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June 2011

True Sake
premier merchants of fine sake
Dear Sake Drinker,

Welcome to the June Issue of America's sake-centric Newsletter. In this issue read the top 10 reasons why sake isn't more popular, catch up on a Canadian making Japanese sake in Norway, make a bid on set of nama sakes in our first newsletter auction for the benefit of earthquake relief in Japan, see all the new store arrivals, and learn how to select a non-radioactive sake.

In this issue:
Monday, 6/13: Closed 12-4pm (Open 4-7pm)

Sake Environment - The TOP TEN Reasons Why Sake Isn't More Popular

I was at a dinner party the other night and the conversation turned to sake. For the next ten minutes people raved about how much they loved it. I mean it was like being at a sake love fest. The compliments were many and quite amazing. I shook my head in that ol' man of wisdom slow up and down nod. If I had a long grey goatee I would have surely been stroking it to the rhythm of the positive comments. Then at the next pause in the song of "we love sake" one of the guests asked me point blank, "Why isn't sake more popular?"

Crickets! Silence. And then a long "ummmmmmmmmmmmm" dribbled from my garage door-like opened mouth. "Ummmmmmmmmm" Yes, it was a very long "Umm." One of those "Umms" that tells the whole story before you even utter a word. "Ummmmm the reasons are many, which do you want first?" Then it became a game because one of the guests reads the True Sake Newsletter, and she said, "why not give us your Top Ten reasons list?"

"Ummmmm Okay!"

I prefaced the list by stating that sake sales have been increasing each and every year for the past decade. This didn't have the effect that I was looking for and realized that they really wanted to know why sake isn't more noticeable or evident in the booze market. So, I then began listing reasons, and it sounded a little something like this:

The TOP TEN Reasons Why Sake Isn't More Popular:

10) Lazy Consumers
Yes I blame the end users for many of sake's perceived problems. Do you know how often people say that they can never remember the name of a sake and that is why they don't go out and actively search for it.

9) Too Few Sources
Yes, I blame myself here. There are not enough True Sakes. There are not enough stores, shops, and on-line stores to allow and promote people to source and buy sake.

8) Stereotypical Consumers
If I hear this one again I will ram a 1.8L sake bottle into my brain: "I only drink sake when I get sushi!" Right there folks! It's a killer. If you only drink sake when you eat sushi then you aren't drinking enough sake. How about I only drink wine when I have pasta?

7) Bad Sake Experience
If you think sake is a hard alcohol, you're not buying a lot of sake. If you think sake is just heated up jet fuel or cold plonk then you are not buying a lot of sake. If you think that you must "shoot" sake out of shot glasses you are not buying a lot of sake. If you only drink sake bombs then you are not drinking a lot of sake. And that large segment of 1st first time sake drinkers who had a bad experience have never returned.

6) Poorly Handled and Promoted Product
The distributors of sake are a very key cog in the rice and water machine. If they get it, then the local market gets it. If they don't they are doing a disservice to the industry. Poorly handled sake makes for bad sake, and if people taste bad sake then they will not be buying a lot of sake. If the distributors do not hit the street and preach sake to restaurants and stores then restaurants and stores won't promote sake. It's that simple.

5) Wine Shops and Bargain Stores
Killers one and all! Sake is treated like any other old libation in such environments. But not only that, sake is treated like any old distilled beverage, which it is not. You can leave a bottle of rum on the shelf for two years. You cannot do that with sake. It takes a lot of hand selling to sell sake. These types of stores treat sake like a second-hand booze. They know nothing, and simply put it out to rot. Then they sell the rot.

4) Nuclear Sake
This is a relatively new chink in the armor. But it is out there. Sake is from Japan and Japan is radioactive, ergo sake is radioactive. We hear it every once in a while and perhaps may hear it more down the road.

3) Restaurant Sake Pricing and Presentation
My biggest sake pet peeve. Restaurants are killing the popularity of sake by treating it differently than wine. For starters they charge a ton for sake. Then they serve it in small little glasses. So on a wine menu you will see a large glass of wine (5-6oz) for $9 or a puny glass of sake (2-3oz) for $14. Of course you'll take the wine. Restaurants need to increase the pour and decrease the price. So what if you have to lower the mark-up!

