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Standards indicating Japanese Sake Flavors

Gathering information such as the type of premium sake, rice-polishing ratio, sake rice, water hardness, etc., can help to predict the flavor of sake to a certain degree. However, other indicators can also indicate flavor more frankly. Such indicators are the sake meter value, acidity, and amino acidity.
The sake meter value refers to the specific gravity of sake to water. The more lighter than water, the more positive the value; while the more heavier than water, the more negative the value. If the sugar content of sake is high, the specific gravity increases. Therefore, if the sake meter value is negative, the sweeter the flavor; while the more positive the sake meter value, the more dry the flavor.
Acidity refers to the amount of acids contained in sake, such as malic acid, citric acid, succinic acid, etc.
Acid not only adds a sour flavor to sake, but also brings out the flavor and acts as an umami flavor.
If the sake meter value is the same, high acidity tends to generate a dry flavor, while low acidity tends to generate a sweet flavor.



#sake #flavor #aroma

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kanemasu Brewery, Year End Blowout Sale)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Tokyo is facing the end of this year very different from the previous year due to the coronavirus increasingly spreading and restaurants requested to shorten business hours since November. Corporations are prohibited from hosting large banquets, while restaurants close at 22:00 with half the rotations of the previous year. When that happens, sake shops are forced to face challenges due to reduced sake orders from restaurants. To overcome these challenges, we must sell sake directly to families. Therefore, Kanemasu Brewery in Niigata prefecture held a storefront blowout sale in mid-December. Kanemasu Brewery sold their specialty sake brands【Hatsuhana, Junmai Daiginjo】sold only once every few years as their featured sake products for the end of the year and the upcoming New Year.  
The sake labels are old, special to consumers who know the long history of Kanemasu Brewery. The first store opened in Nagatoro, Okagata in Niigata prefecture (currently Niigata city) in 1822. The brewery relocated to Nametoko, Nigori-kawamura (currently in Niigata city) in 1883. The third generation owner is said to have relocated the warehouse to the former Shibata feudal lord Mizoguchi’s personal vegetable garden site (currently the city of Shibata)(vegetable garden refers to an herb garden). After World War II ended in 1945, the fourth generation owner foresaw expanded demand for western alcoholic beverages due to the occupying forces, acquired a whiskey distillery permit, and launched the original brand of malt, producing and selling whiskey until relinquishing the production permit in 2010.
The management structure was renewed in 2010 with classic sake brands “Blue Label” and “Red Label” consolidated as the sake brand “Hatsuhana.” Capitalizing on the regional advantage of being a “rice production region with abundant water,” the brewery joined with a local farmer and founded the Knau Company in 2017. Since then, the company started focusing their efforts growing its own brand of sake rice and brewing sake consistent with local production. Thanks to the brewery’s long history, the company’s footwork is light, posting fliers throughout the neighborhood before the year-end blowout sale.
As expected, the high-end Junmai Daiginjo aged three years sold in large quantities along with new sake brewed from new rice. I felt the outdoor dining restrictions this year are forcing people to drink at home, thus many people are seeking higher quality sake to consume at home. This year, many sake breweries closed their doors or reduced their business scale due to the coronavirus. To keep renowned breweries and their long-established history alive, I recommend readers to enjoy quality sake at home.


#tokyo #sake #jizake #covid19 #junmai #daiginjo #nigori

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Expanding consumption areas for Japanese sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

Recently in the U.S., wine discount stores like BevMo and Total Wine and More, etc., are prosperous. Also, rural areas have local large liquor stores that sell various alcoholic beverages (tequila, ji-beer (local craft beers), champagne, whiskey, etc.) in addition to wine. When I went to Las Vegas last week, I stopped by the largest local liquor chain store, where I was surprised to see the very limited selections of Japanese sake. With various foreign tequilas, wines, and ji-beer lining the shelves, why were there so little selections of Japanese sake offered? Also, the few selections available were without tages and lost in the “Asian” alcoholic section.

The question I’m most often asked is, “This sake is delicious. Where can I buy it?” However, as of yet, the only answer I can provide is our restaurant. I’m also surprised to see customers who wish to purchase by the bottle.

