Dear Sake Fan,
Welcome to the 111th Issue of America’s sake-centric Newsletter. In this issue I challenge you big time to make your Thanksgiving dinner awesome with sake not wine, learn how you can better the sake industry by becoming a Sake Warrior, read how 7 amazing sakes have slipped through the cracks but should be part of your sake experience, take in a good read in the Tokyo Weekender, get the skinny on the fantastic 5 Fall Draft sakes, check out a Kaiseki and Sake Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, discover how you can go tour breweries in Japan, go Beau-Zoning with the Kikusui MONSTER can, and learn how the TasteMatch system came to being.
In this issue:
Sake Season – Thanks-Giving Sake
Before we get to the Ho Ho Ho we must visit the bird show! For countless years I have been imploring you wonderful sake sleuths to make sake a HUGE part of your Thanksgiving dinner. For years we have hung paper turkeys around the bottlenecks of sakes that work very well with the bird and the fixens. For years you have resisited! Ha!
No more. This is the year that you quit being a turkey and you will start pairing sake with your super bird.
To help you in this process I will use a little historical amo from the archives and I will pick 5 entirely new sakes for you to take to the table. A friend of mine (wink wink) recommended that I should share what I wrote in the Newsletter in 2010, so with a few adjustments here it is:
Ten Fowl / Sake Facts & Brews To Choose
Okay! It's that time of the year again. Holiday season. And it's time for you "sake drinkers" to do what? REMEMBER the sake people! Remember the sake! Herewith is a quirky union of facts of both sake and turkeys. Huh? Yup, this is a real gobbler!
1) Ben Franklin wanted to make the wild turkey, not the Bald Eagle, the national bird of the United States.
Sake is not the real name for what you call sake. In Japan, all alcohols are referred to as "sake." The real name for what you consider sake is "Nihonshu." And the legal name for Nihonshu is "Seishu."
Turkey Sake #1 – Kiminoi Yamahai Junmai Ginjo
2) Wild Turkey = "Meleagris Gallopavo"
Koji Mold = "Aspergillus Oryzae" (The special brewer's mold that is the engine of converting a starch to a glucose.)
Turkey Sake #2 – Tengumai Yamahai Junmai
3) Wild Turkeys spend their days foraging for food like acorns, seeds, small insects and wild berries.
Sake spends roughly 30 days fermenting in large vats via a technique called "Multiple Parallel Fermentation," which means that the brew is saccharifying and fermenting simultaneously.
Turkey Sake #3 – Shirakabe Gura Kimoto Junmai
4) Wild Turkeys spend their nights in low branches of trees.
Sake spends 6 months to a year in dark tank warehouses after fermentation to mellow the brew or take the edges off. This aging process is a technique that makes the sake more drinkable. (Not to be confused with unpasteurized sakes, which are released almost immediately.)
Turkey Sake #4 – Hiraizumi Yamahai Junmai
5)Male Turkeys also called "Tom Turkeys" or "Gobblers" puff up their bodies and spread their tail feathers. They grunt, make "gobble gobble" sounds and strut about shaking their feathers to attract females.
Some older and more experienced tojis (head brewers) can tell how far along a fermenting batch of sake has progressed by listening to the bubbles, which form on top of the fermenting mash as yeast converts the sugars to alcohol, pop. They can also judge by the size of these bubbles how far along the fermentation has progressed.
Turkey Sake #5 – Taiheizan Kimoto Junmai
6)After the female turkey mates she prepares a nest under a bush in the woods and lays her tan and speckled brown eggs. She incubates as many as 18 eggs at a time. It takes about a month for the chicks to hatch. Baby turkeys are known as "Poults."
After a month of fermenting, sake gets "filtered." But in the west this use of the term "filtered" or "unfiltered" sake is a misnomer. When people call Nigori sake "unfiltered" sake, they are actually missing the point that the sake was charcoal filtered, thus it was filtered. If a sake is not run through a charcoal filter system it is called "Muroka" or "unfiltered" sake.
Turkey Sake #6 – Tenzan Junmai Genshu
7)Wild Turkeys are covered with dark feathers that help them blend in with their woodland homes. The bare skin on the throat and head of a turkey can change color from flat gray to striking shades of red, white, and blue when the bird becomes distressed or excited.