2) The Dollar To The Yen
The buck is weak and the yen is ogre strong! It's that simple, we have to sell sake for way too much money. Sake is far too expensive. We used to say that sake was roughly 20% more expensive in the States than in Japan. Now we have to say that sake is roughly 30-35% more expensive in the States than in Japan. And because of our three tier system in the US, the importer, the distributor, and the retailer or restaurant all add their mark- ups, which results in sakes that are not worth the asking price.

1) No Sake Advertising
Have you ever seen a sake ad or commercial? Nope! The number one reason why sake is not more popular is that the industry never advertises. There are a couple American sake companies who are doing a great job branding, marketing and sight-selling their sakes, but the imported sake market is as quiet as Dr. Kevorkian. (Yah he died last week!) There is zero and I mean zero effort to promote the industry via ad campaigns, or to sight-sell single sakes or breweries by marketing other than at trade shows. It is so painful that the last popularity blip on the radar for sake came from the movie "Lost in Translation."

There are other factors for certain, especially when you consider that sake or perhaps premium sake is so new to the booze scene in the US. The sake market here is in its infancy compared to wine, beer, and most spirits. Add to that the fact that we don't really even have a next generation of sake drinkers yet, because again the market is so young and it is evident that it's hard to be popular when nobody even knows about sake.

When proofing this piece Miwa stated that we should do a Top Ten "Why Sake Should Be More Popular!" List, so keep your eyes peeled for the July issue when we will explore the opposite to this list.

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Sake Soldiers - A Canadian Brewing Japanese Sake In Norway - Huh?

Hah! This sake game is so funny sometimes. I have often written about the evolution of the sake empire, from small indie brewers in Canada and Minnesota to large-scale producers from Japan opening up operations in Brazil and Australia. We-they-are all connected by the liquid thread called nihonshu. All of their (our) paths are interconnected on some level via the same passion for sake. It's been wonderful watching these golden paths venture out in extremely different directions. And I greatly enjoy the humility of the "smaller" brewers who know first hand how difficult making excellent sake is in the grand scheme of the fermentation field.

And I get really geeked when I play a small part in this market maturation.

Exhibit A: Brock Bennet

As Brock is about to mention I met him at the Mukune International Sake Brewing Program, which I co-created with a wonderful light in the sake world, and my brother in all things rice and water, Mr. Yasutaka Daimon from Daimon Shuzu brewery in Osaka Prefecture. Our joint passion for sake, and his little bit of insanity created a brewing program for enthusiasts and sake freaks to allow them the brewer's perspective of hands-on sake making. Two of our hand selected "sake dudes" were in the inaugural class. Brock was there and so too was Kjetil Jikiun, a true sake madman who happens to be an award winning beer maker by trade-he also flies commercial airliners (Helloooo!) in Norway.

If you read the True Sake Newsletter then you know that Kjetil has been morphing into a sake brewing "toji" a title he feels a little uncomfortable wearing. A toji is the name of a master brewer, who has been trained to a certain degree by regional sake guilds or by former head brewers for a "On the job" education process. I like calling Kjetil toji, because in a sense he was born to be one.

Last March Kjetil came to True Sake for a tasting of his entire line- up of sakes. And let's be frank, he is a Yamahai dude and makes his sakes that way! I was extremely stoked that he brought his sakes, as he had been sending me samples of initial exploratory batches - test batches that came to me in plastic water bottles Ha! - and was so pleased to taste his evolution of goodness.

By the way this is a plug calling out to all of you who haven't been to one of our tastings as of yet. This is how we billed Kjetil's event:

March 22nd - The First Ever Norwegian Sake Tasting at True Sake

Come celebrate the Internationality of sake as Norway's top beer maker, Kjetil Jikiun, launches his brand new line of sakes. Taste 6 different Yamahai sakes that are constructed with several different rice varietals and yeasts. As most breweries are well over 300-400 years old, we never had the chance to taste their first efforts, but on March 22nd you will get that chance to grow up with a brewery of note.

When: Tuesday, March 22nd
Time: 4-7pm
Where: True Sake
How Much: $1

NOTE: This tasting may get quite crowded, so we would like to ask your help in getting in and getting out of the store in an effective manner that gives everybody a chance to taste and speak to Kjetil briefly.

