Ask Beau - "What was the worst sake that you ever tasted"? | True Sake
May 2012

Ask Beau - "What was the worst sake that you ever tasted"?

Posted by Beau Timken in 2012, Ask Beau, May, Newsletter
True Sake Ha! Marcy F from Portland OR asked a really funny question! Usually I get, "What is the best sake that you ever tasted?" But the worst? I like your style woman!

Of course the loyal readers of this sake rag already know my answer - I have never tasted a sake that I did not like! It's true! But to clarify things, I can find a positive in every sake that I tasted- even the ones that have 99 negatives.

So I will not speak about the impossible, but I can definitely recall the worst tasting fermented beverage that I have ever tasted. It was a sorgum beer served in a clay pot in Kwa-zulu Natal South Africa - aka Zululand - home of Shaka Zulu - one of the greatest warriors to ever set foot on planet earth. I was visiting a Zulu "village" and the leader (Chief) of said village made us all sit in a circle in the dirt within his compound. One of his many wives brought out said clay pot with a dirty cloth-like skin covering it. He was quite proud of the contents and said that he had made it himself. I swear that when he pulled the cover off the pot about 30 flies jumped out and buzzed away - several were obviously drunk in flight and they crashed to the dirt. (Talk about dropping like flies! I wonder if this is where the expression came from?) The look on several of the other guests' faces was priceless. One woman went white.

Our host then said that his people had been making sorgum beer for hundreds of years using the same technique and ingredients. I looked around at the others and they had visibly checked out. They simply went away in their minds thinking that they were about to have to drink that pot of crap. The Chief was speaking but each person was pondering the inevitable fact that they were going to have to taste the beer and nobody was listening. Lost in their personal thoughts of putridness the Chief proceeded to lift the pot and took a very long draw. He then smiled and passed the pot to his immediate left. At this point no less than three guests lied and said that they did not drink alcohol. I was on the Chief's immediate right so I had quite a while to watch the others taste before it was my turn.

True Sake Most of the guests tasted and reacted in the same manner. They all took a little peck at the pot and smiled and said "Yummmm" and then winced. One woman took a very noticeable fake sip made all the more impressive with a fake sipping sound. She came up smiling whereas most of the others grimaced and looked as if they wanted to puke. Finally the warm (very room - outdoor - temperature) pot was handed to me. I for the life of me could not withstand the urge to look deep within the pot. It truly was the heart of darkness with floating chunks of what looked to be sticks, flies, grass, and foam scum.

I am pretty proud of several achievements in my life, but my sip/chug of the Chief's sorgum beer ranks up there. With all eyes on me I hoisted the pot to my lips, took a deep breath, and began a 20 second slurp of some rankness that I have never tasted in my life. I knew this would please the Chief, and I drank and drank. The beer was simpy disgusting and it drank like it looked. Try as I may to use my lips as a screen I could feel the chunks of stuff going down my throat, but I kept drinking. At this point it was about pride not the urge to puke.

When I lowered the pot I first noticed the wide eyes and gaping mouths of the guests. They were stunned and obviously sickened for me. They were shaking their heads in disbelief and the knowledge that I just probably ruined my digestive track for the rest of my life. Then I heard the Chief. "Hoooooooo" he belted out with huge smiling eyes and his mouth making a whistle face. "You are a warrior!" "You drink like a warrior" "Hooooo" "This is a man" "You are Zulu" I heard him say these things but I could only think about keeping my brew down, because it wanted to do an exodus in a big way. He then said, "I want to keep you!" I then said to him in a gurgle, "May I have some more?" Much laughter ensued as I took a very small second sip.

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2 @ (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All other correspondence should use info @

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