The Jug – True Sake's Hall of Fame
We all know about Mecca and that every true Muslim should make a pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. And of course we all know that Jim Morrison is dead and buried in France, and at some point in a true rock fan's life they should stand on his grave and either smoke a joint or urinate. And then there is the store known as True Sake. What do they have in common? Absolutely nothing! But they each represent a destination that holds a mystical power than can be felt only by those who believe.
In my three years in business, I have had well over 75 owners of sake breweries who either came from Japan specifically to see the store or were in the US on business and decided to stop in. Point being they felt a need to bear witness to my establishment as another signpost in the long road of history known as sake. True Sake represents a first, a pioneering endeavor, that has changed the landscape of sake forever, and they want to see what their great great great grandparents could never have dreamed about!
I should have written about this long ago, but was really reminded of how inspired these makers of sake are when three different owners of breweries showed up on the same day last month. It dawned on me then that the "trip" meant something more than a visit. True Sake represents a positive future, a viable market, and a breath of fresh air for a sake industry that has been taking a beating in Japan. And these guys and gals just love seeing the store. There is nothing quite like hearing a Japanese guy when he is impressed! We in the West may say "wow," or something along those lines. But a "blown away" brewer of sake, who sees a boutique filled with 180 different sakes all lit up and fancy makes a sound very much like breath escaping Darth Vader.
Ask any team member of True Sake "what makes Beau excited?" and they will say that it is when kuramotos (brewery owners) visit the store. For me it is not validation, nor vindication, it is pure honor. I am so damn honored to sell sake that when a 15th- generation owner of a brewery is speechless I feel a tremendous sense of pride. When his or her eyes are opened wide to the store and their mouths are opened but words do not come forth, I am humbled, for it is then that I know that my passion has company, lots of company.
Sadly, in the midst of this love affair between admiring sake brewer and peacocking sake peddler an old American urge comes forth out of my inner-kid. Other than the click click clicking of the coolest damn digital cameras that you have ever seen the "moment" needs to be captured in a more "Hall of Fame" or "Wailing Wall" capacity, and that is when I thought of the jug! As these select few are my true heroes I wanted to capture their presence in a manner that did not require "cheese" or the Japanese version of "Cheese-o." Thus I thought of the ol' autograph! But rather than a bar where decrepit old rock stars sign a wall, I wanted the kuramotos to sign something of meaning!
If you have been to the store or seen a photo then you will have noticed my large collection of antique sake pots (jugs that were used in a similar fashion to reusable milk bottle in days of old). These really cool fired clay pots that have unique kanji characters look both rustic and timeless. They are "history" in a container. And all sake folks know what these jugs mean, when their day had come, and when glass bottles made the killer blow. My collection is roughly 100 or so of these pots and my favorite is a well-used piece that has no kanji or markings whatsoever (A truly unique pot! Actually as I type this I will throw out my keen desire to find another of these kanji- less pots, and if anybody can find one for me I will make your day!). This blank jug was perfect to capture the autographs of the brewers who visited. The first few signers had so much room that they signed their name, their brewery's name, and a kind word or two, but today almost every inch is covered in autographs.
I have been told by very reliable sources that within the sake brewing community in Japan, the makers when speaking about sake and its future ask each other if they have "signed the jug?" at True Sake. It is a badge of honor of sorts, and carries a rock star aura within the biz. That is why I am desperately seeking a second jug with no kanji on it to continue this "Jug of Fame." I regularly get emails from brewers who write that they "intend on visiting True Sake one day" and that I should save room on the antique sake pot for their signature.
Of all of my sake belongings, vintage sake making equipment, vintage sake making clothing, vintage sake bottles and pots, photos, gifts etc, this autographed sake pot is my most prized possession. It's a bit of history, and ton of passion, and well worth a trip!