Meet the Brewer Event for Yoshinogawa

This article talks about my experience attending the Meet the Brewer Event for Yoshinogawa

On Thursday, July 22ed, I decided to go to a “Meet the brewer” meeting that was being hosted by SakeOne at Zella Sake House. I learnt about this gathering from a tweet by Marcus Pakiser who is a local sake expert working for Youngs Columbia, a distributing company. Having never gone to this type of event for sake I was not sure what to expect. Portland is a huge craft beer town and has this type of event weekly in the beer context with the primary audience being home brewers. However, the homebrew sake community is much smaller so I did not expect many other sake brewers to be present.  Despite this I put together a list of questions that I hoped I would have the chance to ask the Yoshinogawa Toji.

Zella’s is a small sake bar so I was a little worried that if I did not show up early there would be no place to sit. Living on the west side of town means that I would have about 45 minutes to get to Zella’s but I gave myself an hour and fifteen minute just to be on the safe side. As it turned out, the first bridge I tried to take was closed. Portland is split in half with the Willamette river dividing the east side from west. Following the detour at rush hour eventually got me across the river and I arrived at Zella’s with a few minutes to spare. I want in and was asked if I was part of the sake tasting group. I said I was and was seated at a reserved table. It turned out that the table was reserved for the SakeOne group and I was asked to move once they arrived. I felt a little silly but no big deal, this only meant that the show would get started soon. Continue reading “Meet the Brewer Event for Yoshinogawa”

Sake Amino Acid – Amino Sando (アミノ酸度 )

Describes amino acid or amino sando’s importance and impact on sake.

As with acidity, the amino acid level of a sake or its amino sando levels are a measure of how much amino acid is in the sake. Amino sando along with the sugar levels largely determine the viscosity and chewiness of a sake.

Amino sando levels tend to vary between about 0.7 and 1.4. The lower the amino sando value the thinner the sake tends to be; this opens up the sake. Higher levels of amino sando are accompanied by higher viscosity and rounder flavors.

Umami, an important flavor component tied to the amino acid glutamate. As amino sando rises and falls, glutamate also tends to rise and fall, so reaching an ideal umami level is achieved by adjusting the amino sando levels. Researchers from Akita Prefectural University found that of the 20 or more amino acids in sake four are most important.

They found four amino acids that are strongly related to sake taste components and that the total concentrations are less important for taste than is the balance of these four. They demonstrated that through the manipulation of the choice of rice, milling levels, koji production and both yeast aerobic and anaerobic processes the balance could be controlled to create high quality sake.

As a side note related to amino acids: The reason the existence of iron in water to be use for sake is such a problem is that it, the iron, attaches to the center of a compound attached to an amino acid from koji. In this position it darkens the sake and changes the taste and aroma for the worse. In addition, iron speeds up a reaction between residual sugars and amino acids that changes the taste and aroma of the sake over time.

Sake Acidity – Sando ( 酸度 )

Article discusses sake acidity (sando).

The acidity of a sake or its sando is a measure of how much base liquid is needed to neutralize 10ml of sake. Acidity in sake balances its sweetness. The sweeter the sake the higher its acidity can be without being sour or annoying. In general the higher acidity the thinner the sake will seem. However, as with all the characteristic parameters of sake, we cannot say that a sake with a high acidity level will seem thin, only thinner than if it had lower acidity.

Acidity levels tend to range from 0.8 to 1.7. As we saw previously, the nihonshudo values (SMV) tend to be between -5 and +10. Using these two metrics together is more useful than individually. Recall that the more negative the nihonshudo value the sweeter it is and the more positive the dryer it is. So producing a sake with SMV -4 and acidity of 1.7 (two extremes) could create a heavy dry sake; that’s right, dry. This is because the acidity balances out all of the sweetness. We must keep in mind that these are only trends and not absolutes. In the same way, if we produce a sake with high SMV of +7 and a acidity of 0.8 may be sweet and thin or watery. Continue reading “Sake Acidity – Sando ( 酸度 )”

Skagway Brewing Company, 1897

Short note on Skagway Brewing Company.

Correction: In my haste to publish the article below I screwed up the details and got it wrong. Briefly, Michael Healy is the person who started the brewery in 2007 while Trevor Clifford is the brewer. My original, faulty, article follows:

OK, I know this has nothing to do with sake nor sake brewing but I have not been able to find any sake on this trip …so far… and I don’t have access to my regular materials. I wanted to do a short note about something light from the trip, so here it goes. Skagway Brewing Company, 1897? Yes, no? I say no not really, at least not under the eye of the current owner and brew-master Trevor.

Several years back, 2006 or 2007, Trevor decided that he wanted to open a brew pub in Skagway, Alaska. Skagway has an ordinance that only those who have hotel(s) with at least 12 rooms can own alcohol licenses and there can only be two licenses in the city. The Skagway Brewing Company held one of these licenses but had been driven into the ground by previous management. Having been dormant and out of commission for around 5 years, Trevor was able to negotiated a deal to reinvigorate the Skagway Brewing Company and carry the heritage forward. From this deal he got a 4 barrel brewing system along with the brewery and pub. Trevor asked his cousin Deland, who had earlier completed culinary school, to come and open up the kitchen of the pub.

We went in to see the place and of course to see what was on tap. On tap was:

–          A barley wine

–          A pale ale

–          An IPA

–          A Spruce Tip Ale

–          A brown ale

–          And two they don’t brew:

  • Pike’s Kilt lifter
  • PBR

All in all not a bad line up. I had a pint of the IPA, pretty nice with good Chinook hop aroma. I then had the spruce tip ale. This was the first time I have tried this type of beer and was pleasantly surprised with the flavor. Not piney at all. More of a mildly sweet fruit hint in the background. At first the hint of fruit drew all my attention but after a while I noticed more of the hop bitterness. All in all two very nice beers; this is a place I can whole heartedly recommend!