Over ninety-percent of Japanese sake and shochu consumption takes place at Japanese restaurants. However, as long as this is the case, the market will not expand. Japan-affiliated markets are available only in some major cities. To have Americans consume sake and shochu “at home,” it is necessary for these products to be distributed more and more to specialty liquor stores and their staff trained.


最近米国ではBevmoやTotal Wine and Moreなどのワインディスカウント店が繁盛している。また地方に行くと地元の大型リカーショップ店があり、これらの店にはワイン以外にありとあらゆるアルコール飲料(テキーラ、地ビール、シャンペン、ウィスキー等)が陳列されている。先週ラスベガスに行った際にも地元最大のリカーチェーン店に足を運んでみたが、日本酒の種類の乏しさに唖然とした。海外産のテキーラやワイン、地ビールがこんなにあるのになぜ日本酒がこんなに少ないのか、また、何もタグがなく、ただ「Asian」のアルコールの中に埋もれていた。


#sake #shochu #cocktail #recipes

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“Business Projects Introduced Online by Sake Breweries during the Coronavirus Era: Part 3”

By Kosuke Kuji

Since Japan’s nationwide state of emergency declaration ended, gradual efforts started to recover the economy while stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Along with Japan as the Japanese continue to fight the novel coronavirus; the world is also experiencing shutdown fatigue.
In Japan, those who don’t quarantine voluntarily face harsh online criticism by the “quarantine police,” with many criticizing others unnecessarily, indicating a notable rise in mental illnesses among the Japanese.
In a time when no one knows when the shutdown will end, maintaining a sound mind may be difficult.
Is there a way to heal the minds of the Japanese with delicious sake? Japanese sake rejuvenates both the body and the mind. Sake breweries reflected on how to heal the minds of the Japanese through delicious sake.
The answer reached was “kanpai” (cheers!).
“Kanpai” is a gesture of toasting to celebrate joyous occasions or when socializing, a gesture to fulfill a “wish” or “desire” to “pray for ○○.” Examining the current state of the world, we discussed the need to “kanpai” to “pray for an end to the novel coronavirus pandemic.”
Sake breweries, shochu and Awamori distilleries, etc., are spread across 47 prefectures throughout Japan. We decided to unite as one and create a video of us toasting “kanpai,” praying for an end to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The title of this video project is “Let’s Connect! A Relay Across 47 Prefectures Throughout Japan,” showing sake brewers pouring sake in various regions from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and ends with a kanpai together with all participants and viewers watching.
This video project was a major success, met with interview requests from various TV stations across 47 prefectures. YouTube views exceeded 10,000 views. Let’s unite hearts as one across Japan to overcome these difficult times and kanpai together with a smile once the novel coronavirus pandemic ends.

「コロナ時代の蔵元の発信事業 その3」


#Sake #Breweries #covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #kanpai

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This issue explains how to enjoy sake sampling.

1. Audibly
Hearing is the first sense to enjoy sake. Please listen for the sound of sake pouring into the sake bottle and bubbles audibly forming in carbonated sake.

2. Visually
Once the sake is poured, please examine the sake inside the sake cup. The type of sake will generate differences in the shade of sake color, viscosity, clarity and sheen, etc.

3. Aroma
Next, gently inhale the sake aroma without shaking the sake cup. Determine the intensity of the aroma, high/low, how the aroma spreads, concentration, and durability. Try to detect the change afterwards.

4. Palate
Finally, sip and taste the sake on your palate. First, taste with the tip of the tongue, savor the flavor, and then further savor the sweetness, bitterness, acidity and umami flavor. Savor the sake flavor not only with the tongue, but focus the senses from the throat to the nasal passage to enjoy new discoveries.

Clear the mind of any preconceived notions and taste the sake with a fair mind. When sampling the sake, incorporating cheerful, fun terms utilizing as many expressions as possible in a brief summary is important.







