Archive for the ‘Brewers’ Category

July 2010 Sake Tastings

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

It’s summer in the city and the temperatures are climbing so we’re focused on bringing you tastings of sake that offer refreshing respites from the heat and humidity as well as some new seasonal unpasteurized sake (namazake) that are sure to please the palate and slake the thirst…

Thursday, July 1, 2010, 6 to 8pm

Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu Sake (Tokushima)

Thursday, July 8, 2010, 6 to 8pm

Joto Sake Tasting

Ban Ryu Honjozo (Yamagata)

Saturday, July 17, 2010, 5 to 7pm

Light Sake for Summer Drinking

Kudoki Jozu Junmai Ginjo (Yamagata) and Sawanoi Junmai Ginjo (Tokyo)

Saturday, July 24, 2010, 5 to 7pm

Japan Prestige Sake Tasting

Summer Namazake

Saturday, July 31, 2010, 5 to 7pm

Asahi Shuzo Brewery Tasting

Dassai Sake (Yamaguchi)

May 2010 Sake Tastings

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

This month will be busy for sake lovers with an abundance of  sake tasting events in NYC.  In addition to the nine tastings at SAKAYA, there is the Nishimoto Trading “The Best 100 Sake!” at EN Brasserie on Saturday, May 15, and the annual Japan Society sake lecture by sake expert extraordinaire John Gauntner and accompanying tasting on Wednesday, May 19.

Our lineup of tastings at SAKAYA kicks off with the latest of the exciting new spring seasonal namazake followed by a series of brewers visiting from Japan who will introduce you to their sake.   After all the opportunities to explore so many this month,  you’ll be sure to celebrate Memorial day with sake!

Saturday, May 8, 2010, 4-6pm

Japan Prestige Sake Association Namazake Tasting

Otokoyama Kasumi Junmai Namazake (Hokkaido), Gokyo Junmai Nama (Yamaguchi), & Urakasumi Tokubetsu Junmai Nama (Miyagi)

Thursday, May 13, 2010, 6 to 8pm

Fukumitsuya Brewery Tasting

Kagatobi Junmai Nama, Kagatobi Ai Junmai Daiginjo Nama, & Kuro Obi Doudou Yamahai Junmai (Ishikawa)

Friday, May 14, 2010, 6-8pm

Yumegokoro Brewery Sake Tasting

Naraman Junmai (Fukushima)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 6-8pm

Imada Brewery Company Tasting

Fukucho “Moon on the Water” Junmai Ginjo (Hiroshima)

Friday, May 21, 2010, 6-8pm

Jokigen Sake Brewery Sake Tasting

Jokigen Junmai Ginjo (Yamagata)

Saturday, May 22, 2010, 4-6pm

Akita Seishu Brewery Sake Tasting

Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai & Dewatsuru Hihaku Junmai Daiginjo (Akita)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 6-8pm

Shindo Brewery Sake Tasting

Gasanryu Honjozo (Yamagata)

Mr. Kuji — Nanbu Bijin Brewery

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010


Hiroko had never been north of Tokyo. When she mentioned to Kosuke Kuji (久慈浩介), the 5th generation of Nanbu Bijin Brewery (南部美人酒造)in Iwate, Kuji-san invited her to his brewery.

Nanbu Bijin Brewery is located in Ninohe (二戸), Iwate prefecture in the Tohoku region about 3 hours from Tokyo by rail, and the second to last stop on the Tohoku Shinkansen before Hachinohe, Aomori prefecture. With a population of about 31,400 (in 2006) it is rather small city which still has the remains of the historic Kunohe Castle (九戸城) and the famous Kindaichi Onsen (金田一温泉). Among its restaurants is the legendary soba restaurant Maita Koubou Sobae-An (米田工房そばえ庵), the hard-to-get-in yoshoku Restaurant Bonheur, (レストラン・ボヌール), and an extremely famous ramen shop, and several late night drinking spots.