Here are the sakes that Kjetil will be pouring in his words.
  1. Junmai: pasteurized sake made with Ginpu and yeast 701
  2. House Yeast: unpasteurized sake made with naturally occurring yeast
  3. Nigori
  4. Yamahai MotoshiboriL: sake made from a full size moto.
  5. Nama genshu. Sake made with Ginpu and yeast 701
  6. YK70. Sake using Yamada Nishiki rice and yeast No 9.
Should be an amazing evening of exploration and fun!

And it was! Kjetil was on fire speaking to and pouring his very well packaged sakes. The tasters had a great time exploring his use of the Yamahai brewing technique with big acidity and impact plays. The nigori with its especially large grains of rice was a first for many folks. It was quite a mouth festival and the immense "toji" did his best to introduce his style of sake making to crowd of some pretty educated sake drinkers. In a word this was one of the most memorable sake tastings that True Sake has ever laid down.

Fast forward to now! And working with Kjetil is Brock Bennet a true sake friend. I am over the moon that these two daring guys are making sake together a world away. But this piece is not about Kjetil; it's about Brock. So herewith is Brock's story, which is about as international as a sake story can get.

Canadian Kurabito in Norway

I am a kurabito at a Sake Brewery in Norway. I've been working at the Nøgne Ø Sake Brewery since August 2010 and I still have to pinch myself once in a while to make sure it's not a dream. Kjetil Jikiun, the Head Brewer, has incorporated a Sake Microbrewery to function side by side in the same facility as the already very successful Beer Brewery. Nøgne Ø is in fact the first Sake Brewery in Europe!

It's been a great learning experience for me. Kjetil is a real traditionalist when it comes to Sake brewing so we use the older Yamahai method for our Motos (the starter or Mother, if you will, of a Sake batch). It is a much more labor intensive and demanding process but leads to more complex and unique flavours in the final product. Other noteworthy brewing choices are the use of Ginpu rice from Hokkaido, a naturally occurring yeast for one of the products (House Yeast), and another product made entirely from the Yamahai moto.

I first met Kjetil in February 2009 when we were both interns at the very first Mukune International Sake Brewing Program at the Daimon Brewery in Osaka Prefecture. Yasutaka Daimon and Beau, yes True Sake Beau, two Sake visionaries and international promoters of all things Sake had come up with the epic concept of an internship at a working Kura. It set my life on a new course. The internship opened up a whole world of inspiration and knowledge and I was able to work with and meet real Sake professionals like Beau and Daimon-san, the Toji and the owner of the Daimon Brewery.

My initiation into Sake brewing evolved from home brewing beer in Vancouver, Canada. Back in 2003 I decided to try home brewing Sake as a challenge and to use up a large sack of Thai rice that had been kicking around the house for too long. I got hooked, seriously hooked. Thankfully my brewing skills improved and eventually I was able to source proper Sake rice and Koji and made half decent brews. I labored away in the wilderness with my Sake brewing for years until one magical day when I heard about the Mukune Internship. After the internship and a Sake related vacation in Japan I returned to Canada to resume my life there. However it seemed that greater forces were at work. In short order I changed my career path and started working for Masa Shiroki, the Artisan Sakemaker on Granville Island, in Vancouver. I continued to stay in touch with Daimon-san and Kjetil who both provided encouragement and technical advice in my Sake brewing. Kjetil must have gotten tired answering all the questions I kept asking him about Sake brewing because the next thing I knew he offered me the opportunity to come and work for him in Norway as a kurabito. And of course I jumped at the offer!

Since March of 2011, I have been training to brew beer at Nøgne Ø as well. It's fascinating to work in both disciplines and see the common threads and then contrast the huge differences. In many respects Sake and Beer Brewing are like chalk and cheese; the industriousness of Sake Brewing versus the industrial Beer Brewing. Sake is hands on rice; washing, gently working apart freshly steamed grains, hours and hours of laboriousness coaxing koji and yeast into a harmonious synergy. Beer is pumps, piping and valves moving ingredients en masse. Of course the lines blur and cross and in the end they are both promoting enzymatic reactions to convert starch to sugar to alcohol. And most importantly the precise attention to detail and love and passion of the brewer in both cases leads to a beautiful, flavorful brew.

