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May 2012

True Sake
premier merchants of fine sake
Dear Sake Drinker,

Welcome to the May Issue of America's sake-centric Newsletter. In this very special issue learn why we have so much fun "Fooling" people with our April Fool's Newsletter, see what are most customers favorite sake bottles and labels, discover the true purpose of the Angels of the Sake World, ponder the age-old question of adding "rocks" to your sake, take a peak at a special Tokubetsu Honjozo from Niigata, get a rope around the very popular Cowboy Yamahai, and enjoy the worst tasting fermented beverage ever to grace Beau's lips.

  • Saturday May 12: Open at 2pm
  • Monday, May 14: Closed
  • Monday, May 28 (Memorial Day): Open 12-6pm
In this issue:

Sake Secret - Yes the April Issue Was All A Joke

True Sake It happens every year folks! (Except last year when the April Issue fell too close to the earthquake and tsunami tragedy.)

When you write a newsletter each and every month for the past 8 years it's easy to burn out even when you are writing about something you love. I enjoy the April Fool's Issue because it makes me laugh and wonder who is going to fall for what. Remember when Oprah's "Harpo Communication Corporation" bought the True Sake brand? Or remember when True Sake partnered with Starbucks to start a new line of sake kiosks? Lots of readers do, because they fell for it! Two years ago I mentioned a partnership with the SF Giants to open a sake stand at the stadium and all summer long we received emails asking where the stand was at the ballpark as the readers could not find it. Yuk Yuk!

The Team at True Sake doesn't particularly enjoy this Issue, because they are the ones who have to field the emails and calls from all over the globe and have to explain A) what April Fool's Day is and B) that yes it was still a joke. So why do I do it? Dunno! I just like to think of sake in a humorous capacity as well as a superb drinking capacity. Sake is fun, and I enjoy laughing with sake near by. Thus, I enjoy doing the April Fool's Newsletter when I get to describe doing a Sake Challenge in a McDonalds pairing with Fillet'o Fish and McNuggets.

This last issue received a ton of feedback. We got many "Lol's" and a lot of "You almost got me this year." But we also-as we always do-get a lot of emails from people expanding on the subject thinking that it is a great idea. The True Sake Spa idea received a ton of this type of attention. Likewise the Mini-Bottles took many folks by surprise, and I received several emails correcting my comments that you could bring as many of these bottles onto an airplane as you would like. This is when I have to reply back to the reader and say that it was simply a joke.

My favorite part was in the "Consider This" section in the upper right corner where I talked about the word sake as in an alcoholic beverage having the same spelling as sake as in salmon! (Fish Juice.) Herewith is a reply from Vinod Vijayakumar one of our readers who took the True Sake Spa section to heart and yes it is a good idea and perhaps one day this concept won't merely be a joke:

Beau, read today's newsletter with great interest, and have I got some items for you to stock at your sake spa!

Sake shave creme! »

Sake face mask! »

Sake perfume! »

I've also made a sake pomade, sake hair cream, sake moisturizer, and sake bubble bath.

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Sake Retail - Top Ten Sake Bottles and Sake Labels

Do pretty bottles sell sake? You bet! We see it daily. "Oh, I love the bottle... Is the sake good?" To which we always reply, "We wouldn't sell a sake that looks good but doesn't drink that way." "Oh the packaging is gorgeous I have to get it." "That bottle is so cute" "That looks like a perfect gift!" And yes, a very large portion of gift giving purchasers only look at the packaging when making the call.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this because the bottles and labels are cool. (Can't put it any other way.) They simply look good and for good reason. Most brewers go to great lengths to select bottles and labels to compliment their efforts within the bottle. They hire artists, designers and packaging pros to create styles and effects that are unique to their kura (brewery). Branding and packaging-packaging and branding plays a big role in an industry that has a lot of sake selections. The more different or intriguing the bottle and labels the better the sales or so it seems. We see it! As retailers we get it! It does work.

