Sake Independence - The Good Fight
It has been said that sake is the national beverage of Japan. You will get no argument from me for this claim. Knowing as much about the history of the rice culture and the great lengths that the government has become intertwined with the sake industry I find it quite easy to say that yes this beverage represents a people and a distinct way of life. Sake is Japan and Japan is sake. Well as much as wine is France and Beer is Germany.
I would argue however that this was much more the case before the war when Japan was an isolated island nation. With the opening of commerce into Japan wine and spirits became hugely popular, as many of the younger generation wanted or longed to be like other people of the world. Why drink your father's drink? Why drink sake when you could sip a California Chardonnay or Irish whiskey? Booze became an affordable means for "escapism." As such sake lost its stranglehold on the "identity" of a nation via an alcohol. And to this day it has not captured the enthusiasm of the younger generation to fuel its future success.
Now when sake hit our shores it was an amazing thing! A hot booze, how novel. You will have to read my book (coming out in Spring 2006) to get my take on this libation with no education that jumped into the spotlight. Suffice it to say though we embraced this beverage with a zest that has not been seen in Japan for decades. Sake was so darn unique. Of course we were not drinking it in the best fashion ? super heated butane, but we enjoyed the "newness" of it.
As more and more sake awareness takes hold in the US and abroad, consumers are quite surprised and delighted to know that sake is quite a different beast than the jet-fuel served at lava temperatures of days past. Sake is more complex and dare I say more wine-like than the perceived hard alcohol misconception. And herein lies a potential problem. The brewers of sake today have embraced this "wine-like" quality to a certain extent. They are making sake with more wine-like qualities, they are marketing sake with more wine-like terminologies, and they are encouraging the sale and consumption of sake in a wine- like manner. In a word they are trying to align sake with wine in many cases.
(Loud thunderous music, cymbals crashing, drums pounding, trumpets blaring ? and the image of people throwing British tea over the side of sailing vessels in Boston) To the brewers of sake that I have consulted to, to my friends who are brewers, and to those in the sake industry across the board I say REVOLT! I say strike up our INDEPENDENCE. Sake is sake! It is not wine. It is not one of the 4,000 wine labels that Americans have a choice of buying. Sake is unique, and we should keep it that way. The fact that sake is different is the differentiator that is so beautiful. Thus think in terms of SAKE INDEPENDENCE. Independent of all that wine out there, all that beer, and of course all that booze. Keep wine over there, beer over there, spirits over there and sake here away from them; keep sake on its own ? independent.