Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sake News

Kanpai! Here is another short list of some of the interesting Sake articles that have been published lately. It is great to see more and more coverage for Sake, though I recommend that anyone seeking to publish a Sake article check it at least a few times for accuracy. A few basic errors continue showing up in introductory Sake articles, and those errors would be easy to eliminate if you had a knowledgeable Sake person check your facts. Let us also hope that we see more than just introductory Sake articles in the future. Sake has many depths and all those varied facets make great material for articles.

1) Women saving Sake? In The Miracle Of Feeding Cities, Makiko Segawa wrote an article, Sake Revolution, Part 1 which goes into detail about the role of women in the Sake industry as well as consumers. Traditionally, Sake was seen as a man's drink, and women were prohibited from working in Sake breweries. However, that has been changing and women have become important in all aspects of Sake. For example, there is a life-style magazine, Bacchante, for female Sake brewers. In Tokyo during the last three years, over 100 Sake bars have opened and 70% of their customers are now young women. Only 1% of Sake brewers are currently women, but hopefully that will continue to change and the numbers of women involved in brewing will grow. Sake is not just a man's drink.

2) Hot or cold Sake? In general, premium Sake should be drank slightly chilled. However, there are plenty of exceptions and understanding the reality is not always easy. In Harpers UK, Anna Greenhous goes into detail about serving Sake at different temperatures. Personal preference plays its role in this matter, but there are also valid reasons why certain Sakes are better served at certain temperatures. The idea is to enhance their flavor profiles and sometimes being chilled does that while other times, heating it may do that. Anna also provides advice on how to properly heat Sake as well as a few of her own personal recommendations of Sakes to taste at different temperatures.

3) Ancient rice strains? In the Journal Gazette, Aya Takada wrote an article, Sake Boom Revives Vintage Rice Strains.There are around 100 different types of Sake rice, and farmers now are trying to bring back some older, almost forgotten rice strains to create new Sake. As Japan attempts to boost exports of food items, like Sake, there is an increased need for rice growers, and some are resurrecting these vintage strains. Yamadanishiki, a vintage strain that has long been considered the king of Sake rice, has seen an increase in production too, which bodes well for the future of the Sake industry.

4) Want more information on the 2014 Sake Awards? The National Research Institute of Brewing has received a short report in English on the recent 2014 Sake Awards, the 102nd year of those awards. The report mentions the entry process, which comes with a fee roughly equivalent to $158, and each "manufacturer" is limited to a single entry. There were 845 entries that underwent five days of blind tasting judging. 442 entries received prizes, with 233 receiving Gold awards. The most lengthy section of the report is the Comments on the Quality of Entries This Year. That section discusses the weather during the rice growing season, as well as the brewing season. It also mentions the general quality levels of the Sakes they tasted. Very interesting, and for more info on these awards, check out my previous article on Sake Competitions.

5) Sake rice grown in the U.S.? In the Arkansas Times, David Ramsey discusses how an Arkansas farmer is growing Sake rice and it could be a game changer for Sake producers in the U.S. Currently, Calrose, which is not a Sake rice, is used by most U.S. Sake producers. Though Calrose has an intriguing pedigree, some claim that because it is not a Sake rice, then its Sake cannot be as good as Japanese Sake. But what will happen when Sake rice, grow in the U.S. becomes available? At Isbell Farms in Arkansas, they have started growing Yamada Nishiki rice, and at least one Japanese btewery has already used some of the rice to brew some delicious Sake. The article discusses the history of the farm, and how it got involved growing Japanese rice. The farm is cultivating at least a couple other Sake rices too. None of these Sake rices are yet available to U.S. Sake producers, but it sets a precedent that Sake rice can be grown in the U.S. That could be the next revolution in U.S. produced Sake.

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