November 2010

True Turkey - Ten Fowl Sake Facts & Brews To Choose

Posted by Beau Timken in 2010, Newsletter, November
Turkey Dinner 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!
  • 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."
  • Wild Turkey = "Meleagris Gallopavo"

    Koji Mold = "Aspergillus Oryzae" (The special brewer's mold that is the engine of converting a starch to a glucose.)
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • Toji 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 brand name (Yumadono).
  • 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.
  • 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.
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?

What about some specific sakes that work well with Turkey? And why do they work?

This comes from a piece I wrote in year's past:

"I look for a robust acidity when I pair with meat, game or fowl. Add to that butter and other mouth filling flavors I like sakes that have some staying power in terms of flavor. I select fatter sakes that fill the mouth, rather than the light clean ones that fire right through the palate. Think meaty sakes for meaty flavors, and also use a larger glass than usual to mix up that acidity. Go with your big reds glasses, and don't worry about the next day big reds hangovers."
Here is a quick hit list of sakes that will go very well with your bird!
  • Kiminoi Yamahai Ginjo
  • Kamoizumi Junmai Daiginjo
  • Tomio Genzo Junmai Daiginjo
  • Tengumai Yamahai Junmai
  • Chikurin Fukamari Junmai
  • Shirakabe Gura Kimoto Junmai
  • Mukune Junmai Ginjo
  • Hiraizumi Yamahai Junmai
  • Kikuhime Yamahai Junmai
  • Taiheizan Kimoto Junmai
  • Tenzan Junmai Genshu"
  • Narutotai Nama Ginjo Genshu
  • Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Ginjo
  • Born Muroka Junmai Daiginjo Nama Genshu
  • Tsukasabotan Junmai Daiginjo Shizuku
  • Wakatake Junmai Genshu

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