Sake SET Vol 4: Hot Off The Press @ Shibuya

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 24/01/16
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Shibuya Branch
Participants: 39
Duration: 4 hours
Theme: Newly brewed sake

On 24th January 2016, we held the second leg of the fourth SAKE SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo) event at our Shibuya Branch and managed yet another full turn out. A massive to thank you to everyone who came despite the threat of snow flurries.

Ice Breaker Game

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The aim of the game is to go around the room trying to make up a brewing team of people from the same prefecture with the 3 other job titles. The first 4 successfully completed teams to announce themselves to our staff would each win a free sake cup (ochoko) for each team member.

The Theme

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This month’s theme was new brews. Basically speaking, newly brewed sake shipped in its freshest form without any processing —the ‘Boujolais Nouveau’ of the sake world if you will. This type of sake is only available at this time of year making it super sought after and super limited edition. We are very lucky at KURAND to be able to stock a total of 12 newly brewed sakes at any time which rotates throughout the new brew period through all 42 of the breweries that we showcase. The new brew season runs from late November to March / April 2016. Sake doesn’t get any fresher than this.

The Lecture

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● Sake in a nutshell
● Cultural origins and history
● Modern developments
● Raw ingredients
● Production process:
● Seasonal Sake – The New Brew
● BY Brewing Year
● New Brew Production Method
● Types of New Brews

The Guided Tasting

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Participants were taken through a guided tasting of 6 completely different sakes divided up into the following 3 categories:

● Sake where the rice is centre stage
● Sake made with special production technique
● Atypical new brew

Participants were then free to compare as many sakes as they could muster and make friends in the process.

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With so many new faces this month’s event provided everyone with the perfect opportunity to make friends. Japanese speakers could meet English speakers and vica versa.

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Photo Session in Costume

Some people had their photo taken trying on one of a number of different sake brewing aprons.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the breweries that kindly provided these.

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Conclusion

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If this event report has tickled your taste buds, there is another SET just around the corner.

Celebrations and ritual

Learn about sake’s role in celebration and ritual as an integral part of everyday traditional Japanese culture. What kind of sake is appropriate for a wedding, coming of age party, moon viewing, snow viewing etc etc? With so many different events in the Japanese calendar, it is hardly surprising that so many different styles exist. To tie in with the timing of the event, we will also be answering that killer question: just what sake would you give to your love interest on Valentine’s Day?

— Roses are red, violets are blue, someone out there is waiting for that special sake from you!

I look forward to seeing you all there!!

SAKE SET VOL 5 7th February noon-4pm (Asakusa Branch)

RSVP

What on Earth is the High Class Sake Soboshu?

This is a revision of an earlier article.

Greetings

This time we bring you a little sake history lesson.

This article teaches you all about Soboshu, a sake that was brewed by the temples in ancient times.

Soboshu (LIT: monk’s sake) is the generic name given to a type of sake that was produced by large temples from the Heian Period (794 to 1185) through to the Edo Period (1603–1867). Up until the early Heian Period, sake was brewed inside the imperial court, but as civilians began to take up the craft it was the large temples all over Japan that played a central role. And thus, Soboshu was born.

You might be thinking to yourself “a bunch of celibate monks making sake?!”, but they found a way around this technicality by referring to sake using the slang ‘Hanyato’ which happens to be the name for an alcoholic drink thought to attain the supreme wisdom of Buddism — and even made the fact they were brewing public.

Were the monks the masters of their craft?

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When it comes to Soboshu — even looked at from a global perspective — the monks were at the top of their game as far as their brewing skills were concerned. The large temples had early access to knowledge that had been imported into Japan by intellectuals such as the Japanese envoys to the Sui dynasty of China and visiting monks from overseas, which included farming and fermentation skills, allowing them to brew with the most cutting edge skills in the world.