Anyone who is familiar with Japanese language may get confused about the name Nanbu Bijin (南部美人). Translated as Southern Beauty, one may wonder why the “Nanbu” (南部) or Southern when the brewer is located in the northern part of Japan?

“Nanbu” comes from the name of the Nanbu samurai clan which originated in Northern Japan, mainly in what was once known as Mutsu province (which now encompasses present-day Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Aomori plus some parts of Akita). Descended from Emperor Seiwa (reign 858-876), Minamoto no Mitsuyuki (1165?-1236?) of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture), took the name “Nanbu” from the town where he lived changing his name to Nanbu Mitsuyuki. He is said to have moved to Mutsu province around the time of the Oshu War (奥州合戦) in 1189. Over time, the Nanbu became the dominant samurai clan in the Mutsu area and built their castles as they established themselves in the area which is how the Nanbu name came to be associated with this part of a Iwate.

IMG_3230_1Nanbu Bijin Brewery is rather small, family-run operation. It has seven kurabito (people involved in the brewing process), all young men in their 20′s and 30′s. They also employ twenty staff members to run the operation. The brewery produces 2,500 koku of sake.  (1 koku = 180 liters or 100 – 1.8 litter isshobin). It is considered a small to mid-sized brewery (those with production of less than 1000 koku are very small.)

Kuji-san is an energetic young man in his 30′s whose ebullient personality casts sunshine on the sake world and beyond. He has been to New York City to promote his sake many times, and has enthusiastically encouraged many sake fans to become Nanbu Bijin lovers.

He is also a risk taker and revolutionary in terms of developing new products with a spirit akin to the samurai Nanbu Mitsukuni who made the bold move to very far north from where he was born. Seeing the popularity and trend of umeshu or plum sake/liquor, Kuji-san has created a non-sugar added umeshu.

Kuji san, Nakano san, and Rika sanThe journey started when his wife Rika suggested mixing his “All-Koji Sake” with kiwi or strawberry to make a fruit cocktail. This all-koji sake was a early brainchild that he created in 1998, and it is now a staple of the Nanbu Bijin lineup. It is made from just three ingredients: koji (koji-mold affected rice), water, and yeast starter instead of the four ingredients usually used for making sake: rice, water, yeast, and koji. Koji-mold’s job is to break down the rice starch into the simple sugar, glucose. Therefore, koji (rice inoculated with koji mold) has a high glucose level. This “All-Koji Sake” has a little sweetness that makes it a good mixer for a fruit cocktail.

After his wife’s inspiration, Kuji-san had his “ah ha!” moment. He theorized that the all-koji sake could be infused with ume (Japanese plum) to make an umeshu that is naturally sweet. He tweaked his all-koji sake, and using the koji’s natural glucose level, he successfully create the umeshu that needs no additional sweetener.

His search for the perfect ume for his product led him to a local farmer in Iwate prefecture. He also found a young local artist to design the label for the product. He patented the process in 2009, and his umeshu now sells briskly…his February released umeshu is almost sold out.

Look for it in the U.S. by October of this year. Kuji-san’s samurai spirit inspired umeshu is sure to cast its spell on umeshu fans here too!

Masumi Arabashiri Kickoff Party

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Spring brings with it some great seasonal namazake (unpasteurized sake) and one of the most highly anticipated arrives in New York next week (the week of 3/21/10).   Masumi Junmai Ginjo Arabashiri from the  Miyasaka Brewing Company in Nagano will debut not only at SAKAYA at our tasting on Friday, March 26 (6-8PM) but also at two restaurant events where the brewer will pour and speak about their sake.    Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the Arabashiri and as well as the other fine sake from this legendary brewery!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Surprise, sake tasting and dinner featuring Masumi sake

from 8 to 11pm

1 or 8 (66 South 2nd Street, Brooklyn)

$55 per person + tip

RSVP:  718-384-2152

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sake Nouveau 2010, Masumi “Arabashiri” Kickoff Party

from 6 to 8pm

En Japanese Brasserie (435 Hudson Street)

$37 (including tax & tip)

