Meet with craft sake in Japan!

Have you ever tried Japanese sake?

You may have, as sake seems to be getting popular outside Japan together with traditional Japanese cuisine. If you ever tried, how did you like it?

If you liked it, or even if you haven’t tried it yet, I hope you try sake here in Japan and discover your favorite brands. There are about 1,600 sake producers in Japan, most of them being medium- or small-scaled, and they have limited distribution channels, so there are always new variants to discover. It will be impossible to compare or try all of them of course (I never can do it even though I live in Japan), but you may be lucky enough to discover your favorite brands if you could find a good liquor shop or an izakaya (restaurant bar) while you are visiting Japan.

Why there is a variety of sake?

Sake’s ingredients are mostly as simple as rice, koji (rice malt or yeast made from rice) and water. However, combination of rice brand, % rice milled and quality of water as well as “Toji” (brewery master)’s technique, temperature altogether make wide variety of taste varying from region to region, which can be described by dryness, acidity, crispness, aroma, etc. Some premium brands are easy to drink for beginners with very fruitful (banana, apple, berry, etc.) flavor. By the way, I am a big fan of sake, but I’m still learning how to describe its flavor.

Store’s recommendation ? these are all new to me…hard to decide!

Find craft sake at a liquor shop!

I often go to a liquor shop nearby my house. They have a good variety of craft sake brands directly bought from local breweries. Here are this month’s recommendations.
And this is the brand that I picked up this time ? “Hassen” made in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan. It was so delicious - mild, fruity, with a good balance of rich & acid flavor.

“Hassen” made by a brewery in the Aomori prefecture

Sake really goes well with Japanese cuisine, especially seafood!

Enjoy craft sake at an izakaya!

If you find an izakaya restaurant or a bar that seems to serve variety of craft sake, ask for their recommendation. Sake is usually served in “Ichi-go” or 180ml (6.09 oz) amount, often in a glass on a “masu” as shown in the picture. Sake is poured overflowing from a glass, so you need to bring your mouth and sip instead of holding up the glass.

A sake bar I happened to find via gourmet site. They offer sake in a half-go (90ml) amount, so I could try many brands.

Here is a “sake bar” that I found the other day in Osaka.
They offer lots of craft sake brands together with cuisines that go well with sake.

A tip to enjoy sake

Lastly, as a tip to enjoy sake, please be sure to have chasers, glasses of water, called “yawaragi mizu” (softening water) in Japanese so as to fully enjoy the night and not to have a hangover next day!

Photo & Report: Ritsuko Yokota