Dear Sake Lover,
Welcome to the 114th Issue of America’s sake-centric Newsletter. In this romantic issue learn why love is the secret ingredient in sake, discover the ten best reasons to drink sake on Valentine’s Day, then take in the TOP 10 sakes that are perfect for this dreamy holiday, get your Chinese New Years facts for the Year of The Horse, climb the “Grand Mountain” Kimoto sake in the Beau-Zone, and read the real reason why sake is so popular on V-Day in the “Ask Beau” finale.
In this issue:
Sake Style – Sake Is Made with Love
Making sake is difficult. Making sake is laborious. Making sake sucks at times. But I have yet to meet a sake brewer who does not love making sake. It’s that simple. The secret ingredient in this easy yet complex libation is love and that is why I often refer to sake as “Liquid Love.”
I think all brewers from beer to wine to sake love their work. Why not? What’s not to love? But for me love emanates from the difficult environment of a sake brewery early in the morning when it’s frigid cold, and the brewers are running frigid water and the air is thick with coldness and it’s damn early. That is working love. That is carrying heavy sacks, that is burning hands with steam, that is doing the same thing over and over and over again. That is love.
Often I consider sake that leaves a brewery the children of that kura. The brewers gave birth and nurtured the kids in an environment of love and that is how they travel out into the village, town, city, and world.
The bottle that you may be holding in your hand was not made by some grumpy union worker, who was more concerned about how much work he could get out of and paid for, rather it was made by a love guardian who worked paying homage to the history of sake making.
Sake is a labor of love. It always has been and always will be. There is no easy route to making quality hand crafted sake. It is all work all of the time. And the common thread of the sake industry is not technique or style but rather love, the love of making an ancient beverage taste wonderful to a modern world. Sake is love, love is sake, and sake is “liquid love.”
So by all means during this season of love please enjoy the beverage of love by either imbibing yourself or gifting a bottle to that special person who needs a little loving!
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Sake Hints – Ten Reasons To Drink Sake On V-day!
Okay Okay! This is a funny list of things to DO and DON’T do on Valentine’s Day that I dug up from the archive. It’s pretty steamy so take note and don’t let your fourth grader read this. Wait! Why is your fourth grader reading this in the first place?
- If you will be “Hot Tubing” on V-Day make certain to serve a sake that is best consumed at room temperature. Why? Cold sakes make your body work harder in heat and can be funny on the tummy, and hot sakes will make you too hot in the soup and you cannot stay in the tub as long.
- If you plan to take sake to bed, don’t worry man! It’s not red wine and won’t stain the bedding if things get kicking and screaming (did I just type that?)!
- If you plan to serve Champagne or Sparkling wine DON’T. These have added sulfites amongst all of those other headache making materials. Sparkling Sake does not and makes Feb 15th far more fun for snuggling!
- (BING BING BING – This is the adults only bell – BING BING BING) Body shot? That is so old school. Why not try the old “Lover’s Chair”? Take your lover, remove her clothes, sit her very erect (no leaning back) in a chair and make her put her legs tightly together. Ahh and here is the fun yet tricky part. Hand your lover a glass of cool sake (cold enough to make goose bumps) and have her pour it down her neck between her ummmm breasts (does my mom read this Newsletter?) and watch as it races down her body, to her tightly closed knees, where the recipient (you) shall drink from her kneecaps, which should be touching. This is called something else other than Lover’s Chair, but I must first get a cable show before I say the real name. (Also for the guys detours often happen so improvise and good luck)
Giving chocolate this V-day again? BORING! Why not mix it up by giving your valentine your favorite chocolate and a killer bottle of desert sake called Kijoshu. This 8-year aged sweet sake was made for chocolate and they go together like Donnie and Marie (does that sound incestuous?). Okay then they go together like France and cigarettes, fish and chips, Emelda Marcos and shoes etc. Point being the deep richness of this sweet sake works so well with anything chocolaty. It has the color and feel of a Port and hints of Sherry-like qualities. Amazing and so unique!
- Beer is great. No questions. But when was the last time you drank a sixer and then started making out. You probably A) smelled like a brewery B) burped like a sailor and C) felt bloated like a traveling-for-2-weeks-piece of luggage. So don’t even go there. Forget the brewski on the 14th and stick to the cleanest burning fuel that doesn’t bog ya down, blow you up, or stink ya all over. Sake is recommended by 9 out 10 doctors for “making out,” and is covered by most insurance carriers. Be smart. Be Sake.