Our Sake brewing at Nøgne Ø is continuing to evolve and improve. We have received a new shipment of Ginpu rice from Hokkaido and because we have a refrigerated brewing room we are able to make Sake all year round. The future is bright for Kjetil's bold dream!

(my email address brock @ and our website which has links to a Sake blog etc.)

Thanks Brock! I must admit that I am glad you got the gig for the exact same reason that you think Kjetil gave you the job in the first place. Keep up the great work and we will keep inquiring about a good importer for your wares here in the US.

BUT wait!! The story is not over!

Please see the next section and you can taste these very unique and wonderful Norwegian sakes while helping Japan's relief efforts.

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Sake Auction - Be A Part Of Sake History

Currently at True Sake we have three complete sets of Kjetil and Brock's sakes, and they were left for us so that we could use them for donation purposes for the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Effort ( Please read the above section in the Newsletter to learn how special these sakes flights are, and how they are really one of a kind.

If you are interested in purchasing one of the flights, 100% of all proceeds go directly to JCCCNC, then please send an email to info @ with your highest "bid" and we will take the top three bids. The starting bid is $50. Remember these flights feature 6 different 350ml nama sakes of various rice and brewing methods. Oh and let us not forget that they use the famous Masumi #7, the equally famous Kumomoto #9 yeast, and of course their very own "house kobo" to produce some very expressive sakes that dance between 16%-19% alcohol.



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Sake Trends - Got an email from TY-KU

Received a pretty interesting email in our info @ account from a sales rep from the TY-KU brand of sakes and spirits:

"Hi there! You wouldn't let your friends drink boxed wine. So, why would you let them drink hot sake? The truth is that low- quality sake is heated to mask the flavor of impurities-premium sake should be served chilled and enjoyed much like a fine white wine.

Making it their mission to educate consumers on Asian spirits, TY KU Wine & Spirits is launching their third sake, TY KU Sake Silver, premium Junmai grade sake, which represents the top 15% of all sakes in the world.........."

Me personally - I would let my friends drink hot sake. Depends on the company you keep I guess! I do think that with marketing programs such as this it puts heated sakes in a bad light. Basically bad sake makes for bad hot sake, but there are a ton of great sakes out there for warming. I see their angle, as I had to remind people way back when that hot sake is not representative of all sakes. People's experiences with hot sake, usually are a love hate sort of play. Many love hot sake, and many more hate it. Basically I have been preaching the gospel that premium sakes should be served chilled, but at some point the pendulum must swing back to put heated sakes in a positive light.

Maybe they should focus on the positives other than highlighting "perceived" negatives. And it makes me wonder if they have ever tried warming their own products. Basically Junmai sake is the warming category.

(Lastly, I wonder what the box wine folks have to say about this as well? I have heard nothing but good things about current releases of boxed wine, as the quality has gone way up.)

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Sake Education - John Gauntner's Sake Education Course In NYC

Sake Professional Course

New York City, Summer 2011 Recognized by the Sake Education Council

From Sunday, July 31 to Tuesday, August 2, 2011, I will hold the eighth stateside version of the Sake Professional Course at Astor Center in New York City.

The content of this intensive sake course will be identical to that of the Sake Professional Course held each January in Japan, with the exception of visiting sake breweries. The course is recognized by the Sake Education Council, and those that complete it will be qualified to take the exam for Certified Sake Specialist, which will be offered on the evening of the last day of the course.

The course is geared toward industry professionals wishing to expand their horizons in a thorough manner into the world of sake, and will therefore be somewhat technical in nature, and admittedly somewhat intense. It is likely more than the average consumer needs! But the course is open to anyone with an interest and sake and will certainly be enjoyable. The course lectures and tasting will begin with the utter basics, and will thoroughly progress through and cover everything related to sake. There will be an emphasis on empirical experience, with plenty of exposure to a wide range of sake in the tasting sessions throughout the three days. Each of the three days will provide the environment for a focused, intense and concerted training period.

