to contribute to the growing education relationship between the two countries.
So, I thought the timing of this event is excellent. And the opportunity for Eastpoint to get behind some of these tremendous opportunities for Australian industry, Australian companies and Korean companies to cooperate to the mutual advantage of both of the economies with something that was really very timely and very desirable.
Alex Jensen: There have been some huge names in business and politics involved with the Australia Korea Business Council over the years, some people might get the idea that this is about kind of mutual back rubbing or just discussing ideas, which is great in itself in the world of business is perhaps required, maybe more so than ever, after this COVID-19 pandemic, not that we’re out of it yet. But how important is it actually to get people together in a room, discussing ideas and then putting together action plans in this kind of setting?
John Walker AM: I think it’s very important. And it’s particularly important if this dialogue can be done in an environment where there is not a specific and immediate business objective. So, where people can feel free to brainstorm and be creative, about a strategic direction, or, if you like, a strategic opportunity, with the detailed business focus coming later in one-to-one discussions.
But I think the beauty of the dialogue through business councils is that people can feel unconstrained and creative, share crazy ideas, and develop opportunities in a, you know, a very sort of creative and open and unpressurized environment. I actually chair the finance subcommittee of the Australia Korea Business Council. And one of the really pleasing things about that is we have as members of that subcommittee, not only Korean Finance, not only Australian financial institutions, but as I began to, say, Korean financial institutions.
So, this subcommittee of the council presents an opportunity for financial institutions who might otherwise have to be quite cautious and careful because they are competing with each other, to be very open minded and creative, and come up with ideas as to how the financial sector in Australia and the financial sector in Korea can learn lessons from each other about both their markets and develop opportunities ideas for new financial products. So, I think it’s really important, and in some sets underestimated by groups who haven’t thought about joining up with these business councils
Alex Jensen: strong case for it. You also mentioned the energy situation before that’s been fascinating to me in the last few weeks, because I’ve been connecting with family back in the UK, for example, in the ridiculous energy shortages they’ve been facing. They’ve had the double whammy of wind in the North Sea also tailing off or for whatever reason, at the same time is this natural gas shortage and then that’s led to knock on shortages of coal etc. Have you ever in all your years of dealing with the energy business? Have you ever seen a scramble for energy like we’re seeing this year?
John Walker AM: Well, I have been involved in the energy business for many, many years. I’m showing my age now. I think the closest thing that I can think about is in the 70s. And then the early 80s, there was a perception that there could be an energy crisis and energy shortages. This was particularly around oil and around coal. But at that time, in actuality, the shortages had not happened. There was the perception they would say a whole raft of energy management policies were introduced.
People started to think about energy efficiency of dwellings and buildings, and really started to think about renewable energy but there was not a crisis. I would say now, though, there is a crisis, right across the world. And not just in the UK, Alex, but in China, and in Korea, where we have an amazing situation where energy generators have the pressure on them from governments now to buy more coal, to buy more gas. And of course, we’re only halfway through the energy transition. So, renewables at this point are not able to fill that gap. This is a long transition period coming. But look, there are silver linings to this.
And there are some fantastic new opportunities that are developing, which will address the crisis in the future. One of these is obviously hydrogen, which is the, you know, the best form of energy storage, that it’s probably 30 years away before hydrogen is produced in industrial quantities. And initially, it’s going to be probably more around steel manufacturing rather than transportation and providing energy for cities. The other very interesting development and the UK comes to mind and Australia comes to mind on this is this fantastic idea of countries sharing their complementary energy resources. So, for example, now in Australia, there is a project where wind and solar will generate 10 gigawatts of renewable energy, which will go all the way to Singapore via an undersea cable and which will probably also serve countries like Indonesia.
In the UK, there is a project called Xlinks, which will link the Moroccan desert 10 gigawatts of wind and solar and battery from the Moroccan desert into the UK at half the price of offshore wind. And as you say, the wind is not blowing there now anyway. So, I think the silver lining to this crisis, which is going to be uncomfortable for some years around gas supply and cold supply, is that we’ll be preparing a better future for ourselves driven by the crisis.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, that discomfort is going to be felt, though in a number of ways. This week, I’ve been looking in the sky, for example. And for the first time in a while, I saw Namsan Tower shining yellow, and not really shining, it was there a murky haze. If anyone’s not familiar, it’s blue, not by coincidence, but by when the air has clean, it then goes to green, when it’s at green, you know, might shorten my dog walk a little bit yellow, it’s like I feel resentful that I have to take the dogs out at all and red is pretty much a no-go zone.
