November 2011

Sake CSI - Drinking Sake Clues!

Posted by Beau Timken in 2011, Newsletter, November
So you are bored with your brews. You are in a sake rut! You keep drinking the same 'ol same 'ol. When you come to the store or order at a restaurant you keep within your comfort zone by ordering the exact same sakes that you feel comfortable with - rightfully so! In a word you are playing it sake safe! Boring!!

To break many out of your sake solitude and to give others a little sake direction I have decided to create some sake sets that would appeal to those who like solving crimes ala CSI or any other of the 6,432 crime based TV shows out there.

Put your lab coat on and start drinking to discover the "reason," "methodology," "point" of why sakes are made the way that they are, because again as I say quite often a brewer makes a sake taste that way for a reason. Time for you to be the reason hunter. Solve the mystery on these four sets of sakes. Taste them and look for the pattern, try to figure out why they drink the way they do as they were made in similar fashion to achieve what ends? The entire SPF - Sake Police Force - is counting on you to solve these, ummmmm "cold cases" (Get it?)

Think of each set as an unsolved crime. Each set has at least one "major" common component, but that's where it ends. I will give you the first major clue and it is up to you to solve the rest. Your training has been superb. You are a sake sleuth. Now it is time for you to put your sake skills to use for the betterment of sake kind! Good luck!

SET #1 - The Yamahai Crime Scene Set

CLUE: Each of these three sakes is made using the traditional "Yamahai" method - a longer fermentation process that is an attempt to promote more lactic acid naturally including the acceptance of open airborne yeast.
  1. Tengumai Yamahai Junmai
  2. Narutotai Yamahai Junmai Ginjo Genshu
  3. Masumi Nanago Yamahai Daiginjo
Typically Yamahai sakes drink with a more "gamey" or robust personality that some call yeasty or rich. Look for elevated acidity levels as well. This set has one brew from each of the main sake categories.

SET #2 - The Kimoto Killing Set

CLUE: Each of these three sakes is made using the traditional and very laborious "Kimoto" method - a very arduous (if done in its historical process) brewing technique that used/uses polls with paddles at the end to smash fermented rice into a pulp to create more lactic acid which aids in the fermentation process. What the brewers didn't realize is that you need not ram the polls to achieve the end result as was soon discovered by the advent of the "Yamahai" technique.
  1. Shirakabe Gura Kimoto Junmai
  2. Daishichi Kimoto Junmai Ginjo
  3. Taihezan "Tenko" Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo
Typically - similar to Yamahai - Kimoto sakes drink with a layer of richness that some claim to be a smoothness. There is often a higher acidity level as well, but the overall feeling of the sake is different than non-kimoto sakes. This set has one Kimoto from each of the three major sake categories.

SET #3 - The Serial Sake Killer Set

CLUE: Each of these three sakes is made in an extremely unique fashion, which is different than 99.9% of the sakes out there. Every brewer has techniques or styles of brewing that have been handed down through the ages, but when you constantly make sake the same way, perhaps one gets bored. Or more particularly if a brewer wants to make a sake taste a certain way that does not use a conformists way of making sake then they must go "rogue" or go a different route. These three sakes are all made by going a different route!
  1. Sawanoi Kiyoke Kimoto Junmai
  2. Chikurin "Karoyaka" Junmai Ginjo
  3. Kura Kabuto Muroka Junmai Daiginjo
The Sawanoi is made using a technique/method of fermenting in wood called Kiyoke. Typically all sakes are made using stainless steal or enamel tanks for the fermentation process, as this secures far more control while fermenting. Brewing in wood is far more tricky as you lose this control and it takes far more effort to achieve a consistency. The Chikurin is made using a blended technique the owner feels gives his sake more balance and richness. He makes a fresh batch of sake and then blends it with a portion of sake that has been resting for a year. The Kura Kabuto is made using a very unique brewing mold. Typically sake is made using a yellow mold called Aspergillus oryzae, but this sake is made using a black koji that is used in making Shochu. Each brew is from one of the three different major sake categories. Why did these brewers make these sakes this way?

SET #4 - The "Unsolved" Sake Set

CLUE: Each of these sakes are "bizarre" in sake terminology. The brewers envisioned the sakes to taste radically different than typical sake and they do. There are secret techniques in action here and the makers do not necessarily like telling the world these tricks. But each sake is vastly different than any sake that you have ever tasted.
  1. Otokoyama Fukkoshu Junmai Genshu
  2. Kamoshibito Kuheiji Junmai Ginjo
  3. Born Muroka Nama Daiginjo Genshu
Firstly it can be said that each of these sakes would appeal to the sake connoisseur in you. The Otokoyama is an extremely sweet and rich sake that is made in a way to subdue the sweetness while using a very high acidity level. The Kuheiji is almost an effervescent sake, but it is not carbonated. Or is it? Many brewers in the industry claim that their technique must involve a mild carbonation, something the brewery drastically denies! Lastly the Born is made in a way to bring out and exhort the nebulous flavor called "Umami." It is so umami-rich that there is a sticker on the label that says this. Why do these sakes drink this way?

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