- If you are officially proposing to you lover on Valentine’s Day, don’t put the ring in the bottom of her/his wine glass. Do you know how many times the recipient has swallowed the ring? Countless times. If you want the ring in the glass thing then use the very clear sake route so he/she can see the darn thing! Of course this would be made worse if you hid the ring in the bottom of cloudy/milky sake known as Nigori Sake. Bad idea! But, and this if for the very desperate, if you were intending to propose and forgot the ring (or lost it you idiot) then try this fail-safe impromptu engagement secret. When you twist off the cap of unopened sake a perforated separate piece of metal comes off. This little round piece of metal, which is usually gold or silver, looks just like a…. you know…. a ring! Tadah the perfect “he/she was so cute putting this little sake ring on my finger” moment. Folks you can thank me later!
- How do you know when things at dinner are starting to turn for the better? You look at your date on V-Day and notice that she/he is starting to flush a little. Man! You think. She/he is really starting to get hot for me. WRONG! The real reason your date is starting to turn the color of the fake red heart on the V-Day card that you gave her an hour before is that the histamines in her red wine are kicking in. Her face and body are having a reaction to the surge in histamines often found in big red wines. So before you yell “Check Please” think about pouring sake instead of the Red Death that could get you in a ton of “presumptuous” trouble.
- Of course wines and beers have some great names that do so well on Valentine’s Day but they can never compare to the names of sakes. For example how about pouring a bottle of “Drunken Heart” or “Dreamy Clouds”? Not bad heh? How about whipping out a bottle of “Vunerable Virgin” or “Beautiful Boy”? There is always “Midnight Moon” or “Star-Filled Sky.” Perhaps you would prefer “Root of Innocence” “Southern Beauty” “Mirror of Truth” “Fair Maiden” or “Heaven of Tipsy Delight.”
- This Valentine’s Day take a “Sake Bath.” First get an “Ishobin” (1.8L) bottle of sake, drink a large portion for dinner then take the rest to your bath. Run some hot water and then place your lover sitting in the tub. Take the remains of the bottle and pour it on her/his head and then have them do the same to you. And then wait for the steam and heat to kick in. Oh so steamy!
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Sake List – Mei’s TOP TEN Sakes Perfect for Valentine’s Day
Sake aka “Liquid Love” is an essential part of the Valentine’s Day experience, and herewith is a Top TEN list of ten sakes that epitomize love, flowers, kisses, nicknames, and all of that other lovey dovey stuff that rules the day. And if you are thinking about giving another sappy Hallmark card then this list is not for you!
ONE - Tsukasabotan “Fu-In”
TWO - Shirataki Jozen “Pink”
- WHY? – This is a great and super drinkable Junmai Ginjo that was just re-released and has a far fruitier aroma but drinks dryer! And the label has Valentine’s Day written all over the beautiful floral graphics.
THREE - Amabuki “Strawberry or Sunflower” Nama
- WHY? – Really? You have to ask? Look at that pink beveled bottle! Hello perfect bottle for V-day! The sake on the inside tastes even better than the bottle looks on the outside.
FOUR - Karen “Coy”
- WHY? Well both of these two sakes are made with unusual brewing yeasts. The first is made with a strawberry yeast and has a very beautiful and bright label on a killer bottle. The second is made with a sunflower yeast – Valentine’s Day = flowers get it? – and has a gorgeous yellow label on light blue bottle. Two stunning sakes that scream V-Day one for the fruit forward fan and one for the dry complex fan of nama or raw sakes!
FIVE - Dewazakura “Oka”
- WHY? Some Valentine’s Day folks like playing “Coy” on this special day, so this Junmai is just that – “Coy”! It is also a lower alcohol fruity and light sake that speaks to those who don’t like tasting alcohol. This brew is a great sake for those who “had a bad sake experience” to bring them back into the fold. Oh and the pink and floral packaging works as well.
SIX - Kanbara “Bride of the Fox”
- WHY? Look at the cherry blossom blizzard on this label and you will be sold on Oka as a great Valentine’s Day gift. One of the most popular sakes in the store this aromatic and dry brew does wonders with sushi, which makes this sake a great take somebody to dinner on V-Day brew.