So that’s how you can judge but there are obviously better ways of being more precise online. The reason I mentioned it can be coincidental with weather factors. But are we going to have to get used to that for a couple of years even do you think or even longer with China and Korea and other countries being forced to burn coal?
John Walker AM: Yes, I think we will. I mean, perhaps Alex, what you should do in the mornings is put your sunglasses on. So, you’re not getting all those different colors. But look, I am an optimist, I think there will be some discomfort, there is undoubtedly going to be more coal being burned, undoubtedly more gas being burnt. The newer technologies around clean coal and around gas, though, don’t necessarily expose us to the issues from the oldest style traditional power stations. And all the while renewable energy is coming online, more and more and more rapidly.
And places like Korea, there are a huge development in offshore wind, probably 4 to 5 years away, though, before there’s any grade scale. Taiwan is sort of well ahead of Korea in that sense. Japan is at about the same place as Korea, China, although there are a lot of offshore wind developments, just given the population and given the scale of industry, I think things will be very uncomfortable in China for some years also. So, look, I don’t think things are going to be worse than they have been in the last 10 years.
But I think our expectations were raised that we were seeing the end of coal fired generation and that we were seeing gas just as a transitional fuel. I think the next 5 to 6 years, we won’t see dramatic change in line with expectations that we’ve been given about all these bullish outcomes that are going to be discussed at COP26 next week.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, I think we’ll pick up the issue of climate change on another day because it’s such a huge one to tackle in itself.
The air pollution thing is also something that’s right in our face, literally, and very much visible effect. I just want to ask one more question about hydrogen. You said we could be 30 years away from seeing the full hydrogen economy. Is there any friction with other renewables though? We’ve got a lot of auto manufacturers for example, putting electric vehicles and there’s no reason why they couldn’t be refueled through hydrogen powered electricity. But why not go straight for the hydrogen powered cars? Is that something that’s going to be a clash in the coming decades, do you think?
John Walker AM: Look, I don’t think necessarily a clash. Clearly, if you’re talking to an electric vehicle manufacturer, they’re going to be trying to persuade you that their technology is the one you should be utilizing, as word a hydrogen manufacturer, but it’s interesting.
Hyundai Motors is doing both EVs and hydrogen vehicles. I think the issue with hydrogen is supply of hydrogen. That’s a big issue and also the whole logistics chain associated with getting hydrogen from his point of manufacture to the point of distribution. So, it’s going to be a little slower than electric vehicles.
Electric vehicles have actually been around for some time. Now, of course, the technology has developed much more, the batteries have developed much more, but I think they are likely to be complementary. Probably my view is that hydrogen will be more suitable for heavy vehicles, like buses, mining equipment, bulldozers, the sort of thing, and will obviously be much more beneficial in things like steel manufacturing, whereas electric vehicles are likely to be more dominant in the area of just the car that will that all wheel drive, or perhaps the cars that we will increasingly not be driving.
And we’ll be sitting in ride sharing and KAKAO cabs and things I don’t think necessarily a competition in our history is a great teacher, if we just sit back and remind ourselves for 20 or 30 years, we’ve had the choice of diesel for our cars, petrol what the Americans call gasoline for our cars, and CNG, Compressed Natural Gas, most taxi fleets have been operating on compressed national gas. So, I think there’s a kind of a model, if you look at history, for there to be a mix of sources of fuel for motor vehicles.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, makes a lot of sense on all fronts, infrastructure has got to be there. And we are seeing that EV charging stations come out, I’m just conscious of the fact that it kind of defeats the purpose if coal is providing the electricity for those charging stations.
But again, I think hydrogen a bit like climate changes a topic, we can pick up another time and talk about hydrogen itself and all the opportunities and the way that hydrogen is produced in greener ways than others and that sort of thing. John Walker AM, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And it doesn’t hurt to do so in the marrow lounge at the Four Seasons, who are happy to give another shout out to as our first sponsor on this podcast. Thank you very much. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
John Walker AM: Thank you, Alex. It’s been great talking again, and I look forward to the next time. Let’s enjoy our coffee. Thanks.
Alex Jensen: Well, I’ve now left John and popped into what I hope is a quiet room for an online catch up with Julia Mellor founder and CEO of ‘The SOOL Company’, which seems to combine both her professional interests and personal passion for Korean traditional alcohol. Julia, great to connect with you. Thank you.
