Sake Nation “First Sake Sampling Event Overseas in a Long Time - Part II: Hawaii Island”

By Kosuke Kuji

During my past visits to Hawaii, I’ve always stayed in Honolulu. During this trip, I ventured out and visited the Big Island.

Hawaiʻi Island is home to “Islander Sake Brewery” founded by Chiaki Takahashi, a former researcher with the National Research Institute of Brewing.  

First opened in Honolulu, the brewery relocated to Hawaiʻi Island to brew sake in the breezes of Hawaii at the mecca of the winds of Hawaiʻi.   

When Takahashi-san was opening the Islander Sake Brewery, I was involved in exchanging technical information with a Nanbu Toji (Master Brewer) due to my long-standing friendship with Takahashi-san, and remain a supporter to date. 

To attend a sampling event at the Islander Sake Brewery during this trip, I brought my own brand of sake brewed in Japan for local brewing technology experts and customers to sample and compare against jizake (local sake) brewed by Islander Sake Brewery.   

Even to a Japan-based sake brewer like me, the high quality of jizake flavor brewed by Islander Sake Brewery is comparable to jizake brewed at a brewery in Japan.   

I greatly admire Takahashi-san’s ability to brew jizake to this quality without a manufacturing facility used in Japan. 

Islander Sake Brewery orders sake rice from Japan, thoroughly capitalizing on the advantages reflected in the flavor that stands out from SAKE brewed in the U.S. mainland. 

Cost wise, I felt there are sufficient advantages in purchasing sake rice from Japan if the cost isn’t different from purchasing sake rice from the U.S. mainland. 

SAKE brewed in the breezes of Hawaii. I will continue supporting sake brewed by Islander Sake Brewery. 

酒豪大陸「久しぶりの海外での試飲会 その3 ハワイ島」










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Sake Consumption during the Showa Period (1926-1989)

However, the quality of Japanese sake was reviewed in the late 1960s, and consumers crusaded to demand the content of sake be labeled, as sake brewers started to actively brew “Honjozo” and “Junmai” sake.  

Also, the assignment of quota on sake rice was abolished, and various sake similar to wine and carbonated sake were released. Since enjoying peak sales in the late 1960s, sake sales slumped due to the increasing popularity of whiskey, beer, wine, and shochu. Although sake consumption is declining in Japan, each sake producer is engaging in various efforts to improve quality and diversify containers, while releasing a line-up of various sake products such as draft sake and Ginjo sake to increase sales. 

Adding preservatives to sake was banned in 1983, and The Sake Grading System of Japan was ended in April 1992. Since then, premium sake such as Daiginjo sake and Ginjo sake became mainstream and local sake increased in popularity. As more Japanese restaurants opened overseas, the sake boom was ignited in the U.S. Sake sales in the U.S. market, where many consumers enjoy wine, transition around ten percent in growth rate each year.   




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Tokyo Jizake Strolling: (Sake Nagatoro Gura Paired with Teppanyaki)

By Ryuji Takahashi

The rainy season started in Tokyo. Just when the rain was expected to continue, the weather suddenly turned scorching hot. Whether it’s rainy or sunny, an umbrella ultimately comes in handy in early summer, when teppanyaki and izakaya restaurant “Teppan” in the Nakano ward of Tokyo held a pairing event serving teppanyaki cuisine paired with sake from the Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery based in Nagatoro town, Saitama prefecture.  

As reported previously, Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery brewed sake in collaboration with merchants from Omni (modern-day Hino town, Gamo district of Shiga prefecture) and master sake brewers? from the Echigo province (modern-day Niigata prefecture). The brewery eventually relocated to Nagatoro town, Saitama prefecture to access pure water used to mainly brew small volumes of “Nagatoro Gura” - a fragrant, non-filtered, and unprocessed sake.  

Sake “Nagotoro Gura” was noticed by the owner of teppanyaki and izakaya restaurant “Teppan” in Tokyo, the venue of the pairing event. On this day, a sales representative of Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery elaborated on the sake product, followed by a special full-course dinner prepared by a renowned chef at a Japanese restaurant, where first-time customers (not referred to the restaurant by regular patrons) are turned away. 

The special full-course dinner started with two appetizers, “Tofu Paste with Fruits” and “Seasonal Vegetables Marinated in a Spicy Sauce,” followed by “Oyama Fried Chicken with Apricot Chutney,” “Cod Meuniere and New Potato Potage,” “Gyoza Dumpling filled with Minced Duck and Crown Daisy, served with Coconut Vinegar Soy Sauce,” “Kure’s Navy Style Braised Beef and Potatoes with Tomato Farcies,” “Okonomiyaki (prepared specially for this event) with Musashi Barley Pork,” all delicious menu selections that compliment the flavor of sake. Lastly, the meal concluded with dessert, “Monaka Catalana with Sake Lees Sauce.” I later learned the owner personally headed to Nagatoro town to purchase produce and other ingredients other than meat that further enhances the paired flavors.     

This thoughtfully prepared menu was paired with four sake selections: “Nagatoro Gura Non-filtered Unprocessed Cloudy Sake” with sufficient carbonation, “Nagatoro Gura Junmai Ginjo Non-filtered Unprocessed Sake” with fragrances of apple and pear, “Nagatoro Junmai Non-filtered Unprocessed Sake” with refreshing fragrances of banana and pineapple, and “Nagatoro Pasteurized Junmai” with a gentle fragrance capitalizing on the characteristics of sake rice Sake Musashi, harvested in Saitama prefecture. 