SEVEN - Tsukasabotan “Hana” “Pink Peony”
- DWHY? Well Valentine’s Day is also for those who are married and not the countless single folks using this slam-dunk day for a date. It could just as easily be called “Groom of the Fox” to cover all of the basis. A very nice rich and creamy sake that speaks to Pinot Noir drinkers.
EIGHT - Hou Hou Shu “Hana” Sparkling Sake
- WHY? Why not more like it! Very dry, clean and smooth sake that is housed in a bottle with a huge pink flower on it! Why give flowers (sorry T) on Valentine’s Day when you can give a bottle of sake with a flower on it? Very tasty sake and a very tasty label – BINGO!
NINE - Tedorigawa “Kinka” “Gold Blossom”
- WHY? Are you kidding? A pink bottle of sparkling sake with flowers all over the label. Talk about the perfect gifting sake for Valentine’s Day! This is it! Why give your date, partner, secret love a bottle of boring bubbly when you can spring some delicious sparkling sake in their fluted glass. Hello no-brainer!
TEN - Azen “Ai” “Love”
- WHY? First for you risk takers the name Kinka sounds so much like “Kinky” – see where I am going here? Get kinky on V-day. That’s what I am talking about! Actually the real meaning of gold blossom works just as well because the nama or unpasteurized sake drinks bright and happy and is perfect to set the “raw” mood for this special night! Oh yah!
- WHY? Hmmmm let me see! Amazing red box on a 5-year aged brown rice sake that is so stylish and awesome, a name that literally translates to “love,” and has a taste profile similar to a sherry or a port and I think you have a tremendous gifting sake for Valentine’s Day. Simply the best! Perfect with complex game dishes and fun for after dinners as well.
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Year of The Horse – A Good Sake Year?
Firstly – every year is a good sake year! But in terms of “The Horse” let’s take a look:
The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people's ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as 'Qianli Ma', a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).
People born in the year of the horse have ingenious communicating techniques and in their community they always want to be in the limelight. They are clever, kind to others, and like to join in a venture career. Although they sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely.
SAKE TRANSLATION: Drink a lot of sake this year so you can fulfill your ancient designation as a blabbermouth!
They cannot bear too much constraint. However their interest may be only superficial and lacking real substance. They are usually impatient and hot blooded about everything other than their daily work. They are independent and rarely listen to advice. Failure may result in pessimism. They usually have strong endurance but with bad temper. Flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful since they are not good with matters of finance due to a lack of budgetary efficiency. Some of those who are born in the horse like to move in glamorous circles while pursuing high profile careers. They tend to interfere in many things and frequently fail to finish projects of their own.
SAKE TRANSLATION: Even though your wallet says No! Start buying more expensive sake all year long!
Fortune Foretelling in 2014
Overview: It is their order to encounter the Year of Birth (Benming Nian), a year to offend “Taisui’, the god in charge of people’s fortune. In 2014, their fortune in all aspects will fluctuate, so will require great care. They may feel more stressed out, in which case they are advised to talk about it with close friends or councilors, and take part in group activities. Faced with any difficulties, they should be strong to overcome them all. If they treat people around them friendly and behave righteously, they will get through the year smoothly.
SAKE TRANSLATION: If you piss off your boss or a loved one then sooth the tension with a nice gift of sake.
Career: Horse people are easily offended this year even for trifles, and seem not to keep a harmonious relationship with colleagues. Sometimes they doubt themselves too much, leading to a gradual loss of confidence. When finishing a task, they seek confirmation again and again from people around them. In this case, it is suggested to be confident and talk more to family instead of complaining to colleagues. Just keep a low profile, get along well with your boss and be careful of tricks by mean people and then achievements in your job will come.
SAKE TRANSLATION: This year drink alone.
Wealth: Their financial fortune will be unstable in 2014. It seems that there will be much unexpected cost. Thus to make ends meet comes first When managing money matters, they should consider accepting others’ suggestion. It is necessary to be careful to make any investment. Businesspeople should make a full scheme before making a large amount of investment, because the market will be changeable in the year.
SAKE TRANSLATION: Listen to Team True Sake when they recommend cheaper sake!