In this regard, we have produced our Top Ten Sake Bottles and Top Ten Sake Labels list based on buying patterns. In no particular order:

True Sake Top Ten Sake Bottles:
  • Kikusui Junmai Ginjo - pounded glass light blue bottle
  • Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo - "the square bottle"
  • Kirinzan Junmai and Daiginjo - two of the best in the biz - one round one hexagonal
  • Kotsuzumi Junmai Daiginjo - cobalt bottle sourced in Italy
  • Bunraku Junmai, Kinpaku, and Junmai Ginjo - 300ml bottles of note
  • Jozen Junmai, Junmai Ginjo(s), Junmai Daiginjo - Aqua, White, Pink, Blue beveled-shaped super bottles
  • Yukinobosha Junmai Ginjo - 300ml frosted square bottle
  • Hakutsuru Nigori - frosted pink bottle brings people running
  • Miyosakae Junmai Daiginjo - 750ml odd shaped twisted bottle
  • Narutotai Nama Ginjo - not a bottle but rather a stellar can that is a fan fave
Honorable mention goes to a sake lost in Chapter 11 bankruptcy called Hatsuhana or "First Flower Nap" which featured a twisted light blue pounded glass bottle that almost looked like a grappa bottle.

True Sake Top Ten Sake Labels:
  • Kariho Namahage Junmai - the devil's mask always catches the eye
  • Daruma Junmai - the funny Daruma drawing makes people look
  • Tenzan Junmai - the bottle wrapped in a leaf with red label is a winner
  • Genbei Honjozo - four freaky eyes call to people
  • Kamoizumi Junmai Ginjo - the sake is called "Three Dots" for good reason
  • Urakasumi Zen Junmai Ginjo - the little "bean man" daruma on label summons
  • Kudoki Jozu Junmai Ginjo - the striking use of colors and "the lady's face" work
  • Mizunoshirabe Ginjo - not a lot of purple in the sake industry except on this label
  • Poochi Poochi Sparkling Sake - the little animated dog calls to many
  • Tanuki Junmai - the smiling naughty creature is fun to look at

Team True Sake's Personal Favorites:

True Sake True Sake True Sake True Sake

  • Kikuhime Daiginjo - just a strikingly stunning label that is bold and sort of different with layered graphics that are as complex as the sake within.
  • Daruma Junmai - I liked his beard and bushy eyebrows. He looks like he can drink a LOT of sake and reminds me of a friend.
  • Born Muroka Nama Daiginjo - label has all of the information about the sake and is easy to tell customers what is inside the bottle because it is all spelled out on the label. Informative.
  • Miyasaka Junmai & Yamahai Nama, Takenotsuyu Junmai Ginjo and Kirinzan Junmai Daiginjo - I like "hiragana" labels.
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Sake Pet - How Does That Fruit Fly Always Find My Sake?

True Sake I remember when I was in grade school and we did a science experiment with fruit flies. It was the classic "let's take red fruit flies and pair them with brown fruit flies and then we will see what their offspring look like." And several weeks later we would count how many red, brown and mixed fruit flies we had created! One of my classmates continually complained about hating fruit flies because "They don't do anything." And that thought stuck with me. I was certain that fruit flies did do something.

Some 15 years later fruit flies came back into my life in the form of quarantine stations set up in California on major freeways. The Feds had set up checkpoints to determine if vehicles passing from one state to another were unknowingly transporting fruit flies. "See," I said to myself "fruit flies must be important enough that we have to check for them, so they must do something." As I drove through the checkpoint I just knew that someday I would know the true purpose for fruit flies.

Fast-forward 15 more years when I started dabbling with sake.

When I first opened the store I did sake tastings every night. I tasted roughly three to five different brews using two to three glasses for each sake. My learning curve was huge. I needed to write reviews for each sake in the store so that I could speak in-depth about them to customers when they asked, "What's this sake taste like?" The point being is that I would routinely have nine to twelve semi-filled glasses of sake on a table most nights. And that is when I noticed it. They essentially came from nowhere. We simply didn't have fruit flies in the house and yet I started noticing that at each tasting one random fruit fly would appear. Rare was the day when two fruit flies would appear. Just one.

