Wednesday, September 2, 2015

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)  Sake surge in Singapore. The Straits Times has a lengthy article, Sake: Going With The Grain, with plenty of basic educational info about Sake types, brewing, and food pairings suggestions. In addition, the article reports on how Sake has become very popular in Singapore, making it the biggest market for Sake in Southeast Asia. However, it is still a young market and more Sake education is needed to inform consumers about Sake varieties, pairings and more. Within the past year, 18 Sake bars and restaurants have opened in Singapore and the article provides specific information for several of these new spots. As an aside, the article also discusses how Sake popularity in Japan has been growing, especially with young people and women, much of it due to increased media attention. It is always good to hear of Sake's growing popularity.

2) Sake, an offering to the gods. The Asahi Shimbun has an intriguing article on the revival of a traditional Ainu Sake. The Ainu Museum partnered with the Tanaka Sake Brewery, which is located in Otaru, a port city in Hokkaido, to recreate Tonoto, a traditional Sake of the Ainu. This unrefined Sake was named Kamuy Tonoto, "divine sake" though I have seen other sources which translate "tonoto" as "official milk." It is brewed with Japanese millet and rice koji, has about a 10% ABV, and tastes both sweet and sour. Masahiro Nomoto, director of the museum, says, “For the Ainu people, tonoto is not only traditional sake but also a crucial offering to gods and ancestors.” In a future article, I will be writing more about the Ainu and Sake consumption.

3) Sake, inspired by a sword. The Asahi Shimbun wrote about the Tuzyun Shuzo Co., a Sake brewery which was established in 1770 in the Kumamoto Prefecture. They have created a new Sake, Hotarumaru, which was inspired by a legendary sword which was allegedly used by the warrior Aso Korezumi during the battle against the Ashikaga clan in 1336. The sword was damaged in the battle, but the next morning, the warrior woke to find it was fully repaired. And during that evening, the warrior had a dream of fireflies swarming over this sword.

The first batch of this Sake, about 300 bottles, sold out in hours and it was primarily women buying it! These women were mostly token joshi, "sword girls," who were fans of a video game, Token Ranbu, where swords are transformed into characters. The Sake is a Junmai Ginjo and is packaged in an appealing bottle.  The second batch, 1000 bottles, also sold out quickly, in about six hours. This is another example of how more women in Japan are buying Sake.

4) More Sake being produced in the U.S. The Japan Times ir reporting that the growing market for Sake in the U.S. is leading Japanese breweries in the U.S. to up their production as well as to create new varieties of Sake. They understand the advantages they possess, lower costs and quicker delivery, and want to capitalize on these matters. For example, Takara Sake USA Inc.. has upped its production and has started making Yuki Nigori, a flavored Sake. Gekkeikan Sake (USA) Inc. and Ozeki Corp. have also expanded its production capacity. Though the article doesn't mention it, small artisan Sake breweries are also starting up in the U.S., helping to sate the growing desire for Sake. It will be fascinating to see what happens when they start producing Sake with Sake rice, like Yamada Nishiki.

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