The true color of fermented sake is a mild yellow or golden color. As it ages it turns to a more amber shade and eventually goes to a hue along the lines of maple syrup or soy sauce. The charcoal filtration process strips the natural colors away producing an almost clear fluid. Nama or "unpasteurized" sake has a green tinge to it.
Turkey Sake #7 – Born Muroka Nama Junmai Daiginjo Genshu
8)What do Turkey (the country in the Middle East) and the American bird have in common? A case of mistaken identity resulted in the American Turkey being named after the country. When the Spanish first found the bird in the Americas more than 400 years ago they brought it back to Europe. The English mistakenly thought it was a bird they called a "turkey" so they gave it the same name. This other bird was actually from Africa, but came to England by way of Turkey (lots of shipping went through Turkey at the time). The name stuck even when they realized the birds weren't the same.
The name of specific sakes can be a brand name, a family name, a brewery's name, or a marketing name. For example a brewery in Nagano sells sake under their brand name (Masumi) and under their family name (Miyasaka) and under a item name (Yumadono).
Turkey Sake #8 – Narutotai Nama Ginjo Genshu
9) The Turkey's gizzard is a part of the bird's stomach, which contains tiny stones that help to grind up food for digestion.
Brewing rice is milled or polished to achieve certain size levels. To mill or polish rice large milling machines are used. Rice is dropped on millstones that grind away layer after layer of the rice. The rice powder that is removed then gets sucked away by large vacuums, and the now smaller rice grains go back through the process.
Turkey Sake #9 – Tsukasabotan Junmai Daiginjo
10) The Turkey's "Snood" is the flap of skin that hangs over its beak. The "Snood" turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.
Tsumami is the name for foods that go very well with sake. Usually folks either love these types or foods or hate them, as the flavors are very intense and are often quite salty and/or pungent.
Turkey Sake #10 – Wakatake Junmai Genshu
So there you have it! Some seriously goofy Turkey and sake facts. (Thanks to kidzone.ws for some of the turkey bits). Why did I do this ten turkey and sake facts? To subliminally remind you to think "sake" when selecting your Thanksgiving Day dinner libation. Did it work?
If it didn’t here are 5 more turkey sake recommendations from our newest sake arrivals at True Sake:
- Gunma Izumi Yamahai Junmai
- Kenbishi Honjozo
- Kirin-zan Junmai Ginjo
- Seikyo Omachi Nama
- Fukuju Junmai
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Sake Warriors – What Can You Do To Better The Sake Industry?
Last year in London I was speaking at sake seminar in front of several hundred enthusiasts. When it came time for the Q&A one of the attendees stood and asked me bluntly, ‘Why can’t we get good sake in London?” I paused for a second and then I said, “Because of you!” I wasn’t trying to be snarky but I really wanted to impress upon him and the entire room that “he” was at fault. But how could “he” be the one responsible for the poor sake selection in London and perhaps Europe as a whole?
“He” represented all of the sake consumers in that room, city, and country, and that was the point that I was making. The consumers in London are at fault for not crying out for better sakes. They are at fault for not asking their favorite restaurants to carry better sakes. They, as a whole, are at fault for not supporting importers, and creating new distribution channels. If you want better sake you must go out and get it, you must support the people who can do it, you must inject yourself in the process.
The same can be said in the US, especially in the mid-west and southern states. If you want better sake then start an up swell. Go to your favorite restaurants and demand better sake. Ask the local retailers why their selection is so poor. Call the distributors and implore that they should carry better sakes. Start a name drive of customers who would go to places to purchase better sake. Create a demand that cannot be ignored.
Many of you know my mantra of always doing things for the betterment of sake. Some have called me a warrior and others have bestowed upon me the title Sake Samurai, because I fight for sake. Why not join my fight? Why not become a Sake Warrior too? What can you do? For one thing start observing the quality and condition of the sakes around you. If you go to a retail store or grocery store and you see empty sake shelves or shelves filled with a bottle or two and are covered in dust then go tell the manager. Say things like I’d really like to buy some sake, but your conditioning does not look that great.
You are doing the sake industry a great service if you find old or damaged sake that is on the market. If you order sake in a restaurant and it is old send it back. Trust me when I tell you that the sake brewers would be over the moon to know that you are looking out for their products. I am not kidding. My kids use the expression from school that goes, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset!” This should not be the mantra in the sake world. You deserve fresh sake with a large selection to choose from.
