True Sake is the brainchild of sake aficionado Beau Timken, a professional sake taster and sake sommelier. His passion for sake and dream of sharing sake with the world started nearly twenty years ago in South Africa.
"When I lived in Cape Town, I met a group of Japanese fishermen who were drinking their own premium sake that they had brought into the local sushi restaurant. In broken English these fisherman explained that the Benihana-style piping hot sake that I was used to consuming was in fact inferior sake. That day represented the official First Day of my passion and obsession for learning all things sake."
Beau Timken with Miho Fujita, President of Mioya Brewery
Our mission at True Sake is to elevate and spread the enjoyment of sake drinking in America. We opened the store to celebrate the art form known as sake, and it is our calling to extol the essence and splendors of real, or "true sake."
We offer American consumers sakes that have never before been available on a retail basis. And our goal is to make sake understandable and accessible to people for every day enjoyment.
We are dedicated to demystifying sake and teaching the proper techniques for sake enjoyment. We hope people will come to love sake as much as we do!
True Sake is the first dedicated sake store outside of Japan, and is also the first sake store in America. Hayes Valley in San Francisco was chosen as the location of True Sake, because we were looking for a mix of customers who were themselves looking for a new libation and unique learning experience. We opened our doors on August 7, 2003, carrying over 90 sakes imported from various prefectures in Japan. We sold six bottles of sake on day one!
The name "True Sake" was chosen because it represents the fact that most Americans have never been exposed to real or true premium sake. We wanted to disarm sake and create a shopping experience that rewarded those who wanted to learn more about this outstanding beverage.
True Sake is a unique shrine for all things sake, and will soon open more venues in the U.S.
The founder of True Sake Beau Timken often jokes that over 300 years ago he worked as a kurabito (sake brewery employee) in a remote village in Japan making superb sake on cold winter mornings. Instead, he was born in Canton, Ohio and didn't taste his first premium ginjo until he was 28-years-old. That, as he says, is his greatest selling point: "If a guy from Ohio can open the first truly dedicated sake store outside of Japan, then anybody can learn to appreciate this wonderful libation."
While living and obtaining an M.B.A in the mid 90's in Cape Town, South Africa, Timken met a group of Japanese fishermen who were drinking their own premium sake that they had brought into the local sushi restaurant. In broken English these fisherman explained that the Benihana-style piping hot sake that Timken was used to consuming was in fact inferior sake. That day represented the official "First Day of my passion and obsession for learning all things sake."
Beau Timken prides himself on being a self-taught sake aficionado. "I read every book and article ever written in English about sake, and then started writing the writers of these pieces," he explained. "They soon discovered that my interest in understanding the essence of sake was almost fanatical, but I could not get enough."
All the while Timken would visit various retail shops and markets in San Francisco's Japan Town to buy sake that as he states, " I knew nothing about." "I would take chance after chance, I would buy bottle after various bottle, trying to disseminate what sake was about." During this time Timken jokes, "I drank a lot of bad sake so that my customers don't have to."
During his exploratory self-taught research Timken started a sake journal that now numbers over 1,000 sakes listed in great detail. As he doesn't read or speak Japanese, Timken relied heavily on his own creativity to break sake down into layman's terms, which when shown to sake masters amazed them in its complexity and sincere understanding.
Having learned all that he could without instruction Timken joined fellow Ohio-native and sake aficionado John Gaunter in Osaka, Japan for an in-depth professional sake tasting course. This trip represented Timken's first time in Japan and, as Beau stated, "My future became abundantly more evident."
It was during this trip to Japan, deep in the warm depths of a koji room in a brewery in Kobe, that Timken realized his destiny. "I knew then that I wanted to open the first sake shrine. school and store outside of Japan."
Two professional sake-tasting licenses and a master sake sommelier license later, Timken opened True Sake in San Francisco on August 7th 2003. "I chose the name True Sake because it represents the fact that most Americans have never been exposed to real or true premium sake," Timken explained. "I then wanted to disarm sake and make a shopping experience that rewarded those who wanted to learn more about this outstanding beverage."
Timken reminds people that they receive little to no education or guidance when shopping in the markets in Japantown, and he points out that liquor stores or wine shops that carry limited sakes also provide little insight into the essence of sake. "I specialize in sake - all things sake - because it is unlike any beverage in the history of alcoholic beverages, and as such it deserves its own temple and place of appreciation."
Along with True Sake, Beau Timken consults to the restaurant and bar industry and does an array of sake tasting events through the store and for private/corporate clients. True Sake hosts a monthly sake tasting and food-pairing event that focuses on the education and enjoyment of sake. Timken has authored a book on sake for Chronicle Books.