True Sake They came to be expected, and quite frankly they came quickly! I'd taste one or two sakes and viola came the slow moving, circling, bobbing, and silent little beasts. I would write down a review and look up, and it would be gone. Really? No he/she/it wasn't gone it was floating in one of the sakes. Every time this happened. And every time it was just one fruit fly going for the death swim. I didn't notice at first. I didn't see the pattern. But then one night it became clear. The fruit fly would always die in the sweetest sake of the tasting. Seems unlikely, but I started plotting the demise of my little friends. And with almost 99% accuracy the fruit fly would find the sake with the lowest SMV (Sake Meter Value), which technically or not is considered the sweetest sake.

I knew it! Fruit flies do have a purpose. They give their lives in the service of informing sake drinkers which sakes drink sweeter than others. I mean, how stoic is that? They die so we may or may not drink a sweeter brew. What selfless little creatures. Perhaps they can be considered the "Angels" of the sake industry - Sake Angels.

To this day I still do not know where they come from-maybe heaven maybe not, but they appear out of nowhere. I could be tasting a sake in a hotel room in Chicago, and ta-dah in bobs a fruit fly looking for my brew. I could be in a dark little izakaya in Osaka, and my silent little buddy flutters in from the shadows and takes a final swan dive into my sake glass when I avert my eyes. I could be at my folk's home in Ohio in the winter doing a small tasting, and there it is circling out of nowhere- in the middle of a snowstorm-and comes to rest (in peace) in one of my several glasses. Oh Sake Angels how do you do it?

True Sake I've spoken about sake industry mascots in the past, but the fruit fly is more like an industry pet. The fruit fly is to the sake world as the humming bird is to the flower world. Instead of hanging glass bulbs filled with sweetened red fluid we simply have to open a luscious bottle of sake and fill a glass. In fact I may now start placing a thimble filled with sake on the table to honor my Sake Angel guest. This serves a dual purpose. For one it is nice to honor the pet of the industry, but more importantly it keeps you from trying to finger-out the dead limp carcass out of your glass as it slips from one side to the other and back before you can finally smash it against the side of the glass and drag it up towards the opening.

So to you my dear classmate from so long ago please realize that fruit flies do have a purpose and they do do something and that something is very special. In a word they are Sake Angels.

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Sake Suggestions - On The Rocks!

True Sake To rock or not to rock? That is the question. I always used to be sort of snob on this question. Why add your local tap water ice to a perfectly made sake? Why dilute a brew that was made to taste a certain way? Why over-chill something that may taste better warming in the glass? I actually wrote years ago that if you do want ice in your sake then make sure to use locally made sake to match the water! Not!

But alas, I have softened my snobbery on the ice question. Some folks do need to dilute their sakes to bring down the alcohol content a bit. They say that cutting the sake allows them to enjoy a second glass. Others say that it takes the strength out of some sakes that taste a little boozy. And others still say that by adding ice it tamps down the sweetness of certain sakes. I can see all of these observations, and many brewers will actually agree. How do I know? Well, sometimes they use a series of icons on their back labels designating what temperatures are best for that particular sake. And yes beside the icons for hot sake, warm sake, room temp sake, and chilled sake there is an icon featuring a glass with ice in it! Bingo! That sake may take ice well.

Typically "genshu" (undiluted sake) is the best for the ice game. Yes, the ice is used to cut the alcohol to an extent. Likewise super sweet sakes including those that are infused with yuzu (citrus) or ume (plum) also have an affinity for the rocks. And of course on really hot afternoons ice may make a sake taste more refreshing. Having a sake stay chilly in your glass is a bonus when the sun is out.

Here are some tricks for sake on the "rock." (In Japan they don't often use the plural version even if there is a lot of ice!)

True Sake First if you must go icy then try freezing some distilled water. These distilled cubes won't change the integrity of the sake too much flavor wise. And secondly go easy at first! On the rocks should be considered "On the rock." Start with one cube first. If you still need to blend then add more ice. Too many "rocks" may avalanche the sake and create a watered down flavor. If you simply add ice to chill your sake then don't forget to freeze some glasses. I love pouring cold sake into "frozen" sake glasses. It looks pretty cool - literally and fig... you get the picture.

