More Sake Yeast

This article contains information on the yeasts that the Japanese Central Brewers Union collects and distributes.

Last week I wrote about sake yeast but the post got to be longer than I intended so I cut it short. I left off a little of the more commonly mentioned information about the yeast strains collected and distributed by the Central Brewers Union.

You may recall from the last post that back in the early 1900s the Central Brewers Union in Japan started collecting pure strains from particularly good batches of sake. The Central Brewers Union then made these pure strains available to all breweries. These pure strains where given numeric designations. So far there are from #1 to #16 and the low foaming strains. Many breweries now use these yeast strains but many also use of private strains. Continue reading “More Sake Yeast”

Brewing salts for your sake brewing water

This article talks about how to adjust you sake brewing water for better sake.

The question I will address this week is one related to water and how to convert the water we have to the water we want. Let’s assume we want to brew our sake with water that is equivalent to Miyamizu, the heavenly water from Nada. For this example the water we will start with is from the Bull Run Reservoir.

You may recall from “Miyamizu – Heavenly Water – The Gold Standard?” that the mineral content of the miyamizu water is:

Miyamizu (ppm)
Potassium 20
Phosphoric acid 5.2
Magnesium 5.6
Calcium 37
Chlorine 32
Sodium 32

Continue reading “Brewing salts for your sake brewing water”

Kura Blessing: Tsubaki Grand Shrine Performs Blessing

Kura Blessing: Tsubaki Grand Shrine Performs Blessing

Yesterday a friend and I made our way out to SakeOne in Forest Grove for their annual kura blessing by Koichi Barrish of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine. We got there just as the activities where about to start. Wow, a gorgeous day with a huge crowd. The last time I attended this event the weather was cold and misty and everyone easily fit inside the brew house. Not this time. I took some video but I was so far back that there is not much to see or hear in much of it. The following image is where the greatest part of the blessing was preformed. You can just see Koichi in yellow in the center under the hut.

Tsubaki Grand Shrine (Shinto) performs kura blessing at SakeOne
Tsubaki Grand Shrine (Shinto) performs kura blessing at SakeOne

Continue reading “Kura Blessing: Tsubaki Grand Shrine Performs Blessing”

What’s in a name, Futsu, Ginjo?

This article discusses Yaegaki sake and Trader Joe’s sake and expectations.

I recently picked up two different Sakes on two different trips to the grocery store. The first was from Trader Joe’s and was the Trader Joe’s Sake Junmai Ginjo Sake (<$11). The second was from New Seasons and was Yaegaki Sake (<$6).  Now, I did not know anything about either of these sakes before trying them; though I must admit that the Junmai Ginjo on Trader Joe’s label caused me to expect more from it before I tried it. Frankly, I was disappointed. It was not bad but it was not “really good” either. It was too watery with little substance and a little chalkiness. This stuff was not nearly as good as I expected.

While still feeling the disappointment in the ginjo, I ran across YAEGAKI sake in the cooler at New Seasons with a sign under it recommending it from the staff. I thought what the hell, its cold so I can give it a try when I get home. This sake had much better mouth feel. It was full bodied and flavorful. I like this sake. (I will never make it as a sommelier, I know what I like but I am not good at describing it for others.) This is just Futsu (table sake) but I like it sooo much better than the ginjo. Now, I thought, do I like it so much just because I disliked the ginjo? Well, no, a few days later I finished it up and was still enjoying it greatly. Continue reading “What’s in a name, Futsu, Ginjo?”

Miyamizu – Heavenly Water – The Gold Standard?

This post describes the Heavenly water, Miyamizu.

Water is the main ingredient in all sake but it usually gets the least attention. Despite getting the least attention, water is important and does play a huge role in the quality of sake. The story that is told to demonstrate this fact is told so often that it has become like a legend.

The legend (no, the real story): Back near the end of the Edo period, 1840, Yamamura Tazaemon owned two breweries. One in Nishinomiya and the other in Uozaki. Tazaemon-san noticed that the sake made at Nishinomiya was always better than that made at Uosaki.

His two breweries were part of the Nada Go-go region or the five sake-brewing towns of Nada. The five districts lie in a line on the coast running west to east: Mishi, Mikage and Uozaki lie in Kobe while Nishinomiya and Imazu lie in Nishinomiya.1 The Nada Go-go region made its fame shipping sake to Edo (Tokyo) by ship, a 20 day voyage. The five districts of Nada produced a little more than 25% of Japan’s sake in 2003. But I digress.

The Nada go-go, i.e., the five sake-brewing districts of Nada
The five brewing districts of Nada, i.e., the Nada Go-go.