#sake #flavor #aroma

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling: (Nippon National Products Exhibition 2020) 

By Ryuji Takahashi

As nationwide restrictions imposed on events, etc., throughout Japan due to the Coronavirus pandemic relaxed in November, we covered the “Nippon National Products Exhibition 2020,” held over two days inside the Sunshine City Shopping Mall in Ikebukuro district, Tokyo. The event was cut short to 2 days instead of 3 days the previous year, with only half of the number of restaurant exhibitors compared to the previous year to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading. The venue implemented thorough countermeasures to prevent the spread of infection with a thorough ventilation system in full operation, a large fan on, and doors and windows open at all times. Only attendees and even vendors registered beforehand were allowed entry with hand sanitizers readily available to ensure a safe environment to prevent infection.
The event was reduced in scale, yet over 100 corporate exhibitors showcased over 1,000 regional specialty products, divided into 2 floors with each prefecture exhibiting a souvenir booth, a food court, and a jizake (regional sake) section offering samples starting from only 100 JPY, bustling with many customers. Of course, the booth attracting the most attention was the jizake section.
Approximately 100 jizake selections from 17 regions total (2 regions each from Tokyo, Fukui and Saga prefectures, along with Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, Tochigi, Niigata, Shizuoka, Gifu, Ishikawa, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima prefectures) lined the booths with samples available starting from 100 JPY per cup, an irresistible section for sake fans. Each booth sold regional snacks, etc., a sure bet to compliment any sake. Recommendation booths with a kikisake-shi in attendance were available for customers not sure which sake to sample due to the vast selections available, along with various canned food products. Needless to say, sake can be sampled with various regional specialty snacks purchased from one of the souvenir floors.
This event could be a great opportunity for sake breweries to meet other breweries from various regions with whom they normally have few opportunities to interact. Strolling past the souvenir section on the evening of the second day, attendees can witness bargain sales starting for food products, another event to look forward to in the souvenir exhibit. I also strolled past booths for various regions, where I found smoked octopus for a discounted price at a booth by Hokkaido prefecture. I hesitated trying to decide how many packs to buy when the exhibitor gave me another discount, so I purchased 3 packs. The exhibitor pushed further saying this was the last day, so I received another discount to purchase 1 more pack.
I had an enjoyable day, receiving leftover regional snacks from sake brewery booths for free. I pray joyous events like this that brings smiles back to consumers, producers, and vendors will revive in various regions once the coronavirus pandemic ends, hopefully soon.



#tokyo #sake #jizake #ikebukuro #sakefair

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Communicate the appeal of sake to customers

By Yuji Matsumoto

Happy New Years! We look forward to your continued support.

let’s consider when the appropriate timing is and how to communicate the appeal of Japanese sake in a way that leads to sales.

Consider who the message is directed to
Are chefs, servers, and bartenders trained appropriately? Training the staff to thoroughly understand why a brand of sake tastes delicious and why customers should try it is important because a single try will not be sufficient to understand even ten percent of the appeal of a brand. Therefore, please have staff try the sake paired with the cuisine.

Of course, a good place to start would be to have the servers change their ordering from “What can I get you to drink?” to “It’s cold outside, would you like to try some hot sake?” This suggestion alone is a major difference.

Speak informatively to customers in a way that generates a response like “Oh really?” For example, “How about AAA, a dry and refreshing sake from Niigata that goes great with sushi?” Or “Would you like to try BBB, a brand of sake from Akita that has body and goes great with teriyaki?” The point is to word the recommendations into easy-to-understand sales pitches that makes customers want to try the brand. Offer two to three different brands that range from reasonable to mid-range prices.





#sake #shochu #cocktail #recipes

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“Business Projects Introduced Online by Sake Breweries during the Coronavirus Era: Part 2”

By Kosuke Kuji

In the midst of such discussions, singer Gen Hoshino launched “Come Dance at Our place,” a YouTube channel uploading copyright free parodies and dance videos from various viewers.
Sake breweries such as President Mitobe of the Yamagata Masamune Brewery, Yamagata Prefecture, started thinking of parodies such as “Come Drink at Our Place,” uploaded to YouTube channel and generated a buzz.
A discussion started on what would happen if sake breweries nationwide started singing “Come Drink at Our Place” resulted in cooperation among sake breweries nationwide to produce the below footage, uploaded to YouTube as follows.
We received words of encouragement from many sake fans that watched this footage.
Japanese sake is a traditional Japanese beverage that soothes the hearts of consumers and creates new motivation to start a new day. I’m overjoyed to know sake brewers nationwide coming together successfully motivated Japanese nationals and people worldwide suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. There must be something we can do as sake brewers, something only sake brewers can do to help. We recognized there were endless possibilities.