Each large temple soon became very competent Soboshu producers and by the early Muromachi Era they had entered a golden age of brewing. However, in the Sengoku Period, military commanders lead by the warlord Oda Nobunaga feared such rights and power as a form of opposition, and thus began a period of complete oppression that brought the curtain down on Soboshu.

Shoryakuji

正暦寺 - Shouryaku-ji // 2010.11.25 - 08

One of the most famous temples that ever made Soboshu is the Shoryakuji temple in Nara
;Nara itself is considered to be one of the many birthplaces of sake.
This temple is where one of the most famous types of Soboshu hails from: Bodaimoto.

What on earth is Bodaimoto? you ask.
Don’t worry, I am getting to that.

The Bodaimoto Style

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The Bodaimoto is a sophisticated natural fermentation style that is believed to contain the origins of many other more recent types of fermentation methods such as the kimoto and yahamai styles — even the ultra modern Sokujo method, in a sense. (more information here)

How is it made?

bodaimoto_process

As the diagram above shows, similar to the Kimoto style, the lactic acid that is needed to drive all the unwanted wild bacteria out and create the right environment to propagate a healthy sake yeast is produced naturally by converting the Lactic Acid bacteria naturally existing in the air. However, where the two methods differ is in the way that the bacteria is propagated. In the Bodaimoto method, the bacteria is propagated in water. In a sense, the end product is a lactic acid solution similar to that used in the modern Sokujo method.

Returning to present day, as well as being remembered throughout literature, a portion of breweries have begun to inherit the skills required to make Soboshu. We are proud to be able to introduce one of them here at KURAND SAKE MARKET.

I give you —Imanishi Brewery in Nara Prefecture.

Imanishi Brewery

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Imanishi Brewery specialises in the Bodaimoto style.
As well as being one of the oldest sake breweries in Japan (established in 1660), Imanishi Brewery sits at the entrance of one of the holy lands of sake, Miwa, the dwelling of one of the sake gods Oomiwa (there are many sake gods and not all breweries worship the same one), making this a brewery wrapped in religious significance.

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Miwa itself also comes with the added bonus of being the birthplace of the sugidama, the small cedar ball that adorns every brewery entrance, and continues to take orders still to this day.

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Standing at the helm and brushing of the dust from all that history is a 32 year old brewer, the 20th generation to take on the task and one of a new crop of young brewers that are taking the industry by storm. I don’t know about you but it feels only fitting that someone of his age is protecting such an ancient sake brewing technique.

Conclusion

Well, that about wraps up our little sermon on Soboshu. The sake-brewing skills of old Japan were quite something; skills that remain unchanged to this day and are revered on a global scale.

What on Earth is a Thick Sweet ‘Cloudy Sake’?

Greetings all.

Welcome back to the blog that teaches you basic little facts about sake.

Cloudy Sake – The Definition

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The transparent liquid that we all lovingly refer to as sake is made by putting the mash — produced by fermenting rice and turning it into alcohol — into sacks and applying pressure to separate the liquid from the cake (or lees).

Sometimes sacks with coarser material or a mesh with large holes in it is used. When this is the case, the milky sediment at the centre of the mash called ori also passes through with the liquid into the final product.

Cloudy sake is the type of sake with an audacious amount of ori in it.

Traits of Cloudy Sake

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The ori is made up of the koji malt and it’s broken down components and the yeast etc that have soaked into the mash, thus you really get a strong taste of the natural flavour of sake, which is, of course, all the savoury goodness of the rice itself.

Furthermore, a lot of cloudy sakes bypass the pasteurisation stage: the sake is bottled with the yeast alive in it, so there are plenty of sparkling champenoise (secondary fermentation) styles out there. At the same time, this type of sake tends to be easily susceptible to changes in flavour, so it has to be stored properly; it is best to finish the bottle as soon as possible after opening.

Recommended Ways to Enjoy Cloudy Sake

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The ori sediment settles at the bottom of the bottle, but a quick shake is it all it needs to mix it back up again. Note: be careful to check it is not one of the sparkling types before attempting this endeavour.

