One indicator of the increasing interest in Saké in our country is the growth of the number of all-Saké stores. For such niche stores to thrive, there must be a sufficient and ever increasing number of Saké drinkers. Within the last seven years, at least four such stores have opened, in San Francisco, New York City, Seattle and Hawaii. I am sure more will sprout up in the near future too.
True Saké, located in the Hayes Valley in San Francisco, was the first, having opened in August 2003. Located on Hayes Street, the store is surrounded by various boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, making the area a nice place to while away an afternoon. Beau Timken, the shop owner, is extremely knowledgeable about Saké, as well as having a deep passion for this brew. Beau was previously kind enough to participate in Wine Blogging Wednesday #59, where I chose the theme of Saké, and he provided a review of the Kikuhime Dai Ginjo.
I first visited his store about five years ago and was very excited to find a store that carried so much Saké. But as I live across the country, it was not a convenient place for me to shop, especially as they could not ship to Massachusetts. So when I returned to San Francisco, I knew I had to visit once again, curious as to what changes might have occurred over time. Plus, I wanted to buy some intriguing Sakés.
The store is essentially the same size, but it carries even more Sakés now, easily over 200. It looks hip and eclectic, and a potent lure to any Saké lover. There is so much to admire, so many different styles and types of Saké, including some that are exclusive to the store, not available anywhere else in the U.S. It is almost overwhelming to have so many choices, especially considering how many look so intriguing to me. As you can see in the photo above, they also carry a selection of Saké books for your edification.
Many of the bottles have an attached card that provides a description of the Saké, some useful information on its flavor profile and other relevant details. That helps make your shopping much easier. If you have any questions, any of the staff will be more than willing and able to field your questions and offer some suggestions.
This photo does not do justice to this display, which showcases various Sakés.
They carry several different sized bottles, from the 300ml to the 1.8 liter bottles. Above, you can see their selection of those large format bottles, more than I have ever seen at any other store. These are a great size for a party or large dinner.
Their refrigerated cases store Namazake and other Sakés so that you can always find a chilled bottle if you desire.
Even the center of the store has a table with dozens of Sakés. Despite everything, the store still does not seem claustrophobic. At least to me, I love being surrounded by so many delightful liquids. I could easily while away a couple hours persuing the shelves, trying to decide which brew to buy. Prices are good, better than a number of other stores I have visited, and they often have special prices on some Sakés.
You'll also find plenty of glassware, masu, ochoko and tokkuri. If you are new to Saké, and want some more traditional looking glasses, you will find them here.
I purchased a few bottles, though not as many as I would have liked. There were so many bottles which appealed to me, and which I wanted to buy. But, it would have been too difficult to carry a case of Saké in my suitcase, especially as I was not going directly home after San Francisco. So it was with much regret that I left the store with only a few bottles.
The store holds frequent tastings and other special events, plus they have a killer newsletter which you should sign up for, no matter where you live. The newsletter provides plenty of interesting information about Saké, and not just about what the store sells. Their website also has an archive of past issues of the newsletter.
I cannot recommend enough that if you are in the San Francisco area, you should stop here. It has everything a Saké lover could desire. You will be hard pressed to find a better and more diverse selection. With their knowledgeable staff, I am sure they can find a Saké to appeal to everyone, even people who think they dislike Saké.
Kudos to Beau for creating such a wondrous Saké oasis.
560 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 355-9555