Wednesday, January 14, 2015
1) Scottish Sake? Last April 2014, I mentioned that Arran Brewery, a Scottish beer brewery located on the isle of Arran had purchased land in Dreghorn, planning to construct a Sake brewery. They had already been brewing a tiny amount of Sake but now wanted to take it to a commercial scale. BBC News is now reporting that Arran's plans have now been approved and they can move forward with their Sake brewery.
Curiously, Arran plans to export most of their Sake to Japan, partially thinking that the popularity of Scotch whiskey in Japan will extend to Scottish Sake too. As Sake consumption in Japan has been decreasing over the years, maybe it isn't the best market for Scottish Sake. Sure, there would be the novelty of the Sake at first, but could it hope to compete with all of the domestically produced Sake? That seems doubtful. Arran Brewery might be better served trying to primarily sell to the European market, or even the U.S. market. They could then export a smaller portion to Japan and see how well it does there before committing a larger portion of their production.
2) The Asahi Shimbun discusses the Terada Honke brewery, a small Sake kura, which produces Sake which is unlike much that is on the market. Masaru Terada, the 24th generation owner of the brewery, is trying to emulate Sake brewing methods from the Edo Period (1603-1868), such as the kimoto method. His father-in-law, Keisuke Terada, had been the first to institute similar changes to the brewery, creating their signature Sake, Gonin-musume ("five daughters"), which is produced from locally grown rice free without any agricultural chemicals.Terada's Sake is "cloudy, full of body, fungal not fruity and decidedly more sour than sweet." It is not a clean and refined Sake that many prefer. Though they had some difficulties at first selling their Sake, they now can't make enough of it. Some Sake lovers are seeking out Sake that goes beyond the norm, something more unusual and distinctive. Such diversity should be embraced.
3) Sake cocktails? The Japan Times claims that Sake cocktails are leading to more Sake converts. Some Japanese bars and tasting events are trying to use Sake cocktails to appeal to young people and women. However, the article is short on statistics or evidence showing that these cocktails are leading to greater Sake consumption. Food & Wine magazine recently noted that a mixologist in New York City has been making hot Sake cocktails, both savory and sweet. It seems clear that Sake cocktails are popular, and getting even more prevalent, and I encourage the trend. The bigger question though is whether these cocktails will lead to more consumption of Sake on its own.
Sherry consumption in the U.S. had been very low, and most of that consumption was of sweet Sherries. Recently though, there has been a boom in Sherry cocktails which has revived interest in Sherry, including plenty of media coverage about Sherry. It has apparently led to at least a small boost in Sherry consumption on its own, and hopefully that will continue in the near future. This example should give some hope that Sake cocktails will boost Sake consumption.
4) Rice tech? Tech In Asia has reported on the efforts of the Asahi Shuzo, which produces the well known Dassai Sake,brand, to help farmers grow more Sake rice, primarily Yamada Nishiki, considered by some to be the best rice for Sake/.There is currently not enough rice available to meet the demand, so Asahi teamed up with Fujitsu, an electronics firm, to create Akisai, a service to collect information on rice growing practices and techniques, to benefit growers all across Japan. By collecting data from existing farmers, they hope to discover the best ways to cultivate Yamada Nishiki and provide that info to future growers. It is still a new project, but already has garnered lots of attention. It sounds like a great idea to me, and hopefully will benefit rice many growers and lead to the creation of better Sake.
5) Princess Gingko Sake? The Asahi Shimbun wrote about a new endeavor between the Aichi Center for Industry and Science Technology’s Food Research Center and the Naito Jozo Sake brewery to create a Sake usin local ginkgo flower yeast. Inazawa is the largest ginkgo nut producing city in Japan. The Sake, named Prrincess Gingko, is a Junmai that uses ginkgo flower yeast and white koji. The rice is Aichi no Kaori, the prefecture’s signature rice, and it is polished down to 60%, which technically would qualify it as a Ginjo. This new Sake is supposed to have a "mellow, fresh acidic flavor" and be "on the sweeter side." It is also lower in alcohol, and should be available in Japan in the spring. The article doesn't mention whether any will be exported or not.