RSVP:   212-647-9196

Friday, March 26

Masumi Arabashiri Tasting at SAKAYA

from 6 to 8pm

world sake masumi arabashiri

November 2009 Sake Tastings

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The more familiar you become with sake, the more you come to find how many different approaches there are to making it.  While brewing a beverage from rice, water, yeast, and koji may seem relatively straightforward, there are an unfathomable number of variations on the basic method (if there is such a thing) used by brewers to create their own unique sake.  To add to your experience we’ve scheduled a variety of sake, each with its own “recipe” and story behind it.  Please join us to taste them and hear what was done to give them each their own distinct aromatics and flavor profile.

We look forward to seeing you!


Rick & Hiroko

Friday, November 6, 2009, 6-8PM

Yumegokoro Sake Brewery Tasting by Nobuo Shoji, the Exective Director

Naraman Muroka Junmai (Fukushiima)

Saturday, November 14, 2009, 5-7PM

Wataribune Junmai Ginjo Tasting (Ibaraki)

Friday, November 20, 2009, 6-8PM

JFC Importer Sake Tasting

Gassanryu Junmai & Ura-Gassanryu Honjozo Muroka Namazume (Yamagata)

Saturday, November 28, 2009, 5-7PM

Takaisami Tokubetsu Junmai (Tottori)

Savoring Scenic Sawai

Saturday, October 31st, 2009


Water and cupsThe following day’s brewery visit took me in a completely different direction, to Ozawa Shuzo in scenic Sawai, nestled among verdant mountains about two hours west of the city, but still in Tokyo prefecture. This time, a pleasant five minute walk through the picturesque village led me to my destination, the kura that brews one koshuof my favorite sake, Sawanoi Kiokejikomi Iroha Kimoto Junmai.  My guides Kubo-san and his assistant were gracious and informative, making sure that I saw the cedar tank (kioke) used in making the aforementioned brew, the underground springs that are their two water sources, and a wall of koshu (aged sake) vintages dating back 20 years.

Tama RiverAnother highlight of the visit was a perfect lunch at their fabled tofu restaurant perched serenely just above the rapids of the Tama River. As my server presented each in a series of delectable tofu dishes, I Sake Tastingsipped from the flight of four Sawanoi sake that I had pre-selected while gazing at the natural beauty of the tableau spread out before my windowside table.  Even as rain began to fall, it only enhanced what couldn’t have been a more peaceful and relaxing experience!

The Wonder of Wataribune

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Wataribune Field

Accompanied by our friend Melinda, I set out early the morning following the SSI awards event for Huchuhomare Shuzo in Ishioka, a small town in Sonoma-like Ibaraki-ken, about an hour and a half north by train from Shinjuku station in Tokyo.  On our arrival at Ishioka station, we were greeted warmly by the smiling shacho-san (brewery President) Takaaki Yamauchi san and RickYamauchi.  As he drove us to his family-owned brewery, we discussed the local effects of the typhoon which had made landfall in eastern Japan the day before, destroying several older buildings nearby.  Fortunately, no harm had come to any of the inhabitants!  (Aside from high winds which temporarily shut down rail service, the much-anticipated typhoon had been a non-event in Tokyo).

IMG_2921_1Following a welcome of tea and sweets in the ancient reception room, Yamauchi-san led us on an intriguing tour of the kura.  We then tasted the full line of Wataribune nihonshu as he described the history of the brewery and how he had come to use the unique Wataribune strain of  sakamai (sake rice varietal) to make his sake.  It seems that a former high-ranking Ministry of Agriculture official who had retired to the locale, about twenty years ago suggested that Huchuhomare consider resurrecting the long-ago used pure strain.  Only problem was that all they could find was about 15 grams of seeds in the seed bank.  Not a lot to start a rice field with!  Nevertheless, they planted it, collected the Wataribune Riceseeds each year and eventually cultivated a sufficient supply for sake brewing.  The story came to life quickly as our next stop was that very rice field itself which surrounds our lunch destination, the homemade tofu and soba restaurant owned and operated by, you guessed it, the gentleman who brought Wataribune to Yamauchi-san!

