December 2010

Ask Beau - "Did you live up to your 2010 New Years Sake Resolutions?"

Posted by Beau Timken in 2010, Ask Beau, December, Newsletter
Beau Timken Ha! You people are good! And I guess you do read the Newsletter. Last year I made up some pretty serious Sake Resolutions, and I received a lot of feedback, especially from my peers within the industry. It resonated with many, and I never really did a follow-up. So thank you David G from Washington for calling me out.

I guess the best way to do this is to reprint the article and add where applicable, and it is up to you to judge me. So did I live up to my resolutions?

Herewith are my 2010 Sake Resolutions in no particular order.
  1. I resolve to try different categories!

    Yup - I'm in a Junmai rut. That's all I drink on "my sake time." I guess it's time that I branch out personally and consume some Daiginjos - sparkling sakes - hell maybe it's even time to get into some Nigoris.

    FAIL! Nope I really didn't drink other categories with consistency. I hung out in my Junmai comfort zone. Sparkling brews? Hmmm I cannot even remember drinking sparkling sakes this year that were not for work. I drink a little more Nama this year as opposed to last, but as far as hunkering down in new zones - Koshu, Kijoshu, Daiginjo, and Taru - I did not find a new comfort sake category.
  2. I resolve to bring more sake out to gatherings!

    Yes, I am very aware of the fact that people call me "that sake dude" and that I am totally associated with sake. In as much there is almost an expectation that I attend events with sake filling my pockets! "Did you bring sake for us sake guy?" "Where's the sake?" "What did you bring?" This has been occurring for years and I sort of rebelled against it. "Nope! I didn't bring sake, but I did bring this incredible "Spicy Eggnog" "Naw- no sake tonight, but I did find the most unusual bottle of blueberry wine." Well, I guess the time has come that I start bringing sake to events - no more dodging who and what I am - no more pineapple infused apple brandy.

    SUCCESS! I was back on the "sake-to-parties" bandwagon and by the looks of it people were quite pleased. When I went to wine gatherings I brought some "wine-like" brews, and when I went to "beer bashes" I brought some "beer-like" brews. My favorite was a party that I went to in Wyoming where the major demographic was filled with boots, spurs, and cowboy hats. It was a wrangler's party and I brought some really dry and ricey sakes. In a word the cowboys loved sake! Why? Well one "dude" said that he didn't like wine because it was too fruity - even dry wine. But sake drank more like beer to him. That was cool!
  3. I resolve to try sakes that I have not had in a long time!

    There is so much sake out there that I have lost a lot of sake friends. With such an assortment of brews on the market I find that I keep trying the new sakes - at the expense of sakes that I used to really like. Take Rihaku for example. I have not had the Wandering Poet in a very long time. I miss the Poet! I tried it the other day and said to myself "You knucklehead - don't forget your friends!"

    FAIL! Dangnabit! Yes indeed, that first statement rings very true - "There is so much sake out there..." I will be honest. I cannot keep up! I simply cannot keep up. There is so much sake out there that I have to continually try to stay ahead of the Jones's and those folks drink! This is the first year in my non-illustrious career where I can say with sincerity that I cannot stay up to date on all the brews out there. This is a great thing, but I feel a little ashamed for not being "on it." So in a word, I have not had time to go back to some of the brews in my past, and renew some friendships. That said, many of the brews that I wanted to visit now have sister or brother products from the same brewery - it's crazy!
  4. I resolve to re-try sakes that I remember not liking!

    This is huge! El Snob Boy has access to so many sakes that he scoffs at brews that he once tasted and did not care for. How shallow is that? It's time to taste some brews that need a second chance. We all need a second chance some time and so too do sakes. Perhaps my palate has changed and maybe I will enjoy some of these brews that I relegated to the Island of Misfit Sakes.

