Wild Fermentation
Microbes, Fermentation, and Makgeolli
March 13, 2021

How do paradigms in biological sciences and national identity shape alcohol brewing practices, and even dictate the classification of microorganisms? How do notions of purity and diversity enable certain concepts in alcohol production while disallowing others? Yong Ha Jeong, with historians of science Victoria Lee and Charles Kollmer, gathered to discuss historical conditions spanning from the late 19th-century to the present that have shaped alcohol fermentation practices in Korea and Japan. AC and GYOPO welcomed all folks to join us as we shared a drink of makgeolli during the talk.

This event features live captioning and ASL interpretation.


Microbes, Fermentation, and Makgeolli is the first program of Wild Fermentation, a series of programs produced in collaboration between Active Culture and GYOPO.


Yong Ha Jeong is a Korean traditional music researcher turned sool (Korean alcohol) brewer, Yong Ha was introduced to the world of Korean wild fermentation in 2012. Since then, she has studied Korean brewing technology informed by the alchemy of nuruk, coarsely ground grain fermentation starter containing wild microorganisms. Central to her practice is the collaborative co-creation with wild microorganisms in nuruk and the indigenization of Korean sool in Los Angeles as she prepares for a 주막형태 (traditional Korean tavern style) brewery.

Victoria Lee is an assistant professor of history at Ohio University and currently a fellow at the Institut d'études avancées de Paris. She received her PhD in the history of science from Princeton. She is the author of The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in fall 2021.

Charles Kollmer is a historian of microbiology, biotechnology, and biomedicine. His research focuses on how humans have repurposed living things as tools in industry, agriculture, medicine, and science, and how this shaped scientific knowledge of life. Currently, Kollmer is the Ahmanson Postdoctoral Instructor in History of Biology at the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech. Kollmer's PhD dissertation, "From Elephant to Bacterium: Microbial Culture Techniques and Chemical Orders of Nature, 1875–1946," is a history of how microbial culture techniques recast nature's order in chemical terms.


Active Cultures is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the artistic exploration of our global foodways—the attitudes, practices, and rituals around what we consume. We believe that by nurturing vital collaborations between artists, chefs, food practitioners, and their communities, we can illuminate global foodways and feed experimental artistic practice simultaneously, to build stronger connections of empathy, curiosity, and care among us all. We not only commission work by a diverse community of artists and chefs, but also convene a rich network of food workers, scholars, and activists around some of the most pressing issues of our time.

GYOPO is a non-profit coalition of diasporic Korean cultural producers and art professionals generating and sharing progressive critical, intersectional, and intergenerational discourses, community alliances, and free educational programs in Los Angeles and beyond. GYOPO provides free public forums for intergenerational, cross-cultural, and intersectional multi-issue discourses, as well as dedicated spaces for people of the Korean diaspora.