That being said, another way of enjoying cloudy sake is not to mix, leave the sediment at the bottom and enjoy just the upper clear bit. That way you can enjoy both parts separately.

Additionally, a lot of cloudy sakes are quite thick, and so probably best served over ice or with a dash of soda, perhaps even with some citrus fruits.

At KURAND SAKE MARKET we have prepared 6 different types of cloudy sake for you to try.
Every one of them is very different and offers different ways to enjoy them.

A Sudden Flavour Transformation !? A Type by Type Explanation Of How to Choose your Sake Vessel

This article is a revision of an earlier article.

What does everyone pour their sake into?

The norm would probably be an ochoko or a small glass. There is bound to be the odd person who insists on pouring into a wine glass — absolutely nothing wrong with that after all. Aficionados will no doubt find their own individual way of drinking.

The point is that most people normally don’t pay too much attention to which drinking vessel they are using. However, the flavour of sake changes dramatically depending on what you choose, so today’s article takes a more detailed look at the pairing of sake and sake cup.

The Basics of Choosing a Vessel

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When someone tells you to choose a drinking vessel yourself, you might be a little lost about which is the best for the job. First of all we will teach you the most important points to consider.

1. Capacity

The easiest thing to gauge is the vessel’s capacity; the amount of sake poured can alter its flavour. When you drink chilled sake, a smaller vessel is recommended so that you can finish the sake up before the temperature changes. Incidentally pouring too much sake may cause the flavours to dissipate.

2:The Aperture

The width of the aperture is also extremely important. It is the aperture that changes the surface area of the sake. A wider surface area speeds up the rate at which the sake oxygenates and increases the amount of aroma that is volatised, making aromatic sake feel more aromatic. A smaller aperture has the opposite effect.

3:Shape

And finally, the shape: whether the vessel has a lip, it is rounded or not etc. A type where the sides are curved outwards is going to pronounce fresh aromas, whereas a convex type is going to suppress aromas and bring out rich flavours instead.

Recommendations Based On Type Of Sake

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Pairing Guide

Pairing with Aromatic Styles (daiginjo, ginjo)

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For aromatic styles like ginjo etc, a trumpet shaped glass where the sides curve outwards is perfect; you can enjoy the aroma before it disappears. A glass with a deep bottom is even better.
Source: SSI

Pairing with Light Styles (Futsushu, Honjozo)

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For types with a clean dry flavour, a small size vessel which will allow you to finish the sake in a few sips is the recommendation: something that allows you to finish it before the temperature alters. As for the shape, a thin trumpet shape will capture aromas better.
Source: SSI

Pairing with Vintage Styles (koshu, vintage)

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For koshu and other vintage styles, the recommendation is colourful gaudy vessels with a sturdy construction. Choose lacquerware for better vibes. As for the shape, something narrow with a big aperture to pull in and trap the unique rich aromas.
Source: SSI

Pairing with Full Bodied Styles (junmai, kimoto)

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Junmai and kimoto styles possess the most sake-like ricey flavours. Therefore, a Japanese style vessel should be the vessel of choice. Something which bulges out slightly from the top downwards is best. The well rounded aromas are trapped and pronounced by this type of vessel.
Source: SSI

Special Category : Is there such a thing as the sake overflow style?

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One question that often pops up is the existence or nonexistence of the so-called overflow style.

It is a method whereby placing the glass in a box or dish you pour until the sake overflows out of the glass into the secondary vessel. The validity of the method is something that separates sake fans.

Some hold the opinion that this kind of pouring conveys a feeling of extra value. And then there are those who think it is downright squalid looking— not to mention the fact your hands get wet as you to try to drink that way.

Either opinion carries weight. What side are you on?

Pouring at home is one thing; purposefully spilling the sake in a restaurant is perhaps something that ought to get the customer’s approval beforehand.

To End….

So that about wraps up our little guide about the pairing of sake and sake vessel.