Continue reading “Miyamizu – Heavenly Water – The Gold Standard?”

  1. https://www.phontron.com/en/nada/about.php Nada map

Is Doburoku Sake?

Often when you searches around on-line, looking for a recipe for sake you find recipes for Doburoku (濁酒). No, they don’t say they are for doburoku.

Often when you searches around on-line, looking for a recipe for sake you find recipes for Doburoku (濁酒). No, they don’t say they are for doburoku. But if you brew them you don’t end up with what we in the U.S. think of as sake; I would venture to say the world. In Japan, “sake” is a much broader term. It is really for any type of alcoholic drink. However, outside of Japan, sake is the same thing to us as Nihonshu (日本酒) and Seishu (清酒). Even, in Japan, if a westerner asks for sake, it is mostly assumed he is not asking for just any alcohol.

Doburoko is kind of a farm house or home brew style of sake. It is, well, rustic and unrefined. This is the point Fred is making at the top of his recipe when he explains “refined.” If you are interested in making the beverage we think of when we say sake, the one in the store or at the restaurant, then you don’t want doburoko. It will never live up to your expectations. However, it does have its place. The fact that it is unrefined also means it is easy or easier to make than its more refined cousin. Continue reading “Is Doburoku Sake?”

Sake Brewing: Cleanliness is next to godliness

This article covers the basic information needed for sake brewing and preventing bacterial infections.

For making sake, as with other fermented beverages, cleanliness and sanitation are extremely important. The reason for this is that a goodly part of the flavors come from the bugs in the ferment. When the bugs are the ones we want we get the flavors we desire but when others invade the party they produce off flavors that lower the quality or even ruin the beverage altogether.

In sake using the sokujo-moto method there is one player (bug) that we want to encourage while restraining all others. The player we want is the yeast we introduce ourselves. When using the yamahai-moto method there are two main players; lactobacilli and yeast.

Given this, how do we go about restraining all the other bugs? Well, restraining these other bugs is a key part of sake brewing. It begins before we even start to prepare the ingredients; it starts with the cleaning of the equipment. Once clean, we sanitize the equipment as needed throughout the process. We control the pH and temperature to provide an environment discomforting for most bugs and finally, when not making namazake or unpasteurized sake, we pasteurize the sake at least once, usually twice. Continue reading “Sake Brewing: Cleanliness is next to godliness”

SakéOne Brewer’s Tour, last week

I describe a tour the lead brewer at SakeOne gave to a group of brewer from the Oregon brew crew.

This last weekend I joined a group of brewers for a brewer’s tour of the SakéOne Kura. Greg Lorenz, SakéOne’s Sakémaster gave the tour to a group of brewers from the Oregon Brew Crew.

As we gathered in the tasting room, we sampled the current nama on tap, a junmai ginjo genshu namazake; wow, very nice. What a way to start the tour. Once everyone had gathered we topped off our glasses and headed out with Greg in the lead.

Stopping in front of a picture of Mr Murai, Greg explains how Mr Murai was a man ahead of his time and how he thought that it was time to establish a Kura in the US. How he had pushed this idea for some time without success, until one day on a flight when he sat next to Grif Frost.

Mr Murai of Momokawa Brewing, Inc.
Mr Murai of Momokawa Brewing, Inc.

Continue reading “SakéOne Brewer’s Tour, last week”

Rice kernel make up

Last week we looked at a sketchy version of the history of rice leading to the rice we use for making sake at home. This week, we’ll look into the rice kernel itself. Brewing refined sake requires that we remove many layers of the rice, but why? Well before we get to that, let’s look at what these layers are.

Rice De-constructed
Rice De-constructed

Illustration by Namazu-tron 1

(1): Chaff (2): Bran (3): Bran residue (4): Cereal germ (5): Endosperm Continue reading “Rice kernel make up”

  1. All Illustrations / pictures in this post are taken from www.wikipedia.org.

Intro to rice, sake rice – where do we start?

This article gives a brief history of the rice that is important to sake brewers from the beginning to present (10,000BC to now).

OK, so what about rice? Isn’t it all the same? Well, I guess there is brown rice and white rice. Isn’t this all there is to it? No, it’s not, there’s much more. While we are interested in sake rice, I will cover some basic background, history and such to build a foundation we can use to better understand rice, its differences, and what is important for making sake.

The scientific name for the species we call rice is Oryza sativa. Within this species are three subspecies: japonica (short grained rice), indica (long grained rice) and javanica (a medium grained rice). Javanica is now known as tropical japonica. While japonica seems to imply that it originates in Japan, this is not the case. In fact, it appears that its origin is China. Continue reading “Intro to rice, sake rice – where do we start?”