Julia Mellor: No, my absolutely my pleasure. It’s great to be with you, Alex.
Alex Jensen: We have discussed already on this podcast wine and whiskey and touched on beer and other beverages like coffee. Now we turn to something a little different. Perhaps we can start by just saying there is a lot more isn’t there to this than cheap soju and beer cocktails. That seems to be the introduction and perhaps where people stay in their Korean alcohol experience.
Julia Mellor: Absolutely. I mean, I would be lying if I said that wasn’t my first introduction to Korean alcohol as well many years ago. But there is such a wonderful diverse world of different categories, different flavors, different creativities different methods that honestly within Korean alcohol, there is something for everyone. And I do encourage people that think that they are in that box where they don’t like it to just open up their minds and possibilities to what’s out there.
Alex Jensen: I want to do that today a little bit in our conversation with makgeolli which I think is one of your big passions. But let’s hear about how you went from first trying the soju thing and probably grimacing to becoming so passionate as you are now.
Julia Mellor: Yes, well, many, many have soju bottles. I think everyone has this soju experience when they come to Korea, and they’re makgeolli experience of course as well. But of course, you know the introductory levels of soju and makgeolli, tend to be a means to an end. It’s a very fun time but often you spend the next day with a bit of a hangover and often that’s where the journey ends, but about 10 years ago, I was introduced to a range of good quality types of makgeolli specifically makgeolli back then.
And I was really shocked, I had no idea that there was so much diversity when it came to different styles, different flavors, as I was saying.
And then I thought, Okay, well, how about I find more information.
And I went ahead and googled that in English and found zero information about Korean alcohol at all. And I found that very disappointing. So, I asked the person who introduced me at the time who was a professor of tourism and started a school for alcohol. And I said, why is there no information?
And he said, well, you know, if you’re not busy, maybe you would like to provide that information. So, sort of sent me down the rabbit hole of really studying crossing my eyes and dotting my teas, or the other way, crossing my teas and dotting my eyes to finding out all the information about Korean alcohol. So, it was the seed to a 10 year journey of studying fermentation, studying history, studying with the breweries and the craft artisans around the country, and then making that leap into starting a business, which is where this whole company ended up.
Alex Jensen: Well, things do get a bit crossed over, don’t they? with alcohol, and I’ve no one’s told me to say this, but I feel some responsibility to urge us all to drink responsibly, I think with Korean offerings, like the cheapest soju it will punish you, if you tried to keep up with others. But when I mean, where should we start, the soju itself is often seen as this cheap option that you pick up in a convenience store, or even in a restaurant, it’s very affordable. But you hear of things like Andong Soju. And I think more and more people now around the world are trying to create soju with a little more flavor a little more class, trying to package it better. Is it working? or do you find makgeolli, just purely far more interesting?
Julia Mellor: Oh, no. I mean, I’m in love with all of them, to be honest. But to give you just a bit a bit of a concept. And really, what made me sort of fall into how diverse and interesting and exciting this industry is that we’re talking about soju, we’re talking about makgeolli. But actually, all these products come from the same process. So, if we were really to break it down what is Korean alcohol, it comes from three ingredients. We have rice, water, and the unique fermentation started in Korea called Nuruk.
And basically, when these ingredients are mixed, and brewed together, what we end up with after filtering is a bass alcohol, which we call Wonju, which is very strong, it’s very milky and appearance, it’s turbid, and it’s about 12 to 21% alcohol, and it’s a fermented alcohol. So that’s really strong and many people other than say, as brewers don’t want to drink it that strong. So, what happens is you let this wonju sit in the fridge, and it separates into two different layers. So golden clearly appears to the top as the sediment falls to the bottom.
So, if you’ve ever been in a makgeolli bar, and you’ve had to mix up your makgeolli bottle, it’s because there’s rice sediment and it settles to the bottom. So, this golden clay layer at the top is what we call cheongju or yakju, and it was the drink of kings and queens and more nobility back in the Joseon times.
And if you take that cheongju away and distill it that is traditional soju so traditional Andong soju or any kinds of soju that has high ABV, they’re like gins and vodkas and whiskies. It came from distilling this refined, beautiful expressive drink called cheongju or yakju, where’s that cinnamon milky pie at the bottom, we call that Takju. So, what makgeolli is actually a diluted form of that wonju or in some cases Takju.