You are welcome to bring your own sake cup to KURAND SAKE MARKET. There are limitations on the size of cup allowed, so please confirm with our staff beforehand.

Sake SET Vol 4 : Hot Off The Press x Samurai Flag @ Asakusa

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 17/01/16
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Asakusa Branch
Participants: 54
Duration: 4 hours
Theme: newly brewed sake

On 17th January 2016, we held our fourth SAKE SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo) event in conjunction with the international exchange group Samurai Flag. It is thanks to this collaboration that we achieved our first full house. A massive thank you to everyone who attended.

Ice Breaker Game

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We opened this month’s event at Asakusa with a brand new sake themed ice breaker game, a fun new way to interact with other people. Participants were handed a game card which assigned them a sake brewing job title— all jobs that you would find in a standard sake brewery set-up— and to a particular prefecture in Japan. The aim of the game is to go around the room trying to make up a brewing team of people from the same prefecture with the 3 other job titles. The first 4 successfully completed teams to announce themselves to our staff would each win a free sake cup (ochoko) for each team member.

The Theme

new_brews_header

This month’s theme was new brews. Basically speaking, newly brewed sake shipped in its freshest form without any processing —the ‘Boujolais Nouveau’ of the sake world if you will. This type of sake is only available at this time of year making it super sought after and super limited edition. We are very lucky at KURAND to be able to stock a total of 12 newly brewed sakes at any time which rotates throughout the new brew period through all 42 of the breweries that we showcase. The new brew season runs from late November to March / April 2016. Sake doesn’t get any fresher than this.

The Lecture

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● Sake in a nutshell
● Cultural origins and history
● Modern developments
● Raw ingredients
● Production process:
● Seasonal Sake – The New Brew
● BY Brewing Year
● New Brew Production Method
● Types of New Brews

The Guided Tasting

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Participants were taken through a guided tasting of 6 completely different sakes divided up into the following 3 categories:

● Sake where the rice is centre stage
● Sake made with special production technique
● Atypical new brew

Participants were then free to compare as many sakes as they could muster and make friends in the process.

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With so many new faces this month’s event provided everyone with the perfect opportunity to make friends. Japanese speakers could meet English speakers and vica versa.

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Photo Session in Costume

Some people had their photo taken trying on one of a number of different sake brewing aprons.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the breweries that kindly provided these.

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Conclusion

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If this event report has tickled your taste buds, there is another SET just around the corner.

Celebrations and ritual

Learn about sake’s role in celebration and ritual as an integral part of everyday traditional Japanese culture. What kind of sake is appropriate for a wedding, coming of age party, moon viewing, snow viewing etc etc? With so many different events in the Japanese calendar, it is hardly surprising that so many different styles exist. To tie in with the timing of the event, we will also be answering that killer question: just what sake would you give to your love interest on Valentine’s Day?

— Roses are red, violets are blue, someone out there is waiting for that special sake from you!

I look forward to seeing you all there!!

SAKE SET VOL 5 7th February noon-4pm (Asakusa Branch)

RSVP

Level Up! Discover the Charm of Vintage Sake !

Greetings,

Welcome to the blog that throws you little nuggets of information about sake.

What Kind of Sake is Vintage Sake?

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The ‘Vintage Sake Research Institute’ which was set up with the main aim to promote aged sake and improve production skills defines vintage sake as that which has been aged inside the brewery for at least 3 years or more. This type of aged sake is referred to as koshu.

However, basically speaking, vintage sake is not a special designation sake like junmai and honjozo, so there are no real strict rules. Most brewers create their own definition for such sake.

There are even breweries that call sake that has been aged for just a year koshu.
If we were to compare koshu with normal sake, how would we describe its flavour?

Below we have listed three different types as defined by the ‘Vintage Sake Research Institute’.

