Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sake News: Sudo Honke to a New Sake Blog

1) What was happening in the world in 1141 A.D.? That is more than 860 years in the past and much of what existed then remains now only in ruins. But, at least one company still exists, a Sake brewery, Sudo Honke, that has seen 55 generations during all of those centuries. Established in 1141, Sudo Honke is the oldest, continuous existing, sake brewery in Japan. Such a great sense of history. But it nearly ended its lengthy reign recently due to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Fortunately, it weathered that adversity and is ready to forge ahead to continue its rich, vibrant history.

The Japan Times published an excellent article about this brewery and its recent challenges. Genuemon Sudo, the current president of the brewery, has much of importance to say, including: "Focusing on preserving nature is crucial to making a truly fine sake, and that is what matters the most. (The key to longevity) isn't about creating a popular brand or selling more products." Wise words that apply to far more than just Sake. I hope that the brewery continues producing sake for many more years to come.

2) DNAinfo has an interesting article about how Sake is making significant inroads in New York City. New Yorkers are desirous of learning more about Sake, and have been filling the seats in local introductory Sake classes. The article contains some basic information about Sake too, though not all of it is fully accurate. For example, it states that nigori is unfiltered, implying it does not undergo charcoal filtering, which is completely inaccurate. True unfiltered sake is called muroka, not nigori. Nigori is created through a special pressing process where some of the sake lees pass through mesh holes and enter the sake. Nigori is usually charcoal filtered, and if it were not, it would also state muroka on the label.

In addition, modern rice polishing equipment can reduce rice down lower than the 35% stated in the article. For example, Dassai makes a Sake where the rice has been polished down to 23% and there is at least one other sake brewery that has polished the rice down to 9% of its original size. There is probably a limit to how much polishing actually affects the Sake, as some of that great polishing may actually be removing valuable starches.

3) In Seattle Weekly, there is a discussion with Marcus Pakiser, Sake sommelier for Young's Columbia Distributing Co., about the Sake scene in Seattle as well as Sake in general. I had the pleasure to meet Marcus, and share some Sake with him, on my last trip to Portland. He is very knowledgeable and passionate about Sake, a great advocate for this compelling beverage. The Sake scene in Seattle is weak, and education is severely lacking, which is a common problem in many areas across the country.

Marcus has contributed greatly to Portland becoming a Sake mecca. "But it's only in Portland, which leads the nation in per capita sake consumption, where non-Japanese restaurants offer sake flights and regularly serve the beverage with food that's not remotely Asian." The country needs more Sake evangelists like Marcus.

4) My friend Gordon Heady, a Sake aficionado who is now living in Japan, has started a new Sake blog. Though he just started writing in September, you should put it on your radar to learn more about Sake. You can read articles like Ginjo vs Junmai: Don't Fall Prey To Polish Bigotry! or Eleven Fun Facts About Sake. Gordon will be working in a Sake brewery soon so his insights should be invaluable. There certainly are not enough Sake blogs out there so I am very pleased that Gordon seized the reins and chose to take that route. Kanpai!

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