    SUCCESS! Oddly enough after what you just read above, I did get the chance to taste some brews that I placed in that horrible category of "Not My Cup Of Tea." It's funny, when I taste sake in front of makers or owners of brewers I feel compelled to say that I like sakes that I don't really care for. In a sense it's like saying I do not like your children. Your kids suck! Seriously, your children are scum and I wouldn't clean my toilet with your efforts. So you learn to move laterally with your harsh criticism - "Oh this sake would appeal so much to those who like really bitter dark as the night chocolate." Or "Wow, there is a group of sake drinkers out there who love that really long - dragon-like - tail." Or "Yes, this is sake drinker's sake where you can really taste the alcohol, this isn't about fruity, this is about booze all the way." I have actually said it once "It's very solid, but it is not my cup of tea." It took roughly three days of translation for the "effect" to be comprehended by my host. (First words were "sake is not supposed to be tea.") Oh and lastly, 8 out of the 10 brews that I did not like, I still didn't like! Is it me? (Thinking about that Charlie Manson joke where he says: Is it hot in here or am I crazy?)
  5. I resolve to not just drink sake!

    As a professional I must dissect every sake that passes my lips. It is a certainty that I cannot run from. Well - I tried my best recently to do just that - to run from dissecting sakes. So I just opened bottles - did not smell - and just drank the brews. I tried my best to just drink for pleasure's sake. No thinking drinking. How boring is this? Sure it is mindless - like TV in my mouth, but boring nevertheless. It's time to get back into the dissecting business and to really comprehend the brews at hand. I need to refocus on pulling a part the components - try to find the water, try to taste the rice varietal, see if I can pull the yeasts. I need to refocus on the elements!

    FAIL! Damn this one hurts. Maybe I am "overtasted"! Maybe I have been around the block too many times. Maybe - just maybe - I have gone Wilt Chamberlain on my own personal sake tasting experiences. (From Wikipedia: He was a lifelong bachelor and became notorious for his claim to have had sex with 20,000 women, a statement which has entered popular culture.") I have seen behind Oz's curtain, I have seen the ins and outs, I have seen the emperor's clothes, and I have seen the un-seen, and perhaps I became a little bored in 2010. "I Just Drank Sake" this year. Of course I did a lot of "this year vs. last year" tastings. Of course I did a lot of "new brew reviews." But on my time - end of the day stuff - the fascination station was muted, and I simply drank sake for enjoyment rather than for the "how, what and why's?"
  6. I resolve to give more feedback to the brewers, importers, and distributors!

    The hardest thing to do in the sake business is to honestly comment on the brews themselves to their makers. "Your sake sucks!" "Man the balance is all out of whack." "I wouldn't even cook with that crap" "Tastes like weasel wiz." "Did your children make this?" "Did your grandfather bathe in the brewing vat?" "Your toji has the skills of a hot dog vendor." "Are you sure this is sake?" "This is great, great for cleaning open wounds" Yes I have had some not really good sake in my day. In fact my motto is "I drank a lot of bad sake so you don't have to." But never in all this time did I utter the above descriptions. Not once! (Well maybe the one about the grandfather cleaning himself in the brewing vat.) Because it's just not done! Every sake is made with so much love and devotion that it's almost an insult to say something negative. We have mastered the "dance" or the way to dance around an honest answer. "Yes, I like this sake it has such a complexity to it - such a how do you say it - opulence and elegance." Yup! From "weasel wiz" to "complexity" just like that! But this is a disservice at the end of the day - if as a professional I can find faults or imbalances then I should perhaps pass this opinion on without it being read as an insult.

    FAIL! (Please refer to #4's failure!) Sometimes I feel like throwing my arms up to the heavens, falling to my knees and wailing "I'm just an end user, man!" (With a twinge of the Big Lebowski's voice.) It hurts. It simply hurts! Brewer's ask. Owner's of breweries ask. Exporters ask. Importers ask. Distributors ask. Dying mothers of importers ask. "Do you like this sake?" The actual son of the dying mother will be there and he will give me that "go ahead and just say the truth, say what you feel, she will understand" look. "NO, it's rat piss!" "It has the balance of a one-legged tight-rope walker who has a ferret gnawing at his balls while attempting to cross between two skyscrapers in a hurricane." Doooooooooooooooot - the sound of the cardiac machine flat-lining. "MOM, dude why did you say that? Couldn't you just say something like it's not your cup of tea?"
  7. I resolve to update my notes!