Relationships: The fortune in love life for horse people will be just so-so. If they would like to get married in the year, it is strongly suggested to select an auspicious date according to the dates of birth of the bride and the bridegroom, or they will suffer a lot in marriage. Singles may meet several people that they have feelings for, but none of them are doomed to be their Mr./Ms. Right. If faced with a dilemma, they’d better refer to the idea or suggestion of their relatives and friends. Husband and wife will argue a lot in the year; a focus on communication and mutual understanding can avoid it. For all lovers, mutual trust is the secret for an everlasting relationship.
SAKE TRANSLATION: This year drink alone.
Health: As they offend “Taisui” this year, they may suffer some discomforts. Some insidious diseases like dermatosis may happen. To avoid that, they’d better have a full physical examination. Besides, they also need to be careful to avoid unexpected injuries by knives and others sharp items. Females should pay attention to problem in urinary system and males need to care more about their stomach. Adjusting their emotions and traveling outside will help with their health as well. They also need to remember not to eat too much for each meal.
SAKE TRANSLATION: This year drink alone.
Lastly, and as I am a “golden Horse” born in the year of the Horse, I thought it would be slightly funny – and I mean ever so slightly to write about horses, which I dearly love and have been riding most of my life.
In the February ’07 True Sake Newsletter I wrote a really cool piece about the Year of the Boar (pig). I wrote down ten pork recipes and paired them with ten sakes, and I remember receiving a lot of replies to the newsletter. In this regard, I cannot produce ten horse meat recipes, but I will tell you about one of “those” times in Japan when horse indeed was a course!
After a long day of tasting and then a longer evening of drinking a friend took me to her favorite izakaya in Shinjuku. We were loaded. (Sadly it was the night that my sake note book fell out of my pocket in a cab and I lost it forever). After waiting for a counter space to open we took two premo seats right in front of one of the chefs. We ordered and were given two very large pours of sake an then it was search and destroy time on the menu.
My friend asked the chef what was good and he said something that I didn’t hear. But as he noticed me he leaned over and said, “Do you eat everything?” Of course I shot back, and then followed that with a “bring it!” First came the raw chicken sashimi, which was superb. Then more sake. Then out came what looked liked raw beef! Okie Dokie!
Without hesitation I snapped up a piece and dipped it into the heavily garlicky sauce and downed it! Slightly chewy and a bit oily whatever it was tasted flavorful and delicious. I attacked another piece and asked my companion if it was beef, and she began to laugh. No! I looked at the chef and said, “It’s really good, but what is it?” He didn’t say a word, rather he made a sound that sounded remarkably like a horse. Oh man!
Good luck to everybody during this year of the horse!
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True Sake now delivers!
Did you hear that? We deliver! Why drive in traffic? Why risk road rage? Why get that dirty look from the guy on the bike in the bike lane? Why look for parking? Why get that parking ticket? Why get out of your pajamas? (You do drink in your pajamas right?)
Just think – the entire inventory of True Sake is at your fingertips! Did you hear that? You can buy that seductive Valentine's Day Sake from the luxury of your own home. And get it delivered the same day, too!
Call us at 415-355-9555 and we'll take your order and even provide some helpful recommendations. So if you've seen something in this newsletter you just have to have, JUST CALL!
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Beau-Zone Layer – Taiheizan Kimoto Junmai “Grand Mountain”
From Akita Prefecture. SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.7
What in the hell is a “pole rammed” sake? A Kimoto or “pole rammed” sake is a throw back way of making sake in one of the traditional and to a degree cerimonial methods from days long ago. The reason the brewers rammed the steamed rice with a long pole with a flat paddle on the end in a large wooden bucket was to promote the growth of lactic acid. Lactic acid is large part of the brewing process and today the brewers simply add it in rather than ram the rice for 12-15 minutes.
So why do some breweries still employ this method when it is unnecessary? They believe that a Kimoto sake has elements not found in other sakes. Some feel a Kimoto sake has a velvetiness or softness not expressed in other sakes. Some feel it adds a special layer of flavor and feeling. And others believe that on account of the slightly higher acidity pole rammed sakes have more presence. Grand Mountain is no exception and I really like the smoothness of this brew. A very good intro to Kimoto sakes. (We also carry “Tenko” the Junmai Daiginjo version of a Kimoto from Taiheizan)
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New Store Arrivals – Asahiyama, Tobintori Shizuku & Yamatoshizuku Kimoto
Kaika "Tobintori Shizuku" Daiginjo
Yamatoshizuku Kimoto Junmai
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Sake Images – Is Now truesake on Instagram
So there have been a lot of requests on how to follow me and my, let’s call it, unique eye for sake-centric photography. There are two ways. First you can follow me directly at truesake on Instagram, which is a really fun format to show off your creative side. Secondly, you SHOULD be following me at truesake on Facebook.