The cost for the three-day class, including all materials and sake for tasting, is US$775. Participation is limited and reservations can be made now to secure a seat, with payment due by July 1, 2011. For a view of the daily syllabus, please see:

Testimonials from past participants can be found there as well. For reservations or inquiries, please send an email to info @

(Thank you John for all of the hard work that you put forth educating the market on all things sake.)

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Sake Images - Photos From The Soul Of Sake

Please be a part of our new "Sake Images" section by contributing your very select sake related photographs. I'm not looking for a batch of your pictures, rather I'd like to see one or two really powerful shots that could be in a brewery or at your own home tasting or event. Quality over quantity here people! And then write one or two sentences (if you want) about the picture that we can share with the other readers.

Please send these very specific and stellar photos to info @ with the subject line "Sake Images"

This month's sake image comes from our very own Miwa:

"How often do you get to see an attic of a sake brewery AND find something precious there? These photos are from my trip to Tsukinokatsura Brewery, located in Fushimi district of Kyoto. Loads of koshu (aged-sake) are stored in very special ceramic jugs. Once upon a time, jugs were made in a nearby town, but this is no longer the case. The brewery had to search for the same type of clay, and they found it in China. (Newer jugs are produced there.) As I surveyed the room, I was told that one of our U.S. Presidents was given a bottle of 20-year-old koshu when he was in town. I wonder if he still has the unopened bottle or if he drank the whole thing."

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True Sake In The News - LA Weekly

Here's a quick little article on the current condition of sake in the post nuclear incident era:

Japan's Sake Brewers Want You To Drink Up

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Sake Events - New Niigata Sake Tasting

June 17th & 18th: Katafune Brewery Tasting

Please join us to welcome Mr. Taketa from Katafune Brewery as this is his first visit to the United States. In addition to two sakes that will be on the market this summer, he is bringing two other special sakes for you to try.

FRIDAY, 6/17 from 4:30-6:30pm
SATURDAY, 6/18 from 1:00-4:00pm

WHERE: True Sake
WHAT: Sampling of great, soon-to-be-available sake from Niigata. 4 kinds.
HOW MUCH: $1 (or more) donation to the Northern Japan Earthquake Fund by JCCCNC.

BONUS: If you donate, you will receive 10% off of any sake purchase (but excluding sales items and the secret word sake.)

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New Store Arrivals--Summer Namas, Kimoto Limited, New Yuzu & Red Horizon

Tsukinokatsura Kohakko "Luster of Amber"
From Kyoto Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo Nama. SMV:+3 / Acidity: 1.7 /Rice: Tamasakae. $36 (720ml) (Review coming soon)

Ohyama "Big Mountain" Nama
From Yamagata Prefecture. Tokubetsu Junmai Nama. SMV: +3~+4 / Acidity: 1.4~1.5 / Rice: Dewanosato. $33 (720ml) (Review coming soon)

Umenishiki "Gorgeous Plum" Nama
From Yamagata Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo Nama. SMV: +3.5 / Acidity: 1.1 / Rice: Yamadanishiki. $28 (720ml) (Review coming soon)

Jokigen Omachi "Red"
From Yamagata Prefecture. Kimoto Junmai Ginjo. SMV: +2 / Acidity: 1.7 / Yeast: Kumamoto KA. Brewed with Omachi rice and Kumamoto yeast in traditional Kimoto style. Pressed with "fune" method, the brew is from the favored middle pressing part "nakadori." Last November we had two cases in so as this time. $40 (720ml)

Tsukasabotan Yamayuzu Shibori
From Kochi Prefecture. Yuzu Sake. Perfect for summer, this refreshing treat is made with Junmai sake and juices from the local, pesticide-free mountain yuzu (Japanese citrus). Enjoy it straight or on the rocks. $28 (720ml)

Red Horizon
From Norway. Red Horizon is an ale that uses the very popular Association #7 yeast created by our dear friends the Miyasaka family at the Masumi brewery in Nagano. $15 (250ml) Click here to read more.

You can review many of our sakes on our web site.

Our inventory list is here.

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Deals & Specials

These deals last long as their inventory last.