So, all of these three alcohols, cheongju, soju, makgeolli, they all come from the same process. So, you can basically pick and choose which one you prefer. But it’s all engrained into these three, these three ingredients. So, it’s a very diverse, fascinating industry that just is starting to have its day in the sun again, but it is yes. So so far beyond that green bottle that you get at every convenience store.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, occasionally clear bottle these days. But yeah, I think many of us will have had the experience of trying traditional liquor of various kinds in different countries, perhaps relatively close neighbor Japan, there’s the sake experience for example, it’s possible from within here in Seoul to experiment with Chinese offerings for example to how unique is this process in Korea?
Julia Mellor: I will say it’s really mostly it comes down to a couple of factors mainly being that it uses nuruk, which is a wild fermentation starter you know, Korea it’s the world’s best for mentor of all four foods in Korea so effortlessly, beautifully fermented, and that goes for Korean alcohol as well. So, the nuruk really is what makes it characteristically Korean. The type of rice that we use, we use Chabssal, which is short grain sticky rice and, and also Maebssal, which is eating rice.
So, it has just a little bit of a difference in terms of expression, but also Korean fermented, which is makgeolli or takju or cheongju is not pasteurized. So that means that there’s live yeast in there, it’s there’s a lot of lactobacilli in there. So, it’s very good for digestive health, and it’s just a very, you know, it’s a live drink in so many ways. So that that really does set it apart. And it also means that it’s a wild, uncontrollable drink, it’s so hard to make the same drink twice. So, it’s a lot of fun to brew but then very frustrating to control in so many ways. So, there’s, I’d say that’s probably the biggest difference.
Alex Jensen: And you can go really low down on the ABV if people don’t want to have a very alcoholic experience, but still taste something like Korean traditional alcohol There is for example, in Jeonju or in the Jeonju area, is it Moju, they call it?
Julia Mellor: Moju, yes, yes. Moju is actually used by preparing the leads from after filtering. So, after you finished brewing, just like with beer after you filter, you’ve got sediment, which is the leads which is the leftover spent grain. In Korea, Korean brewing call that Jigemi.
And actually, it’s got a lot of flavors, it’s got a lot of good things going on for it. So, moju, you can boil that up with a whole lot of other what we call Hanyagjae, which is like oriental medicine or traditional Korean medicine ingredients. So, you boil that up with jujube and cinnamon and ginger and all these beautiful things. So, the alcohol is almost none in moju because you’ve burned it all off. But it’s got this lovely, almost Christmassy like flavor profile with all these aromatics and it’s just lovely.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, I loved it. And I told some people down there that I loved it, and they sent me a box up to Seoul and I really appreciate it that. They’re very happy to share their moju because it’s less famous than some of these other options. But I get the sense that there’s most scope in the makgeolli area, as I kind of hinted before, do you agree with that?
Julia Mellor: I would say there’s a lot of expression, but I mean, honestly, Korean alcohol in the last probably 10 years or so has really opened up in terms of creativity and moving away from the confines of traditionalism, I guess you could say. So makgeolli has so many ways you can go with fruit infusions, or you know, dry yeast, sweet yeast, sparkling so many different things.
But in the same way, soju, so soju to have a lot of different ways of expressing with certain infusions with aging, with ABV’s, with different rice quantities and things like that. So, we do see so much potential in both, but I think that soju definitely has a wider future in that it’s shelf stable, and that it’s a spirit. So, it’s something that we can export. It’s something that can be incorporated into cocktails in a more broader range. Whereas makgeolli being unpasteurized means it’s confined to shipping it cannot be exported to very far-flung places. So yes, it has a lot of creativity and expression. It’s also confined to the fact that it is unpasteurized.
Alex Jensen: Well, that’s still great news for those of us listening right here in Korea. But what would be your advice for someone who wants to check out either soju or makgeolli, but get the high-quality experience in Seoul, let’s say, or perhaps another major city in Korea.
Julia Mellor: So, I mean, Seoul, I gotta say, these days, it’s hard to keep up with all the new dedicated makgeolli bars that are or sool bars, I should say, not just makgeolli that are opening up in Seoul there’s there are fine dining restaurants that do sool pairings what you really want to be looking for is a dedicated Korean alcohol bar. Now on our The Sool Company website, I do actually have a directory, which has an embedded Google Map on there. So, you can go ahead and have a look at your neighborhood and see what places are in your area that do serve a selection of good quality Korean alcohols.
