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"Ask Beau" November 2006

Alas the "Ask Beau" email address produced a question about sake, amidst the 1247 spam emails. (The person who gave this address to the spammers will undoubtedly go to a burning grave filled with scorching hot shochu.)

Thus amongst the "How to lose 20 pounds in 30 minutes" and "How to have a sexual experience like a race horse" came a question from Trevor D from Austin, Texas who wrote:

"Is it me or does sake seem really expensive?"

Beau Timken

Trevor of course it's you! That's the short answer. The long answer is that you sound like Charles Manson who once asked "Is it hot in here or am I just crazy?" Have I tried to deflect the question enough? Yes the answer is yes! Well sort of! Firstly I would like to state for the record that restaurants don't do anything to shatter this notion, as they are the worst at pricing sake affordably. Restaurants will typically pour sake less than a wine pour and charge more for the lighter pour. Thus what the market gets is a 3oz pour (2oz less than a typical wine pour) for what seems like much more than a full wine pour. Case in point is a Peruvian restaurant in SF that pours sake to pair with their ceveche. These guys use a tall shot glass (2oz) and charge $10 for a Junmai of average quality. A total rip-off! In this light Trevor you are indeed correct!

I sell sakes in my store - on the whole - for about 20% more than you can purchase these brews in Japan. That said, some sakes from certain importers who use certain distributors cost almost 50% more on my shelves than the exact same sakes in Japan. It is true, we don't have many "Two Buck Chucks" in the imported sake world. This is not the case for sakes made in the US, which can be very affordable. The perception is that sake is really expensive, but these views may change when we get more and more sakes coming on line into the US. As of last year there were about 500 registered sakes brought into the States, and this number will double by the end of next year. The more sakes available the better the pricing to the customers, as market forces will come much more into play.

Sake is as pricey as most other imported fermented beverages. The problem rests with the fact that there are thousands of wines to compete at lower price points and we still only have a limited number of brews available to the sake consumers. The good news is that sake is perishable so we will never have outlandish pricing that is supposed to reflect the fact that you could lay bottles down for aging like the very popular Bordeaux market. All in all, sake is about on par with other sauces, but it has the best potential for price reductions in the future.

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2 @ (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All correspondence should use info @

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