Sake Truths – Fall Equals Flavor! Hello Hiyaoroshi Sakes!
Remember that day or night when you tasted the “greatest flavor ever”? You pushed your chair back and said, “This is absolutely the best _________ that I have ever tasted in my life.” You were both satisfied and awed! You were both fascinated and rewarded! You were simply blown away. Well that happens almost every day in the Fall in Japan! Not Joking! Tokyo, Kyoto, you name it! Autumn in Japan is like every convicts last meal except you don’t die the next day – in theory (hello Fugu!)
The autumn is eating season in Japan! It’s the perfect storm of the best foods getting harvested from the fields and the sea culminating in classic dishes that are hundreds of years old, but perfected in a “classical” sense. Your plate becomes a vehicle to the spectacular, the sublime, and the most sensational flavors that will ever grace your palate. It’s pure magic highlighted by the changing fall Japanese maple leaves and temperatures that are more appropriate for eating rather than the sweat filled days of summer. Autumn is for eating! To take on those extra calories to get you through the winter!
But wait! Autumn is for drinking too! But drinking what? You know! Sake of course! How could our favorite libation not have some form of connection with all of these amazing food flavors? Well I am here to tell you that sake does! Of course it does. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sake makers like to eat! Aha! Bet you didn’t know that! But more than that, folks who make these amazing flavors of the Fall – the chefs – they like what? Sake! Ah! Now you get it. There is a huge tie between the foods of the fall and the sake makers. I would argue that it’s a bigger tie than western fall cuisines and wines. Yes I just said that!
So what type of sake would go well with the flavors of the fall? I am so glad that you asked! The sake industry over the years has indeed created their own fall or autumn released category of sakes called “Hiyaoroshi” or fall draft sakes. We think the name comes from when the temperature drops you should release this sake or Fall Release. Basically the style of sake was already in existence and was referred to as “Nama-zume,” which means a sake that is pasteurized once right after fermentation is complete, and then rested for 6 or 7 months before release. (There is no second pasteurization, which is typical of most sakes available in the US. And this is what differentiates it from a pure nama, or nama-nama, sake which has not been pasteurized at all. So you get words like “Draft” sake when describing Hiyaoroshi sakes.
What is the Hiyaoroshi style? Good question! I will say that they generally reflect the over-riding style or “traits” of an individual brewery. Meaning if a kura is known for making dry sakes, you can be pretty damn sure that their Hiyaoroshi sake will be dry! Likewise most breweries won't leave the reservation as per their flavor profiles. Meaning if a brewery makes light and dry sakes their Hiyaoroshi will not be fruity and bright! But and there is always a but in sake! Some brewers do use this category to try something new – a new rice varietal, a new yeast etc – to expand their horizons, BUT I personally feel that this is the exception and not the norm.
Spring released namas usually have that bright, fruity, zesty and brash quality of real nama-sake. The summer releases have more control and are a little more compact in nature with good body and balance touching on lighter and cleaner flavors. The fall released Hiyaoroshi sakes play in that richer and more bodied realm that feel more solid and confident. And if I may generalize more these specifically built sakes try to capture the rich, savory, and complex flavors of the cuisines of the Japanese Autumn so they may drink a little more rich, savory, and complex.
In speaking to several brewers I have come away with one theme of potential consumer confusion. And maybe it’s our fault as importers, distributors or retailers that the message has been mixed. To a T most of the brewers say the same thing, yes! it is a nama sake (nama-zume), which makes people feel that they must drink it cold, but the brewers prefer that you don’t. They almost always say that they want their consumers to drink their Hiyaoroshi sakes coming into room temperature.
So please come and explore this extremely flavorful category of sakes! We have a record amount of Hiyaoroshi sakes in our inventory from brews that have been released here for the past 8 years to newly released versions. Come find a new favorite! Especially you foodies! Please see our new store arrivals section to read up on a few of these offerings.