And actually, I’m finding that in Busan, we do see a lot more places opening up with the same style, and also some Daegu and Daejeon as well. So, the there is a huge, I would say improvements in terms of the offerings and the connection to a consumer for Korean alcohol these days. It’s getting younger, it’s getting more into cuisine, and it’s getting a lot more expressive. But failing that the other great news is that Korean dedicated Korean alcohol bottle shops are now the big thing of the last year or two. So, there’s also bottle shops in major areas like Hongdae or Kangnam places like that, where you can have a candy store or different kinds of artisanal Korean alcohol from all over the country.
Alex Jensen: And it’s taken us a bit longer to get to your business, because I think the whole subject of these drinks is so fascinating itself. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what you do? The Sool Company?
Julia Mellor: Yes, so The Sool Company, basically, we’ve been doing Korean alcohol for 10 years, but a lot of that time was researching and actually building our own knowledge and database. So as a company, we seek to communicate that information into English via a range of services. So, the main part of what we do is education, brewing education. So, we do classes and courses for people who’d like to learn how to make their own makgeolli or their own soju. And that actually feeds into our consulting service. So, as I mentioned, Korean alcohol is not exportable very well, especially makgeolli.
So, we help people open alcohol, or Korean alcohol breweries internationally. So, our clients are opening breweries in different major cities in the US and Europe, so that they can actually preserve the tradition but put their stamp on it and then create quality sool for the international audience, but The Sool Company also does events, and we do tasting tours, and we do any kinds of community outreach to do with communicating Korean alcohol.
Alex Jensen: I can’t wait to do an event Koreabizcast with the KBLA with The Sool Company, I think it’d be a lot of fun. By the way, Julia, how difficult are things right now? And how hopeful, are you with Korea set to open up slowly from November?
Julia Mellor: Yeah, well, I’ll say it’s been a hit for F&B, of course, we all know, and sool does fall into that category for us personally, I mean, we were in the events and education, offline service for a long time. So, it was a big pivot. We had to do a lot more tastings online. We did our, a lot of classes online and things like that. But I would say that I have not seen the Korean alcohol industry slowdown one bit. In fact, I’ve seen it ramp up.
So, if your business, you know, our businesses were able to survive by pivoting to the online space. But we’re very excited to now get back into creating as we’re saying, K, you know, KBLA events and things like that to get to rebuilding the community. But we see so many new breweries that have opened, we see so many different bars and food and dining experiences that the future’s bright honestly. I feel like Korean alcohol didn’t miss a beat.
Alex Jensen: You know, I’m personally completely sold on the Korean beer scene. I love the growth of Korean IPAs and that sort of thing. But you have encouraged me to revisit makgeolli in a way that I haven’t actually for some time, because I used to, I used to find it a bit sickly. Is there a final word of advice for me or for anyone else? Who’s in that sort of position? who might think, ‘Okay, this is great.’ I’m going to go and check one of these places out you you’ve given us some inspiration. But do you have one final piece of advice to avoid the bad hangover, avoid that feeling of like, I can only have maybe one but any more than that, and makgeolli gets a bit cloying.
Julia Mellor: 100%, and one of the main things and actually, I mean, Alex, yourself as a long-term resident here of Korea, I’m sure you’ve avoided makgeolli for quite a few years for that exact reason. But a lot of it is because it contained artificial sweeteners for so long. Things like aspartame, you know, xylitol, erythritol, those sorts of things. And that’s why it ends up being sickly sweet.
But these days, we have a resurgence into breweries that are only using natural ingredients, and therefore incorporating certain profiles like sour and dry with a little bit of bitterness in there as well. So, the idea is to first check your label, make sure that you have you’re drinking something that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners. Aspartame is the word in Korean. So, check the label make sure there’s no aspartame on there. But these days, you can go to the source of produced brews. And the other thing is, go to those bottle shops and talk to the people that run them and say I don’t want something sweet. And they just like any wine sommelier will be able to guide you. They will guide you to the right brands that could suit your palate. So don’t give up just yet.
Alex Jensen: Well, I’m gonna check out, ‘The Sool Company’ website as well. Julia Mellor, founder and CEO of The Sool Company, that’s S, O, O, L if anyone’s wondering. Thank you very much.
Julia Mellor: Absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me, Alex.
Alex Jensen: Back in the comfort of the studio. And let me also say thanks again to John Walker, and our latest sponsor, Eastpoint Partners. You can follow John at John Walker AM on LinkedIn and check out some developments related to this week. And it’s also been great spending more time I’m with you on Koreabizcast with the KBLA, see you again tomorrow from 7am Korea time.