November 2013

Sake Season – Thanks-Giving Sake

Posted by Beau Timken in 2013, Newsletter, November, Sake Seasons
Turkey Dinner 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.

Toji 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

True Sake Delivery So there you have it! Some seriously goofy Turkey and sake facts. (Thanks to 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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