Nøgne ø, I believe is the first craft beer brewery in Norway and would make any US microbrewery proud. They, led by Kjetil, have been making outstanding brews. They have been very open with the Homebrew community so much so that Kjetil described how to clone his beers in an interview with the Brewing Network to be made available as part of the “Can you brew it” podcast series. One such episode is on Nøgne ø Porter.
Kjetil and True Sake, in an effort to raise more funds for the Japan relief, put a full flight of Hadaka Jima up to the highest bidder. I was excited to hear about this because Kjetil’s sake is not yet available in the US for purchase and I have been watching his progress from the time he first signed the contract to buy rice from Hokaido. I quickly sent in my bid and sat back for what I expected to be around a month before the bid would be complete. As it turned out, I got lucky and won the bid. Now, with 6 Hadaka Jima in my refrigerator I am ready to see what Kjetil and his team have created. I am really excited.
The rice used for these brews is Yamada-nishiki, Ginpu or both, all with a 70% seimeibuai.
First up: House Yeast, a Yamahai Genshu Muroka Shiboritate Nama Junmaishu. That is quite a mouth full as is the sake itself. Many here will know what this is but not all so let’s go over what this means. Yamahai is the moto style used for this sake and entails cultivating bugs early in the process to produce lactic acid that will later protect the sake from other bugs as it ferments. Genshu means that it is full strength, so no water has been added to lower the alcohol level below the level from the ferment itself. Most sake has water added to bring the alcohol level down to around 16%. Muroka means that the sake has not been charcoal filtered. Shiboritate means that it is a fresh pressed run. Basically, in this case the sake was pressed and quickly bottled without spending time conditioning. Nama, means that no pasteurization was done on this sake. Finally, Junmaishu means that this sake was made only with rice, koji, water. Yeast and lactic acid can also be added and still be a Junmai (pure rice) sake. However, in this case neither have been added. The rice in this brew is 15% Yamada Nishiki and 85% Ginpu.
I love that all the stats are on the bottle as well as on the Nøgne ø web site. Given that they are available I won’t repeat them here.
Side rant: It seems like more and more sake for sell in the US are putting fewer stats on the bottle. Experts agree that these stats can be misleading and hence should not be encouraged. I don’t disagree about how misleading some of the stats can be but no stats leave nothing except the prettiness of the label to use for deciding what to buy. I WANT THE STATS ON EVERY BOTTLE! OK, rant over.
This sake is a mouth full, not only based on that long description above but a literal mouth full, full bodied, sweet but not cloying. There is a hint of pine, no, spruce tips. Warming from the high alcohol content (19%). Strong aroma but I cannot pick out the specifics, very much like my own brews though. While it is a bit on the sweet side, I like it and none will go to waste.
Second up: YK70, Junmai Nama Genshu Muroka. This brew is all yamadanishiki at 70% seimaibuai. Its aroma is a little lighter than the House Yeast but very similar. It is sweet at the front, then out of nowhere, bamb it attacks you all through the middle and then finishes nicely with none to much sweets in the back. I like this one a bit more than the first mostly because it’s dryer with a nihonshudo of -1.
I don’t see the stats for this one on the Nøgne ø web site, so I will give them here: yeast #9, sando 3.0, amino sando 1.7 and 17% alcohol.
Third up: Nama Genshu. Yamahai Genshu Muroka Shiboritate Nama Junmai shu. In this case all the descriptive words match those of House Yeast. And here as well it is listed as using naturally occurring yeast just as House Yeast does. However, this one is considerably more in your face. There is some hint of spruce tips but it is not quite as strong as it is in House Yeast. Maybe more of a candy coated spruce tip. Its very sweet but the sweetness does not seem cloying. In fact, as Yuli, my wife pointed out it has a pretty strong bitterness. The bitterness helps to balance the sweetness and keeps it from being cloying. As with House Yeast, the rice in this brew is 15% Yamada Nishiki and 85% Ginpu.
Forth up: Yamahai Motoshibori, Yamahai Genshu Muroka Shiboritate Nama Junmai-shu. Again, all the descriptive words match. However, this one is 100% Ginpu rice. Noticeably sour on the front, some in the middle and hangs around in the back sides of the mouth. A bit like white wine but not as dry (I guess there are sweet white wines but I don’t drink them). My initial thought was that this is too sour and not very nice. After a few more drinks though, the sourness seems to dissipate a bit and a little of the sweetness comes through making it kind of nice. I like it.
Fifth up: Junmai, Yamahi Muroka Junmai-shu. The first non-genshu. The aroma is similar but lighter with less acid on the nose. More conventional, and a little on the sweeter side. Nihonshu-do is -1 but having a lower acidity than the previous ones it seems a bit sweeter than it is. A fine sake much more conventional than the rest.
Interestingly, when I unscrewed the cap, the plastic from the top of the cap was lodged in the neck of the bottle. It seems that maybe the cap had been screwed on with too much force, literally cutting the plastic circle out of the lid and forcing it down the neck.
Last up: the Nigori, Yamahai Nigori Nama Junmai-shu. This is probably my first nigori that was either yamahai or nama so this is really something different for me. It is not smooth but very chunky and separates out quickly. I don’t tend to appreciate nigori like some do but this is not like most of the nigori I have had. It is not sweet! It is extremely lively, tingly on the tongue. The characteristic that is most prevalent is its nama-ness. The dark color, off white, and the chunks on the side of the glass are a bit off-putting. Nothing wrong here though.
Well, this is quite a showing by Nøgne ø. The team there in Norway has put together a wonderful flight of unusual sakes.