With the help of a non-professional sake drinker I wanted to do a little experiment with ice and frozen rocks - real rocks! In the whiskey world some enterprising "Pet Rock"-like soul thought that water in his whiskey was a sin, so he/she decided to freeze soap stone that could be placed in whiskey to give it a chill without a watery thrill. Cool!

I decided to try two different "genshu" (undiluted sake) with plump alcohol levels. The first was the Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu from Harushika, which has a boatload of fruitiness and a solid sweetness. The second was a Honjozo Genshu from Urakasumi that is a big rich and boozy beast with some rich sweet tones. Both sakes are superb! And both have been featured in my Beau-Zone Layer at the store. (If you have not tried them please do so!)

Herewith are the results for two sakes on the rocks and on the "rock":

Harushika (18% alcohol)
  • With Ice:
    The ice definitely keeps sake colder and as my fellow taster stated, "It takes the edge off of the sake." After the cube is in for a while it keeps the sake far colder and thins the brew out a lot - "flattens it out." I felt it made the sake drink softer but ironically more acidic, especially in the finish.

  • With Stones:
    The stones provided a gentle chill but was not nearly as effective as ice if you are looking to really chill your brew. No real flavor changes, but they too thin the sake a bit. Neither here nor there and sort of odd drinking out of glass with two stones that could slide down and crack your teeth.
Urakasumi (19% alcohol)
  • With Ice:
    The ice definitely thins the sake from the get-go. It also makes the brew softer and more acidic - semi hot. The ice does what ice should do and keeps the sake cold. My fellow taster stated she would use ice in this sake if "I were to drink sake all day by the pool." I found the water and sake separated - turned them into two different elements. Even when you looked into the glass you saw the ice water bouncing against the sake like oil and water.

  • With Stones:
    The stones provided a semi-chill and made sake drink a touch thinner, but there was far more acidity created. It was crazy, because the cubes were for cooling the brew but the stones made the sake drink far hotter.

True Sake I don't know people! Unquestionably both elements - stones and ice - impacted the over all feeling and flavor of the sakes. Can this be overlooked in the attempt to chill the sakes and the attempt to dilute the sake's strength? I wrote in my notes that if you favor feeling over flavor then ice it up, because the ice does make the sake watery in one case and separates the sake and water in the other case. And this part seems--ummmm--dumb, but ice floats, and when you take a sip your lips are touching the ice first and then the sake so it's water first. Therefore, "genshu" on the rocks is a sip of ice, water then sake; if that is how you would like to take the edge off and make it poolside worthy, then ice does the trick.

If you asked my opinion on how to dilute "genshu" I would say pour a smaller glass of sake and pour a glass of water. Then take a sip of sake - pure and clean - then follow that up with a drink of water several moments later rather than add ice cubes to the good sake. You will not compromise the integrity of the sake this way, but you will be diluting the effect in your own body. If you want to take the booziness out of the sake and make it thinner, then add the ice but remove it after a little while instead of letting it melt all of the way.

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Beau-Zone Layer - Ichishima Honjozo

True Sake This month's BZL sake is for all of you folks afraid of "added" alcohol. Yup! The brewers will add a portion of special alcohol, not to fortify the sake but to bring out certain layers of flavors and a more gentle feeling to the fluid. I was probably standing beside this particular Honjozo in the vat aging when the earthquake struck Japan last year. I was in the Ichishima Brewery on that fateful day and have a tremendous respect and loyalty to them. This Tokubetsu Honjozo was an IWC Gold Medal winner in years past, and it is drinking dryer and cleaner lately. It is incredibly drinkable sake, which means a second bottle may be in store. It's time for you to try a Honjozo and this guy is one of the best that Niigata and Japan has to offer. Get your "Jozo" on!