    This is a big problem. There are times when I review a brew, but don't have my special books. Thus I have a lot of reviews on napkins, pieces of paper and on the back of labels. These need to be written in the book! But they are piling up. The longer I wait the longer it will take to catch up. I must get on this before the point of no return.

    SUCCESS! As of the "release" of this newsletter I am proud to say that I am current! And thanks to the help of my three North Korean exchange students I should be on top of things for some time now. On a serious note, I should have created an iApp for this by now - actually had a good person working on it - but for the simple fact that I have not had AT&T cell service in my store in the middle of a major US city for the past 8 years I decided to just simply use three North Koreans. (P.S. if you out of towners want to see my window display protest to this pathetic cell-scenario check out this link or google it - many folks have shared their thoughts about this artistic form of "responsible rage release."
  8. I resolve to do more sake experiments!

    Being "too busy" is not a good excuse for not playing around with sake. My passion and lust to learn is quenched by my unique and weird sake experiments that I/we conduct to test the limits and boundaries of sake. I am very proud of our ability to shatter or confirm pre-conceived industry truisms about sake that are actually false. There is only one way to explore sake and that is to explore sake. I need to conduct a new batch of sake experiments to see what we haven't seen in sake before.

    FAIL! Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh! This one kills me most of all. Et tu, Brute? Crap! And double Crap! I cannot use "no time" as an excuse. Where there is a will, there is a way! What really hurts is that I get emails from brewers, shopkeepers, and journalists in Japan asking, "what's the next experiment?" Not that I need to drag my team into it, but let it be known that I did send out an email to the entire squad with three different experiment recommendations and asked for their thoughts. They have yet to respond, but be it as it may, the juice has to come from me, and I have failed to live up to test the wonders of sake, to challenge the beast known as water and rice, to push the envelope! As Arnold the failed politician from the future would say, "I'll be back."
  9. I resolve to learn more about the new sakes on the market!

    Yes, in a word there are a ton of brews out there with more on the way. I have access to a majority of the sakes, but there are a lot of new brews that I have no idea about. That's not good. I need to keep pursuing all sakes - however or wherever that takes me. It's incredibly important to stay current, and it's very much a bummer when somebody comes in and says to you have "so-n-so Daiginjo?" and I reply that it is not exported to the US. To which they reply "yes it is - I had it last night at so-n-so sushi" Doh! Not cool when we don't know what's out there.

    SUCCESS! We broke our butts this year to stay on top of all things imported. And thanks to Miwa and Co. we corralled all of those little doggies. Like wranglers on the range we brought in the majority of the new brews and broke them good! Okay, that sounded weird. Basically we accumulated all of the new sake arrivals - well at least the vast majority - and really had a good shot at them. In biz terms many of the major importers started to weed out the weaklings in their portfolios and are replacing them with new breweries. But because of the yen! That damn yen! They are bringing far fewer labels over than years' past.
  10. I resolve to drink each sake like it is my first!

    I have a professional pallet - and I forget that. My basis for tasting sake is meteoric - and I forget that. I have tasted so many sakes - and I forget that. I will taste a sake and each sip is compared too/against every sip of sake that I have ever tasted. I wish sometimes that I am tasting sake for the first time - again. Can I re-virgin my pallet? Nope! Can a get pallet reconstruction surgery? Nope! But I can try to focus on drinking each sake from a "first timer's" perspective.

    SUCCESS! I have learned to drink sake from my ear. I literally pour sake down my ear hole and wait for it to blast threw my sinuses and toggle through the back of my throat. I am drinking each sake like a virgin again. Every brew is a new adventure, especially the nigoris! Who needs pallet reconstruction when we have so many orifices? If you thought snorting tequila was a way to bliss, wait until you pour hot sake down your ear hole - hello heaven!
I guess in conclusion one could say that I suck at making New Year's Resolution involving sake. That said I crushed my Resolution to stop wearing my two beer can helmet with straws to the symphony.

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 other correspondence should use info @

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