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ASK BEAU – “Should I Serve Sake on Valentine’s Day?”
Let’s go back in the way back machine and read a very appropriate Ask Beau from long ago:
Ah yes! It’s “THAT” time of year, the time for lovers and those looking for some loving. I recently received an email from Stacy R, who lives in Philadelphia and asked a very intriguing yet obvious question: “I have a hot date for V-day, and this guy only likes beer, should I try to get him to have some sake?” Stacy I think that you know the answer already – if you want to get lucky get the rice and water flowing.
After countless hours of in-depth research I have finally concluded that sake is an aphrodisiac in every sense of the word. What? Come on how in the world did you ever come to that conclusion? It’s true and the facts speak for themselves. Well actually in this case the facts are just a fact (singular). And to be more precise my “countless hours” of research were in fact a ten-minute conversation with a guy who knew a guy. But hey that’s scientific enough these days by modern poling and research standards right?
Okay okay! It’s not as bad as it sounds, because the first “guy” just so happens to be Izumihiko Masuda the 12th generation owner of Tsukinokatsura brewery in Fushimi just outside of Kyoto proper. He owns a brilliant kura (brewery) as well as the best moustache in the sake brewing world. Now the other “guy” happened to be an 80 year-old friend of Masuda-san’s father who is very close with the kura, but never drank their sake. One day he visited the brewery and took home a bottle of Nigori sake, which this brewery is famous for. (In fact they re-engineered the modern nigori movement 41 years ago that made nigori sake legal again.) The day after the surprising visit Mr. Masuda’s phone rang and it was the older gentleman on the other end. The first words out of his mouth were “thank you.” The second through eighteenth words out of his mouth were “thank you.” Confused Masuda-san said “you’re welcome by why are you thanking me?” To which the older gentleman in a hushed voice said that he had not made love to his wife in 21 years. But that had changed the night before when “some magic” made him want to “dance.” I concluded it was the sake!
And that in a nutshell is proof positive that sake is an aphrodisiac. Who needs more concrete evidence than that? (Actually I do have a collaborating voice in my older brother who swears that sake is indeed a gifted beverage!) The bottom line is that there is some magic in sake. Like all boozes it thins the blood and causes a touch of euphoria, but there is more. There is a secret layer of “feel good” that no other libation can quite obtain. The trick is to get to the “feel good” level with a person who really floats your boat.
In a word sake is exotic. And exotic is almost spelled the same way as erotic. Proof again that sake is a libation to be reckoned with on V-day. But you still need more? Well have you ever heard of a Geisha? Hmmmmm What beverages are the Geisha’s known for pouring? Now we are getting closer. We are closing in on the precise reason that sake is liquid love. Should we review? An 80 year-old-man, my older brother, euphoria, Geishas, do you need any more than that? Hmmmmm? Let’s not touch on the simplicity of inhibitions or the lack thereof. Let’s also not go on about the whole Time, Place and Occasion of the Day of “Hallmark” Love. Rather let’s focus on the ability of a fermented rice beverage to create the perfect storm of chemical reactions in your brain and heart to throw out the “animal signal,” “the mating call,” or “the call to lust.” In plain English “Sake Works.” Who cares why? It is an aphrodisiac until proven otherwise.
Please send your sake specific questions to
askbeau2 @ truesake.com. (This
address is not for general questions and I only review the questions
once per month. All other correspondence should use
info @ truesake.com.)
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The SECRET WORD
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’s Secret Word Sake is a Junmai Ginjo called “Flower In The Wind” in honor of Valentine’s Day. Kaika “Kazeno Ichirin” is from Tochigi Prefecture and we would usually sell this brew for $30, but for you Valentine’s Day hunters we will part with it for $15 if you say the Secret Word ...
...check your email inbox - we only give out the SECRET WORD in the mailed Newsletter! So sign up for the Newsletter now!
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Thank you for reading!
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Sake - A Modern Guide