$20 Off
Kotsuzumi Rojohanaari "Lovely Flower"
Hyogo Prefecture. Junmai Dai Ginjo SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.6 How can one describe perfection in a bottle? This stellar Dai Ginjo has a nose filled with white peach, apples, grapes and pear. If we used an "Owner's Recommendation" system this sake would carry that title. A very soft pear tonality pervades this deeply complex sake that drinks as easy as a "wet dream." A full-bodied sake wrapped in a delicate texture that drinks like poetry. Once in a lifetime sake for all fans of "rice wine." WORD: Divine WINE: Bordeaux/layered whites BEER: Ales FOODS: Think drinking experience! Regular price: $150 (720ml)

$8 Off
Gingashizuku "Divine Drops"
From Hokkaido Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.2 This dynamite sake is made not by pressing with a machine rather the brewers separate the sake from the lees by placing it in canvas bags and use gravity to drip the sake out slowly. Thus expect an amazingly silky quality to this brew with a nose full of pear and minerals. Talk about a great first sip. A clean start is filled with persimmon and plum flavors wrapped in a chewy and slightly fruity package. Yet the finish is more clean than fruity and more balanced than dry. WORD: Plum WINE: Pinot Noir/chewy whites BEER: Sweet ales/Hefferweisen FOODS: Elegant flavors with a subtle saltiness or natural sweetness. Regular price: $68 (720ml)

$6 Off
Nishinoseki "Champion of the West"
From Oita Prefecture. Junmai. SMV: -3 Acidity: 1.5 With a nose of sweet flowers hidden amongst mushroom, nuts and cream, the first sip of this Junmai is like tasting a sip of buttery popcorn. Don't let the low SMV fool you as this guy drinks more savory than sweet. Probably one of the softest sakes in the biz, despite its deep and expansive flavors. This shimmering Junmai is great chilled and even better warmed up. WORD: Creamy WINE: Soft reds/creamy whites BEER: Ales FOODS: Chinese food, fried chicken, tempura. Regular price: $36 (720ml)

$3 Off
Niwa no Uguisu "Daruma"
From Fukuoka prefecture. Tokubetsu Junmai. SMV: +4 Acidity: 1.4 "Daruma" has a brilliant collection of aromas from cinnamon and steamed vegetables to celery and grains. It has a soft smoky start that is chewy and filled with ripe fruit tones but without the sweetness. This is a big flavored sake that has rice, grains, and honey licks and drinks very silky and watery smooth. A clean delivery of flavor from front to back with a very veiled anisette twinge. There is a lot going on in this approachable package. WORD: Silky WINE: Vivid reds / Thick Whites BEER: Big ales / soft stouts FOODS: Grilled oily fish, sautéd veggies, meat pasta in mild cream sauce. Regular price: $28 (720ml)

$8 Off
Shimeharitsuru Jun
From Niigata Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo. SMV: +5 Acidity: 1.5 The nose on this expressive sake is filled with plum, melon, mineral, spring onion and hint of floral tones. When was the last time you tasted a snowball? Now add some layers of bright and semi-fruity flavors and you are talking one very appealing sake from snow country. Look for koji rice, sweet honey and a touch of powdered sugar elements to jump through the palate. A larger glass tosses more fruity faces such as apple, pear, and honeydew with a gentle grin of bitter-rind like flavors. A fruit forward flavorful ginjo that drinks very buoyantly. WORD: Expressive WINE: Shiraz/Fruity whites BEER: Hefferweisen FOODS: Sushi, sashimi, shellfish, clean fare. Regular price: $38 (720ml)

$5 Off
Takenotsuyu Junmai "Bamboo Tears"
From Yamagata Prefecture. Junmai. SMV: +2 Acidity: 1.4 The nose on this superb Junmai is filled with cherry, plums, dried fruit and saw dust aromas. Talk about a soft sake. This brilliant brew is both clean and light and incredibly silky with layers of plump flavors. Yet flavorful is an understatement as hints of richness conceal a mild sweetness that ends in a semi-dry finish. An elegant sake that drinks way too easy, and represents another great example of a Yamagata-style sake that screams "Drink me!" WORD: Easy WINE: Pinot Noir/Chewy whites BEER: Light ales FOODS: Salty and savory fare, grilled everything, and sushi surprises. Regular price: $26 (720ml)