By now and after reading this Newsletter for almost a decade you know more about sake than most people. You are vastly qualified to ask the guy at the wine shop why he sells a three year old (rotting) sake, and ask if he even knows that sake is perishable and should not be treated like a wine on the rack. Do it I dare you! Go to your hometown grocery store that has one or two large brand machine made sakes and ask that person if you could see the sake list from their distributor and try to convince them that there are other sakes that would sell better for them. Be proactive; take the bull by the horns. Ask the owners of two or three of your favorite restaurants if they would be interested in acting as a group to get their local distributor to carry better sakes. It’s all about momentum, but retailers, restaurateurs, and consumers are all lazy. They take what is only offered without asking for something else.
If you are fine with wiping the dust off of bottles of sake on the shelves of your local retailer, or you are just as fine with the same three sakes on the menu at your favorite restaurant then realize you get what you get! But if you are tired of this improper cycle then become a sake warrior. Get off your butt and get into a better Ginjo or Daiginjo, which is totally within your capabilities. The sake industry needs you! They need Sake Warriors!
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Sake Sleepers – 7 Silent Sakes That Get Overlooked
As retailers with a very large collection of sakes we sometimes over look or perhaps under love certain brews. They aren’t necessarily forgotten, but we forget to recommend them as much as the others. So they become silent. Also I charge each of our Team True Sake Members to “Champion” certain sakes that they like to sell. We all have a pool of brews that we go back to time and time again. So certain sakes fall through the cracks of these overlaps. They become silent sakes, and to be honest they are great brews that don’t demand the spotlight.
Herewith are 7 Silent Sakes that you should not forget to try or retry:
1) Meibo Yowano Tsuki “Midnight Moon”
2) Taisetsu “Garden of the Divine”
- A super well balanced Junmai Ginjo that drinks solid and extremely confident.
3) Hoyo Kura No Hana “Fair Maiden”
- This Junmai Ginjo from Hokkaido uses Ginpu rice and is very “watery.”
4) Taiheizan Tenko “Heavenly Grace”
- This Junmai Daiginjo is one of the more expressive brews from a tiny brewery.
5) Takenotsuyu “Bamboo Tears”
- This Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo is a gold medal-making machine.
6) Akitabare Koshi Junzukuri “Northern Skies”
- When was the last time you tasted this Yamagata stellar Junmai?
7) Shirakabe Gura Kimoto
- Pound for pound one of the best northern Japan Junmais.
- A Kyoto Kimoto Tokubetsu Jumai that is soft and confident.
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True Sake In The News – Tokyo Weekender
This is a great two part series by Sami Kawahara, who knocked the sake ball out of the park! What a solid piece. Well Done Sami!
Part 1 and
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New Store Arrivals – Hiyaoroshi Fall “Drafts”
Yup, there are certain seasons made for drinking sake! Spring sure! Summer sort of! Winter of course! But the Fall is one of the most flavorful and fun seasons to drink sake, as the brewers release their very special Fall nama (Draft) sake selections that are constructed with food pairing in mind. Yes Siree!– Fall is the season for amazing food in Japan and these single pasteurized sakes are super food friendly as well as being super drinkable on their own.
Check out all five of these specially released seasonal sakes that would do wonders at your Thanksgiving Dinner table. No Kidding!
Otokoyama Hiyaoroshi ‘13
From Hokkaido Prefecture. Tokubetsu Junmai Kimoto Namazume.
SMV: +4 Acidity: 1.6
The nose on this once pasteurized “Hiyaoroshi” or draft sake is a collection of grains, steamed rice and chestnut aromas. This seasonal brew drinks like the fall with layers and layers of colors (flavors) from start to finish. Smooth, dry and semi-rich look for elements of honey roasted nuts, steamed rice, and buckets full of umami. There is a peek-a-boo vein of crisp caramel and the smoothness brings forth a tad more sweetness as the brew warms. As the only “Kimoto” or pole-rammed Fall draft sake this season you will notice a balance that is totally driven by the gentle smoothness of this brew. WORD: Dry WINE: Deep reds/big whites BEER: Crisp Ales FOODS: All the flavors of the Fall from roasts to toasts! $32/720ml
Wakatake Hiyaoroshi ‘13
From Shizuoka Prefecture. Tokubetsu Junmai.
SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.2
Rice, grains, chestnuts, and cream make up the aroma field on this once pasteurized seasonal sake. Behold a brew that tastes like the season with dry and smoky elements just like the red Japanese maple leaf on the label. Red wine drinkers take note as this dry, smooth, and plump version has tannin-like elements that jiggle on a very intriguing acidity play. There is far more impact in this sake than year’s past with shades of dryness and dried fruit elements that come forth when the brew warms. A larger vessel brings out a rice sweetness and field grains rule the day. WORD: Layered WINE: Crisp Reds and Whites BEER: Tight ales FOODS: Fall grill fare. $36/720ml
Urakasumi Hiyaoroshi ‘13
From Miyagi Prefecture. Tokubetsu Junmai.
SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.5
The nose on this perennial Fall draft winner is a grouping of caramel, rice, crushed leaves, and grain aromas. Can you say a sake is comfortable? Well this old faithful is all of that! Smooth, juicy, rich and round Urakasumi has done it again by making a supremely balanced sake that has baskets full of amazing Autumn-like flavors from sweet rice, grains and caramel to nougat and cream. Rich and balanced the brew gains a little more sweetness as it warms in the glass and a larger glass brings out more cream tones. WORD: Sweet Rice WINE: Chewy reds and fat whites BEER: Belgian Ales FOODS: Autumn Fare with Lots of Complexity. $32/720ml
Denshin “Aki” '13
From Fukui Prefecture. Junmai Genshu.
SMV: -1 Acidity: 1.8
Hello party in a sake bottle! The nose on this seasonally released (look for the Fall Japanese Maple sticker) on this unpasteurized sake is a push of grape, grape Jolly Rancher, persimmon, pear and peach tones. This is a big and full nama with layers of rich fruit tones from pear and mango to gooey apple and berry that bounce around on the 19% alcohol content. Extremely juicy and very flavorful this is an excitable sake in your glass that is flavor forward with a gentle finish. A mid sized glass makes the fruit and booze dance appropriately at this party in a bottle. WORD: Juicy Fruit WINE: Beaujolais/ Fruity whites BEER: Fruity Ales FOODS: The kitchen sink plus international spicy fare from Thai to India. $32/ 720ml & $55/ 1.8L
Kikusui Hiyaoroshi ‘13
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Sake Tasting - 11/14 Kaiseki and Sake Dinner
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco and KikiSake-Shi Stuart Morris
Present a Kaiseki and Sake Experience
Stuart Morris, a KikiSake-Shi (Master Sommelier for sake) based in the Bay Area, is presenting a collection of sakes to be paired with a kaiseki menu created by our Executive Chef Adam Mali. The inspiring and intimate five-course dinner will be paired with exquisite sakes from different breweries including:
Stuart Morris will guide guests through a fantastic lineup of sakes paired with dishes created by Chef Mali, offering commentary and discussion from the history of sake to the subtle nuances of styles and breweries.
- Gunma Izumi
- Matsuno Kotobuki
- Ooki Daikichi
- Aizu Chujo
Who: Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
When: Thursday, November 14, 2013 from 6:30 p.m.
Where: 222 Sansome Street, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Cost: $85 per person plus tax and gratuity
RSVP: @ Eventbright or call +1 (415) 276-9724
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Sake Tours – Visiting a Brewery Is the Best Way To “Get” Sake
Okay people! It’s quite simple. The best and most incredible way to get the full sake “effect” is to go to the source and actually watch sake being made in a brewery in Japan. So what is keeping you from taking that next step? You don’t know what brewery to approach? How will you get in? How will you get around? All of these questions have been answered by my friend Etsuko Nakamura, who wisely started a business that takes people to amazing breweries all over Japan. She takes care of all of the logistics and you do is watch, drink and learn! How cool is that?
This is from Etsuko:
We are very excited to announce two new destinations in 2014 to Okayama (January 27th - 31st) and Niigata (February 17th – 21st). There’s something special about these two destinations. The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association is supporting part of the cost. They invite all sake enthusiasts to really experience Japan through sake with their help. This is a one-time opportunity you cannot miss! The Okayama tour especially highlights sake and cultural activities that even locals do not have access to. Some very memorable experiences you will find only with us are: a session with Omachi sake rice grower, hands on rice field plowing, private Kagura dance performance, private Shiki Hocho knife ritual once performed only for the emperor, hands-on guinomi sake cup making experience with Bizen artists, observing art of sword making and more. On the last day, simply relax at the hot springs by the river far away from the city, in the snow. Find more about the tour at http://saketours.com/tours/okayama
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Sake Deliveries – True Sake Mobile
True Sake is ramping up its delivery service and we need your help! If you live in the North Bay – East Bay – South Bay – and even the West Bay and you are tired of driving to True Sake to buy superb sakes then your wait is over.