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True Sake In The News - LA Weekly - Cowboy Yamahai Rides Again

Yeehaw! The Niigata boys are really making the Cowboy Yamahai move. This is a blurb in the LA Weekly Blog showing the "Cowboy" strutting itself. What an odyssey!

12 Best Highlights From FoodEx, Asia's Largest Food and Beverage Exhibition

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Sake Images - Photos From The Soul Of Sake

Please be a part of our "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 Image is from our friend in Texas Marlene Merritt who sent a picture that reminds me why I love sake so much - the drinking part!

True Sake
"I took this picture in a restaurant in Kyoto - one that I would return to two years later."

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New Arrivals - Seikyo Nama, Denshin Nama, Masumi Arabashiri

Seikyo Omachi Tokugin
From Hiroshima Prefecture. Junmai Nama.
SMV: +3 / Acidity: 1.6 / $39 (720ml)
Crisp, balanced and lightly fruity. (Limited availability)

Denshin "Haru"
From Fukui Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo Nama.
SMV: -3 / Acidity: 1.7 / $32 (720ml) & $65 (1.8L) with $5 OFF
Fruity, viscous and very long finish. (Limited availability)

Kamikokoro Toukagen
From Okayama Prefecture. Tokubestu Junmai Genshu Nama
SMV: -7 / Acidity: 1.5 / $36 (720ml)
Aroma of berry flower, peach and pear. Expansive, yet gentle tones and long finish. Brewed with peach flower yeast. (Limited availability)

Masumi Arabashiri "First Run"
From Nagano Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo Genshu Nama
SMV: -1 / Acidity: 1.7 / $36 (720ml)
Fruit forward, rich and vivid.

  • Saturday May 12: Open at 2pm
  • Monday, May 14: Closed
  • Monday, May 28 (Memorial Day): Open 12-6pm
You can review many of our sakes on our web site.

Our inventory list is here.

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Sake Events: Dassai, Kubota, Gasanryu and Katafune

Get your calendar and mark these events. We have several events in the next two months.


May 10th - Dassai Tasting

5 sakes from this very popular Asahi Brewery from Yamaguchi prefecture.

When: Thursday, 5/10, 5-7pm
Where: True Sake 560 Hayes St. SF
What: Dassai 50, 39, 23, 50 Sparkling Nigori and "centrifuged" version of Dassai 23
How much: FREE ($5 for a taste of the "centrifuged" Dassai 23 if you'd like to try)
Bonus: 10% off of your purchase of any of the sampled sake that we have available: 50, 39, and nigori.

May 13th - Kubota & Esshu Tasting

3 sakes from this well-known Asahi Brewery from Niigata prefecture. This would be a great thing to do on Mother's Day!

When: Sunday, 5/13, 1:30pm-3:30pm
Where: True Sake 560 Hayes St. SF
What: Kubota Senjyu, Esshu Gono and Esshu Sanno
How much: FREE
Bonus: 10% off of your purchase of any of the sampled sake.

June 8th - Gasanryu Tasting

4 sakes by Mr. Shindo, a super talented toji/owner of Shindo Brewery from Yamagata. He will be pouring four of his delicious creations and sharing his sake know-how.

When: Friday, 6/8, 4-7pm
Where: True Sake 560 Hayes St. SF
What: Honjozo, Junmai, Junmai Daiginjo and Daiginjo
How much: FREE
Bonus: 10% off of your purchase of any of the sampled sake.

June 9th and 10th - Katafune Tasting

6 sakes by Mr. Takeda, a brewer/owner of Takeda Brewery from Niigata. Unlike the clean sake style known for this prefecture, his brewery offers a range of style: ultra elegant competition Daiginjo to super ricey Junmai to Tokubestu Honjozo that is super good hot.

When: Saturday 6/9, 1-5 pm & Sunday 6/10, 1-5 pm
Where: True Sake 560 Hayes St. SF
What: Honjozo, Tokubetsu Honjozo, Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo and Daiginjo
How much: FREE ($5 for a taste of the competition-level Daiginjo if you'd like to try)
Bonus: 10% off of your purchase of any of the sampled sake we have available: the Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, and Junmai Daiginjo.


