November 2013

Sake Warriors – What Can You Do To Better The Sake Industry?

Posted by Beau Timken in 2013, Newsletter, November
Sake Warrior 1 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.

Sake Warrior 2 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.

Dake Warrior 3 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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