「コロナ時代の蔵元の発信事業 その2」


#Sake #Breweries #covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #yamagata #masamune

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Ways to Describe Japanese Sake

In this issue, we introduce terms to describe Japanese sake flavors, just like a sommelier for reference.

Terms to Describe the “Feel” of Japanese Sake
Delicate, silky smooth, sharp, strong, with no sharp edge, soft, gentle, balanced, full, well-rounded, viscous, smooth, fresh, mellow, mild, refreshing, subtle, slight.

Terms to Describe the “Aroma” of Japanese Sake
Spicy, clean, smooth, dry, refreshing, plump, scent like pine leaves, scent like Japanese angelica tree, scent like a grapefruit, scent like watercress, scent like a fuki plant, scent like a gingko tree.

Terms to Describe the “Flavors” of Japanese Sake
Well-rounded umami flavor, plump, full, slight, soft, mild, light, well-balanced, melting flavor, heavy, strong, fullness, gentle and relaxing.

So, what do you think about the terms used to describe the flavors of Japanese sake?
Terms easy to visualize are recommended when asked about the characteristics of Japanese sake. Since perception of taste is subjective, it’s best to use simple terms easy to understand.



日本酒の特徴について聞かれた時、相手もイメージしやすいわかりやすい言葉で伝えたい。 味覚は人それぞれだからこそ、理解しやすい言葉で表現することが大切。

#sake #flavor #aroma

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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Restaurant Karibetei, Shimokitazawa District)

By Ryuji Takahashi

I am a Japanese sake expert and owner of a sake shop in Tokyo. However, that doesn’t mean I enjoy only sake. In fact, I’m a fan of Italian wine and drink as much wine as I do sake. Sometimes, I drink even more wine than I do sake. In this issue, I’d like to introduce an Italian restaurant I frequent once or twice a month.
Italian Restaurant “Karibetei” opened approximately 10 years ago in the Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo, bustling with young professionals and consumers. Karibetei is a simple restaurant serving Italian home cooking, opened by owner and chef Katsuichi Karibe, a former colleague and superior to me at an Italian restaurant we worked at. Originally from Tochigi prefecture, Karibe is a skilled Japanese calligrapher in addition to chef, a charismatic individual featured in many newspaper and magazine articles. His restaurant is clean with no flashy Italian décor, a comfortable restaurant that reminded me of a simple Italian eatery I patronized when I traveled to Italy. The wine list consists of carefully hand-picked selections chosen by Karibe himself, priced reasonably around 3,000 JPY per bottle, great news for wine fans like myself.
Since I visited in the fall, the menu consisted of Squash Gnocchi, Taro and Bacon Fritters, Pacific Saury Confit Spaghetti, and other seasonal fall menu selections. The Shimokitazawa district happened to be in the middle of the “Shimokitazawa Curry Festival” held lavishly once a year where Karibetei also exhibited a booth among many visitors attending to enjoy the very popular squid ink curry.
The taro fritters arrived first. The chewy taro texture is highly compatible with the egg flavor. Finishing off the beer, I switched right over to red wine. Next, I ordered Mozzarella cheese with anchovy crostini. The term crostini apparently means small toast. The bread highly compliments the Mozzarella cheese, and before I knew it, my wine bottle was empty.
I ordered another bottle of wine, Grilled Sardine and Tomato Layers, and Horse Meat Carpaccio. Sardine was highly compatible with tomato, while the horsemeat carpaccio was refreshing and enticed more wine. Lastly, I ordered the Black Wagyu Beef Tagliata. The simple flavoring and exquisite grilling surely compliment the red wine. Before I knew it, I opened my third bottle of wine. Afterwards, I enjoyed a conversation with the chef and his wife over a few delightful bowls of spumoni and concluded the meal. I visit the restaurant monthly, yet I still discover new flavors every visit, a restaurant that never tires. Karibetei is truly one of the leading restaurants among the various Italian restaurants operating in Tokyo.

東京地酒散歩(下北沢 かりべ亭)

#tokyo #sake #jizake #shimokitazawa

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