The sake selections that pair well with fruits and vegetables left a refreshing aftertaste, even after the meat dishes were finished. Guests seemed quite content from enjoying sake products by Nagatoro Gura Fujisaki Sobei Shoten Sake Brewery, not readily available outside of Saitama prefecture; paired with delicious cuisine prepared by a renowned chef at a Japanese restaurant, where first-time customers (not referred to the restaurant by regular patrons) are turned away. 



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Various ways to enjoy sake

Sake is one of the rare alcoholic beverages in the world enjoyed both hot and cold. Sake is enjoyed at a wider temperature range than other alcoholic beverages, served from 41 degF up to approximately 131 degF. Brewed and aged from winter to spring and summer to fall as the four distinct seasons change, finding new ways to enjoy sake in everyday life can further enhance how sake is consumed and savored. The fruit of abundant nature and accumulated knowledge over time, exploring how to consume sake can generate new ways to enhance the delicious sake flavor. This issue introduces different ways to savor sake. 

Hirezake (grilled fish fin doused in hot sake, commonly prepared from puffer fish fin or sea bream fin) 
The most common way to prepare hirezake is to grill a fish (pufferfish) fin at high heat, place in a sake vessel (tokkuri or sake cup, etc.), then douse in hot sake to release the distinct rich flavors and umami components from collagen and amino acids, etc., in the fish fin in the sake. Over time, the sake turns amber in color without exuding any fishy odor while still retaining the original sake flavor and fragrance. In addition, the fish is subtle in flavor, thus no oil seeps out onto the surface. Premium quality fish fin is rinsed in water, skewered, and dried in the sun. Seabream fin and snapper fin are used in addition to pufferfish fin to prepare hirezake.         

Kotsuzake (grilled fish bone sake) 
Kotsuzake (grilled fish bone sake) is commonly prepared in two ways. First, reheat grilled fish bone such as seabream or snapper bone, place in a vessel, then douse in hot sake. Umami flavors from the bone and bone marrow seeps into the sake, highly compatible with the umami flavor of sake. White fish is generally preferred to prepare kotsuzake, commonly prepared from halibut or flathead bones. Another way to prepare kotsuzake is to salt-grill a whole white fish, place the piping hot fish in a large bowl, then douse in hot sake. Again, umami flavors from the fish seep directly into the sake. Enjoyed in mountain ravines since ancient times, a steaming sake cup was often passed around and enjoyed by all, a rustic way to enjoy kotsuzake. Fish commonly used to prepare kotsuzake are Yamame (masu) trout, Japanese dace, sweetfish, and char. 

Boiled crab shell sake
Prepare boiled crab shell sake by removing the shell of a boiled crab to use as a vessel to pour hot sake inside. Crab innards and the umami flavor from crab eggs transfer into the sake to release a unique flavor. Pour sake inside and char-grill the whole crab shell to release the burnt aroma that further enhances the umami flavor.  

Egg sake 
Add egg yolk and sugar into sake and mix thoroughly, then heat at a temperature that doesn’t solidify the egg yolk and mix adequately. Another way to prepare egg sake is to add sugar into heated sake, add the egg yolk, and mix. Egg sake can also be prepared by adding sugar into egg yolk, then gradually add heated sake and mix thoroughly. In all cases, egg sake must be finished while still hot. Since ancient times, egg sake has been consumed to generate sweat to treat a cold or to warm up on cold winter nights. For non-drinkers, prepare a virgin egg sake by completely boiling the sake (to vaporize all the alcohol). 



・ひれ酒 代表的なものは、乾燥させたフグのひれを強い炭火などで焦がし気味にあぶってから器(徳利やコップなど)に入れ、熱燗にした日本酒を注いで作るひれ酒である。ひれに含まれるコラーゲンやアミノ酸など特有のこく味や旨み成分が酒の中に溶け出して、時間がたつにつれて酒が琥珀色に変わるが、生臭くないために酒本来の風味を損なうことはなく、香ばしい香りも喜ばれる。また、淡泊な魚なので脂が浮くこともない。幅の広い尾ひれを水洗いしてから串に刺し、天日で素干しにしたものが最も上物とされる。フグのほか、タイやアマダイのひれも用いられる。 

・骨酒骨 酒には大別して二通りの作り方がある。一つは、焼きものにしたタイやアマダイなどの骨を再び火にかけて焦がし、器に入れて熱燗にした日本酒を注いだもの。骨や骨髄から浸出する旨みが酒の旨みとよく合う。一般には白身の魚が向くとされ、ヒラメやコチなどの骨でも賞味される。 もう一つは、淡水魚を一尾丸のまま塩焼きにし、焼きたてを井や大鉢に入れて、熱燗の日本酒を注いだもの。魚肉の旨みが、そのまま酒の中に引き出される。古くから山間の渓谷などで行なわれてきたもので、熱いところを回し飲みするなど、野趣溢れた楽しみ方といえる。ヤマメやハヤ、アユ、イワナなどがよく用いられる。 

・甲羅酒 茄でたカニの甲羅をはずして、熱燗にした日本酒を注ぐ。カニ味噌や卵の旨みと風味が酒に移り、独特の味わいとなる。甲羅を盃として飲む。酒を注いでから甲羅ごと炭火などであぶると、甲羅の焦げたにおいが旨みをより引き立てる。 

・玉子酒 日本酒に卵黄と砂糖を加えてよく混ぜ、卵黄が凝固しない程度の温度で熱しながら十分に混ぜる。または、砂糖を加えて熱した日本酒に、卵黄を入れて混ぜる。あるいは、卵黄に砂糖を加えて混ぜ、熱した日本酒を少しずつ加えながらよく混ぜる。いずれも温かいうちに飲む。古くから、風邪の時の発汗剤や寒い夜の飲み物として用いられている。酒の飲めない人には、煮切り酒で作る方法もある。 
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