$6 Off
Wakaebisu Kinpaku "Gold Flake"
From Mie Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo Kinpaku. SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.4 Welcome to the world of "celebration" sake! This brew has gold flakes throughout, but by no means is the flavor a novelty. This is an excellent sake (would they put gold in a crappy product?) with mineral, cherry, and unripe melon aromas. What an elegantly gentle and drinkable Ginjo, with hints of plums and cherries in a silky softness that has a quiet vanilla departure. Super clean and super fun this "gift" sake will not disappoint, but you need not "celebrate" to enjoy a fantastic brew. WORD: Gold WINE: Soft reds/gentle whites BEER: Creamy ales FOODS: Party cuisine. Regular price: $36 (720ml)

$7 Off
Saika Umeshu
From Yamagata Prefecture. Plum sake. Try this bright and not-too-sweet umeshu straight or on the rocks. Regular price: $37 (720ml)

Specials: Juyondai Hiden Tamagaeshi Junmai Ginjo
If you would like to pre-order Juyondai Hiden Tamagaeshi Junmai Ginjo ($120/720ml), please call us at (415) 588-7148. We might be able to get six bottles.

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True Sake Selects - Team True Sake Select Monthly Brews of Note

Miwa's Pick:

Seikyo Junmai Takehara
From Hiroshima prefecture. SMV: -1 / Acidity: 1.5 / Yeast: Association #10. Filled with a rich rice tone, this gentle Junmai is a new arrival from Nakao brewery in the city of Takehara. The sake offers aromatic layers of grain, dairy, apple and dry cherry with a soft texture. (You may think the sake is brewed with soft water, but it is indeed brewed with semi-hard water.) A touch of favorable sweet-bitterness and umami (yummy savory tone) is quietly present in the taste, and a subtle crisp edge gives a sense of dry finish. This brew becomes even more round after being open for a few days. Food-wise, grilled or smoked fair will do well.

The brewery is known as the birthplace of apple yeast, which is used to brew their "Maboroshi" (Junmai Daiginjo). They are also the inventor of "high temperature saccarification method (ko-on toka moto/shubo), which was developed to maximize the performance of the apple yeast. (If you are interested in their Junmai Daiginjo, let me know.) $24 (720ml)

Takami's Pick:

Gassanryu Daiginjo
From Yamagata Prefecture. Daiginjo Muroka Namazume. SMV:+3 / Acidity: 1.2. Light & smooth tone. This medium dry daiginjo has a clear and clean finish. Great for the summer season. $40 (720ml)

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True Monthly Sake Club

True Sake This monthly sake club is available for those who are in California (and age 21 or over). True Sake Club can be a great gift subscription to your friend and family as well.

2011 Offerings:
We try our best to send you something tasty, new, interesting and/or exclusive along with our tasting notes. And we hope to grow our offerings in near future.

  • Monthly: 1 bottle
  • Sake: 720ml Honjozo, Junmai, or Junmai Ginjo/Ginjo
  • Price: Up to $30 + S&H + Tax
TRUE Explore
  • Monthly: 2 bottles
  • Sake: Combination of 720ml Honjozo, Junmai, Junmai Ginjo/Ginjo, or Junmai Daiginjo/Daiginjo
  • Price: Up to $65 + S&H + Tax
  • Selected sake is/are offered at a discounted price. Therefore, the order will not count toward the Frequent Buyer Program.
  • Based on a selection, the price may differ slightly from month to month.
  • Shipping & Handling (S&H) will be calculated based on the distance and the weight.
  • UPS Ground service will be used for shipping. They will ask for an adult signature upon delivery.
  • No return policy, but if your sake is missing or broken, please contact us immediately for a replacement.
2011 Schedule:
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This is for CA residents. (We will work harder to resume out-of-state shipping.)

3 bottles: Shipping three 720ml bottles is a new choice.

1.8L bottle: We are resuming shipping of single 1.8L bottle. (2-bottle shipping is coming soon. Unfortunately the box is Styrofoam.)

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"Ask Beau" - "Is anyone planning an article that will explain how to choose a 'safe' sake in the future?"