As a reward for your patience we want to give you a 20% discount off of your first delivery and a 10% off of your second delivery and all you have to do is email Stephen@truesake.com and get your name on the list!
Just think – the entire inventory of True Sake is at your fingertips! We will even be playing Sake Santa Clause and doing drop gift deliveries to whomever is on your “Nice” list.
Thank you for your patience and do NOT forget to send firstname.lastname@example.org your email address so we may reward you dear and loyal True Sake customers.
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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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Beau-Zone Layer – Kikusui Funaguchi "Monster Can"
The Beau-Zone Layer is a section within the store where I make recommendations to the customers when I am not in the store. (See that little Mini-Me doll? That’s me) I usually pick sakes that have a certain story or point of fact that sake drinkers should know and taste in their lifetime. This “Monster Can” is much bigger brother to the little powerhouse nama genshus that get coined dispensed in Japan. Kikusui is known for these little bad boys that pack a real wallup! (18.5%) When I saw the big guy I had to have it, so we asked the brewery and the importer and voila True Sake has the “Exclusive” for the next few months. Basically this is a party in the can. It is a big and raucus sake that is fat and full and yes sweet. It’s perfect for a picnic or outdoor concert, and I dare you to take it into a hot tub with a friend. This makes for some great conversation I promise.
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ASK BEAU” – “How Did You Come Up With TasteMatch?”
For those who don’t know what TasteMatch is please see this on the True Sake website:
Good question Ryan J from Bakersfield! It’s a really good question and it goes to the heart of why I opened True Sake in the first place. I was looking to match good people with good sake. And I needed some way of getting customers into a bottle of sake without just saying ,“Trust me – a white guy – you will like it I promise!”
When I opened the store I knew that people would come in and say, “I know nothing about sake and I don’t know what I like. Can you help me?” Crap! Double crap I thought to myself. At the time I said, “This is going be a lot of work.” So I decided that I needed some footholds and handholds that customer could identify with. Ah HAH! That was it. Get the customers to tell me what they like and since I know the sakes I would know what they would like.
Basically everybody can speak to their beer and wine profiles, but people get so tongue tied when they talk sake. They can spend 15 minutes speaking about why they like certain wines and beers and couldn’t even spend 15 seconds about what they wanted to taste in a sake. Trust me when I say that it was frustrating when I got the “I don’t know what I like!” So TasteMatch was born out of this ability to speak forever about wine and beer profiles.
I must say and I am very proud of the fact that this system works. It works very very well and I have had fun over the years having the customers validate its success. I cannot recall a day that somebody came back to the store and said “Psssshhhhh that didn’t work!”
TasteMatch became pretty popular, especially after my book came out, so I decided to trademark it. And up until about a month ago the Trademark was mine. But last month I got the notice to renew the trademark and I thought that it wasn’t worth it!
I hope that I didn’t make a mistake.
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 real treat from a brewery that only makes Daiginjo class sake. Born is a super popular brewery that once made sake for the emperor, and the owner is an amazing ambassador for sake. We thought it was high time to get you a very tasty sake at a brilliant price point. So this month’s Secret Word sake is Born “Gold” Junmai Daiginjo, which we usually sell for $38 but for you we will part with it for $20 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!
TRUE SAKE: America's First Sake Store.
You have heard of near beer right? Or no alcohol wine? Well the brewery called Fukumitsuya in Ishikawa prefecture makes a 0% alcohol sake and I must say that it tastes worse than its non-alcohol counter parts.
True Reward Program
Frequent Buyers. Earn 20% Off!
How it works:
Earn one star per visit when you purchase at least one regular priced item. Limited to one star per day.
Five stars gets you 20% off towards your next visit! (Excluding sales items and the secret word sake)
Name & Phone Number
560 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102
info @ truesake.com
Sake - A Modern Guide