May 12th - N.A. Sales Restaurant Show

This is a TRADE ONLY event for those who are in the restaurant, retail, and/or distribution businesses.

When: Saturday, 5/12, 9am-3pm
Where: 301 E. Grand Ave. South San Francisco, CA 94080

May 14th - JFC Expo

This is a TRADE ONLY event for those who are in the restaurant, retail, and/or distribution businesses.

When: Monday, 5/14, 12pm-5pm
Where: The Westin San Francisco Airport, Millbrae, CA 94030

June 4th - Vine Connections Portfolio Tasting

Come taste the boutique line of Vine Connection's Sake portfolio, including Rihaku, Nanbu Bijin, Fukucho and Sato no Homare. There will be special guests from the brewers of Ginga Shizuku "Divine Droplets," Kanbara "Bride of the Fox" and Ama no To "Heaven's Door."

This is a TRADE ONLY event; however, we will have 25 passes for True Sake customers. Please RSVP by calling (415) 355-9555.

When: Monday, June 4th from 2-4 pm
Where: Sebo Restaurant, 517 Hayes Street (on the same block as True Sake, across the street)
How much: Free with business cards (TRADE ONLY)
Note: Light appetizers will be served.

  • Saturday May 12: Open at 2pm
  • Monday, May 14: Closed
  • Monday, May 28 (Memorial Day): Open 12-6pm
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Out-of-State Shipping - 19 States We Can Ship To

As we mentioned in the March issue, we now ship to following states. By all means give the store a call, and we will walk you through your order.

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / California / Colorado / District of Columbia / Hawaii / Idaho / Louisiana / Missouri / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Mexico / New York / North Dakota/ Oregon / Wisconsin / Wyoming

  • We ship by UPS Ground or Air service. (By Air is required for Hawaii and Alaska.)
  • UPS requires over 21, adult signature upon the delivery.
  • Because of the instability of nama (unpasteurized) sakes we ship it via UPS Next Air service only. (Otherwise, the recipient assumes all risks of a damaged product.)
And don't forget True Monthly Sake Club, which is a great way to do some drinking with no thinking as she picks several select sakes for your monthly enjoyment.

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True Monthly Sake Club

True Sake This monthly sake club is available for those who are in Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / California / Colorado / District of Columbia / Hawaii / Idaho / Louisiana / Missouri / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Mexico / New York / North Dakota/ Oregon / Wisconsin / Wyoming and age 21 or over. True Sake Club can be a great gift subscription to your friend and family as well.

2012 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.
2012 Schedule:
We try to keep things simple. Your feedback is welcome.
  • Shipping: 3rd Monday (or Tuesday if Monday is a holiday)
  • Start Anytime: Email us at sakeclub @ OR call us at (415) 355-955
  • Switch Anytime: Tell us by the 1st Monday
  • Cancel Anytime: Tell us by the 1st Monday
To Start:
Please email the following information to sakeclub @ Upon receiving your request, we will contact you for your payment information.
  • Your name as it appears on your credit card
  • Shipping address
  • Company name if shipping address is a business
  • Billing address if it differs from the shipping address
  • Your phone number
  • Your email
  • Your choice of: True Try or True Explore
Gift Subscription:
If you would like to give this as a gift subscription, please specify:
  • Length: 3 months or 6 months
  • Recipient's name
  • Recipient's address
  • Recipient's phone number
Email: sakeclub @
Phone: (415) 355-9555

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

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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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.

This month we are featuring a Kikusui sample pack: three different sakes. We would normally sell it for $15, but for you the dedicated newsletter reader, it will be $8 with the secret word...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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Consider this...

The next time you drink nigori sake do a little test. Keep the bottle upright in your fridge, so all of the sediment is resting on the bottom. Do not shake the sake. Gently pour a little bit out of the top "clear" portion of the bottle into a glass. Then shake/undulate the remaining portion and pour into a second glass. Then do a taste test. You will be surprised how different the two will taste and feel!

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