Beau Timken Cecil K - in Kansas wrote the following:

"I read every word of your newsletter, intent on figuring out if there is any chance that future sake will be contaminated from the nuclear disaster. I guess it's, especially sitting in the middle of Kansas, hard to understand which sake's will be effected and what controls will be in place so that we can be absolutely sure that sake will be safe to drink (talking about sake that is being made in the future).

Let me preface this reply by stating and re-stating the obvious - the Japanese are the most hypersensitive, hyperactively clean freak people in the world. There is no culture on this ball of mud and water that takes cleanliness and purity to a higher degree than the Japanese. If there is a "problem" or hint of a problem having to do with food or drink they run for the hills. Do you remember when one cow was discovered with mad cow disease in the US? (It was sourced from Canada and there was only one.) Basically within the hour they banned all beef from the US for almost two years. And that response was not unusual. It's typical. They simply do not mess around when it comes to contamination.

But we have entered into a new realm of "contamination." And this is very uncharted waters for the Japanese and most of the rest of the world. The Russians know first hand the devastation and longevity of a post nuclear event. And Cherynoble is a perfect case study of what happens in the long run. Using the Russian example that area in Japan will not be "planted" for years to come. So at the very least there will be no locally grown rice that could be contaminated. But what about the ground water? This is where the Japanese lose control of the elements in a manner of speaking. Water, as you know, travels in Japan. I read somewhere that of all island nations Japan has the most amount of movement of water both above ground and beneath the surface because of its volcanic roots. And there is absolutely no question that water in that immediate area is contaminated. The question remains, how far and where did this infected water travel."

So Cecil, there are ways of production going forward that will greatly reduce the possibility that sake will be contaminated. First, locally grown rice and local water will not be used in that very acute region. Many breweries that were deeply affected have vowed to return to production, but this may take longer than what they ever imagined. I suspect that if they try to brew it will be with all raw materials from someplace other than their area. Your chance of drinking contaminated sake from the impacted areas is slim to none for the above said reasons. But what about sakes from the rest of Japan?

Radiation is an easily detected element. And they have been using the latest and best technology to detect radiation in food and drink both in Japan and in the US. All food and beverages that leave Japan are tested in Japan. Then they are re-tested in the arrival nations. One of my distributors told me that they received food products from Japan and it was tested for radiation at the arrival port. The products were trucked to their warehouse, and an unannounced visit by the FDA produced yet another exam. Basically there is a very heightened sense of awareness out there and both the Japanese and the Americans are erring on the side of caution.

Speaking directly to your question about articles that have been or will be written about selecting safe sake in the future I have not seen one nor do I envision one being written. If a sake is contaminated it will not be on store shelves. For those who are overly concerned I do know that you can purchase radiation detecting equipment. I know of two exporting/importing companies that have purchased their own equipment for this very reason. I will leave you with a final thought. There is more of a chance that you will be exposed to radiation at or near a hospital or by using your cell phone than by purchasing sake from Japan. Will we be able to say this in the future? I believe so.

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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True Sake Ah, at last we have reached the end of this Newsletter and that of course means that we have come to the now-famous SECRET WORD. To those who are new the SECRET WORD is a chance for you to try a sake of note for half of that sake's original price. Just for reading this Newsletter. It is our way of saying thank you for trying to understand the wonders of sake.

Please remember the rules: only one bottle per reader, and don't tell your buddy at the moment if he/she isn't a Newsletter subscriber, always use a hushed or secret agent voice when saying the SECRET WORD, and lastly for those who have their sakes shipped we can only include the SECRET WORD sake in a four-pack purchase - meaning you must buy three other sakes.

This month we are featuring Harushika Umakuchi Yondan Junmai from Nara Prefecture. The rich and tad sweet nature of this brew comes from the extra addition of koji and steamed rice to "moto" (fermenting batch). The sake will normally sell for $28, but for you sake jockeys we will part with this 720ml for $15! And the SECRET WORD is...check your email inbox - We only give out the SECRET WORD in the mailed Newsletter! So sign up for the Newsletter!

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Thank you for reading!

True Sake

Consider this...

How much sake does Ozeki make for their incredibly popular One Cup sakes? Three times as much as the entire yearly output of sake from Niigata prefecture as a whole. That's a lot of sake!


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