Type Production Method Aging Temperature Characteristics Food Pairing
Rich Aged Type Honjozo
Junmai
Ambient Layers of ageing give the sake a yellow tint, and a sheen. The flavour has changed dramatically: it has a personality and individuality. Chinese cuisine, oily dishes. Rich, savoury, sweet cuisine. (this includes bitter chocolate, grilled meats and blue cheese; juices of meat and curry)
Medium type Honjozo
Junmai
Ginjo
Daiginjo
Combination of low temperature ageing and ambient ageing From low to ambient ageing and the reverse places this type in the middle between rich aged and slightly aged. Something with a nice sweetness, acidity and bitterness like sweet and sour pork or beef shabu shabu— you could also try dried grapes or chocolate.
Slightly Aged Type Ginjo
Daiginjo
Low Temperature A wide ranging flavour where the bitterness and aroma are in perfect balance, all the while retaining the goodness of ginjo type sake. French cuisine, savoury dishes that aren’t sweet or oily like parma ham, squid, rolled cabbage, gratin and cheeses.

Source: Vintage Sake Research Institute

As the above table shows, the types are very different depending on the storage and production methods used and the length of aging.

Is Vintage Sake Mild?

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I think most people would find vintage sake to be quite easy going. The reason for this is the ageing itself. The more the sake is aged, the more the alcohol and water molecules break down and mix together thus alleviating the harshness, creating a much more mild child.

To explain the thinking behind this further, as sake ages the water clusters get smaller and surrounds the alcohol molecules meaning that by the time the alcohol touches the senses it has been wrapped up in moisture giving way instead to milder flavours and aromas.

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET you can try vintage sake. Why not compare different vintages and see for yourself. You ought to notice the depth of such sake.

Do you know the meaning of Yamahai?

Greetings everyone,

Welcome to this new series which teaches you the basic little facts about sake. In our first edition, we will explain the meaning of Yamahai. I am sure you will have seen or heard the word ‘Yamahai’ at some point, but just what are the traits of Yamahai sake?

In order to understand Yamahai you must first understand Kimoto

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Kimoto is yet another word which you might have seen written on the sake labels.

In a nutshell, sake is a fermented product made from rice, water and a mould called koji. The koji turns the starch into a form of glucose which is then in turn converted into alcohol by a yeast.

In order to propagate the yeast something called a yeast starter or shubo (lit: the mother of sake) is required. The yeast starter method varies depending on the production process.

Propagation only takes place when all the other wild bacteria have been driven out. In other words, a specific environment is required for the yeast to do its job. It is lactic acid that plays the role of bouncer and can be produced in one of two ways: either artificially, or by converting lactic acid bacteria naturally existing inside the brewery and weeding out the unwanted bacteria by natural selection.

The artificial addition method is referred to as Sokujo, the natural method as Kimoto. Yamahai is type of Kimoto style yeast starter.

Yamahai Translates to ‘Yamaoroshi Omitted‘

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Are you following us so far?

Compared to the Sokujo method it takes much longer to propagate a healthy yeast using the Kimoto method.

During that time, in order to accelerate the saccharification (sugar conversion) process, rice, water and koji is rammed into a puree using wooden oars. This is referred to as Yamaoroshi (lit: knocking the mountain down; what you are essentially doing is just that, only not mountains but large piles of rice, water and koji) or pole ramming to you and me.

Yamaoroshi has to be carried out during the late night to early morning hours in the coldest months, making it an extremely laborious task for the brewer workers.

However, brewing has come along in leaps and bounds, so it is now possible to produce a Kimoto-like flavour without the need for the pole ramming bit.

Yamahai’s Traits

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Compared to sake made with the sokujo method, yeast propagation takes longer, but the yeast goes through a battle for survival which if it survives makes it stronger.

As a result, sake produced this way is rich in amino acids giving it depth of flavour and body. Furthermore, it comes out with more of a clean finish thanks to the acidity from the amino acid.

A sake that is more full flavoured and big boned than clean and sleek is one of the characteristics of the Yamahai type.

There are Yamahais for you to try at KURAND SAKE MARKET. Once you know the taste of Yamahai you will have broadened your sake horizons so to speak