I recently took part in a sake tasting event for 9 independent craft breweries across the globe, organized by Iida Group of Companies.
I have quite a bit of admiration for those who challenge themselves to start brewing good sake in their hometown, and put it on the market. They definitely play a role in the spreading of sake culture across the world, educating customers.
That is probably why most receive support from Japan, Iida Group, breweries, independent consultants etc. Because sake is part of an “ecosystem”, they need to engage with farmers in their country (or region), so that they grow local rice cultivars for them, or Japanese cultivars using Japanese seeds. The import of rice harvested in Japan is not a long term solution.
I had seldom experienced such a diversity in flavors at a sake tasting event focused on so few references. This made the exercise quite interesting. I cannot say that I loved them all, however I did identify my favorites, brewed by Sequoia, YK3 and Seda Liquida.
Gambare! Don’t give up!
Part of Iida Group of companies, Shinnakano KK is one of the leaders in rice polishing technology. Outside Japan’s frontiers, they set up a mill in the US and have been supplying good polished rice to US sake breweries for about 20 years. Naturally they are following the development of new sake brewery projects across the globe with interest, and supporting such projects with their sister companies when relevant. Here follows their selection this time.
YK3 (b. 2013) is a Canadian brewery owned and managed by a Japanese team (Kuramoto [owner] Yuki Kobayashi & Yoshihiro Kawamura, Toji [master brewer] Yoshiaki Kasugai, 3xY.K.). They are located near Vancouver, which I associate with Nature and pristine water. Yoshiake Kasugai has a long experience brewing sake in Japan. Three products brewed from Californian Calrose rice were presented, including a 2010 vintage (all Seimaibuai 70%).
On the other side of the country, Ontario Spring Water Sake (b. 2010) is owned by former financier Ken Valvur. Greg Newton is the Toji. Their three sake branded Izumi (“Water spring”) were brewed from the same Calrose rice (Seimaibuai 70%). They initially received support from Miyasaka san and his brewery (Masumi brand in Nagano), which I regularly visit.
“The oldest sake brewery in Tenessee” is Proper Sake Co. (b. 2016, are there others?). Kuramoto Toji is Byron Stithe. Bryson Aust is co-owner. They use Yamada Nishiki (60% Seimaibuai), presented three Muroka Nama Genshu (unfiltered, unpasteurized, undiluted sake).
From Massachusetts in the US as well, Dovetail Sake (b. 2011, Kuramoto Daniel Krupp, Toji Todd Bellomy) were presenting 2 sake brewed from Yamada Nishiki (Seimaibuai 60%).
Born in California (2014), Sequoia Sake Company is owned by a trio, former IT specialist Jake Murick (who is Toji as well), Noriko Kamei, and Warren Pfahl. They introduced a broad selection of 9 sake, sharing one common “platform”: organic Calrose rice as Kakemai (rice added to the fermentation tank, Seimaibuai 60%) and Yamada Nishiki as Kojimai (for Koji, Seimaibuai 50%). They seem to like proposing experiences. In particular, there was a Ginjo sake (a bit of alcohol added at the end of fermentation) presented in three parts: one aged in a bourbon barrel, another one in a red wine barrel, a last one in a white wine barrel. It was interesting to compare the flavors unique to each bottle. Vanilla aromas (oak) were present in all. I liked the bourbon one, which tasted like a mature sake (chocolate and somewhat smoky flavors), and the white wine one (flavor of coconut and citrus), much less the red wine one (tanins?).
New Zealand Sake Brewers (b. 2015) is owned by Kuramoto Toji and former Japan resident David Joll, as well as Craig McLachlan and Richard Ryall. They use a diversity of rice (Gohyaku Mangoku, Yamada Nishiki, Calrose, Sasanishiki). “Zenkuro” is their brand. It means … “All Black”.
In Spain, Antoni Campins started to brew sake in 2015 (Seda Liquida, brand name Kinu no Shizuku). He is currently using Yamada Nishiki (Seimaibuai 50%). I found his sake easy to drink, on the sweet side. I was thus surprised to read about its relatively high Nihonshudo for a “sweet” sake : +7, despite a “standard” alcohol content (15%).
From the UK, Kanpai – London Craft Sake (b. 2016) is managed by Kuramoto Toji Tom Wilson, with his wife Lucy. Tom Wilson experienced sake brewing at a few places in Japan, including Masuda Tokubee Shoten, topic of my last blog entry. He is using Gohyaku Mangoku or Calrose rice (both Seimaibuai 70%).
Ultramarino was born in Mexico in 2016, introduced 3 sake branded “Nami” (the wave) brewed from Yamada Nishiki, graded Junmai (Seimaibuai 55%), Junmai Ginjo (Seimaibuai 50%!) and Junmai Daiginjo (Seimaibuai 40%!!).
As my readers will know, there are other active craft breweries. On this blog I posted about Brasserie Chevalier in France last year. I am looking forward to their first sake (next winter hopefully?).