To learn more about the wonder of Wataribune, read this.

Sake Brewery Tours

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Interested in visiting sake breweries?  If you are, we have exciting news….

Our friends Etsuko Nakamura and John Gauntner (author of The Sake Handbook) have put together the sake-lover’s dream vacation!

Now, anyone can access the inner workings of the sake world. Visit Japan, start off with a bit of formal sake education by sake guru John Gauntner, then you’re off to visit  several sake breweries to see how sake is made while under the care of an experienced sake-savvy interpreter.  Some stays in ryokans (Japanese inn) and sake-focused dinners at izakaya (sake pubs) round out the experience.

This brewing season, there are two tours planned:

Tour I: February 23 to 27 in the Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe) area

Visit sake breweries including those in the historic sake town of Fushimi (in Kyoto), one of the major brewing towns in Japan as well as Japanese gardens and historic Nijo Castle, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Edo period shogun.

Tour II: March 15 to 19 in the San-in (Shimane/Tottori/Hiroshima) area

In addition to visiting breweries, this tour also includes a visit to the  Izumo Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most ancient and important shrines, plus parks and art museums.

For more information, pricing and reservations please visit Sake Brewery Tour.  Participation is extremely limited this season for the two tours that are scheduled.


September 2009 Tastings

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

 The sake sampling season of September is in full swing!  With brewers descending on New York for their importer and distributor events, we’re excited about welcoming a full complement of them to SAKAYA for a line up of terrific tastings.  Please join us for as many as you’re able to fit into your schedule.

And don’t forget about Joy of Sake on September 24 where there will be over 270 sake to taste! Tickets may be purchased at SAKAYA for $80.


Friday, September 4, 2009, from 6 to 8PM

Daishichi Brewer Sake Tasting (Fukushima)

Daishichi Kimoto Classic Junmai, Minowamon Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo, & Daishichi Kimoto Umeshu


Saturday, September 12, 2009 from 3 to 6PM

Niigata Sake SENA Tasting

Kirinzan Junmai & Manotsuru Junmai Ginjo Genshu


Friday, September 18, 2009, from 6 to 8PM

Joto Sake Tasting

Yuho Junmai (Ishikawa) & Taiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai (Ibaraki)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009, from 6 to 8PM

Shochu Tasting by Satsuma Distiller (Kagoshima)

Satsuma Shiranami Imo (Sweet Potato) Shochu & Kuro Shiranami Imo Shocchu


Saturday, September 26, 2009 from 5 to 7PM

Nanbu Bijin Brewer Tasting (Iwate)

Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai

July Tastings

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Our apologies for the late posting of the July tasting schedule.  Still remaining at this point are the noteworthy U.S. debuts of the Tsuki no Katusura Junmai Ginjo summer namazake from Japan Prestige Sake,  Dassai 39 Sparkling Nigori, and Kikusui Organic Junmai.

 Please join us to enjoy these new arrivals and taste the latest offerings of the accompanying established favorites .  We look forward to seeing you at SAKAYA!


Rick & Hiroko

Saturday, July 11, 2009, 3 to 6PM

Winebow Importer Tasting

Ichishima Futsu-shu & Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai


Thursday, July 16, 2009, 6 to 8PM

World Sake Import Tasting

Seitoku Junmai Ginjo (Gunma) & Dewazakura Dewa San San (Yamagata)


Thursday, July 23, 2009, 6 to 8PM

Japan Prestige Sake Summer Nama Tasting

Ohyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nama & Tsuki no Katsura Junmai Ginjo Nama


Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 6 to 8PM

Mr. Sakurai’s Sparkling Sake Tasting

Dassai 39 Sparkling Nigori


Thursday, July 30, 2009, 6 to 8PM

Kikusui Brewer Sake Tasting

Kikusui Organic Junmai, Kikusui Junmai Ginjo, & Kikusui Funaguchi