Umami Mart Registry

American Sake BrewersL to R: Troy Nakamatsu and Russell Wolfe of Sawtelle Sake, James Jin of Nova Brewing Co., Brandon Doughan of Brooklyn Kura

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I am a proud ABJ (American Born Japanese). So when I see a new ABS (American Born Sake) on the market, I'm rooting for them. In the eyes of others, ABS’ might be hard to categorize, are marginalized, or considered inauthentic, but they have the same spirit as any American – resourceful and innovative, with an optimistic outlook to boot. This month's theme "American Born Sakes" has been six years in the making – with the main challenge being distribution and scaling for the bottles. But they’re here!

The lack of sake-making resources pushes U.S. brewers to adapt and innovate. Founder and brewer at Sawtelle Sake, Troy Nakamatsu describes this challenge, "Because there is no history of sake production here, we don't have a blueprint to follow or resources to rely on. On the production side, we've been constantly experimenting and learning how to design equipment that operates efficiently. We've worked with a few local tank manufacturers to build custom tanks and have also done a bit of welding ourselves for equipment like our steamer. Our shubo tank is a repurposed industrial jacketed kettle that was originally used for soups."

Emiko Tanabe and James Jin of Nova Brewing have a similar experience with jimmy-rigging equipment, “We had to improvise and make things from what we have available locally. Our brewer (James) used his imagination to build things from materials from Home Depot, Amazon, and restaurant supply stores and was able to somehow manage to brew sake.”

But let’s also talk about the advantages of making sake in the U.S.! Brian Polen of Brooklyn Kura says, “NYC is an exciting and dynamic market. Consumers have access to the best things made around the world. Additionally, it is a large sake market with a vibrant sake community!” This energy for growth is something that is often lacking in Japan, where sake makers are constantly referring to the decline in sake consumption and awareness.

Sake makers in the U.S. also have the advantage of having an American food palette. I’ve found that many American sakes are high in acidity to complement rich foods that appear on our dinner tables. Instead of pairing with hirame or miso, these brewers urge you to order a pizza or grill a burger with their sakes. I find the food pairing possibilities to be a great gateway for people new to sake.

ABS is still a young category, but with makers like Brooklyn Kura, Sawtelle Sake, and Nova Brewing innovating techniques while preserving the craft, it will become an everyday beverage. Polen sums it up, “(We will) continue to excite people about the sake category, the sake we make, and highlight that super premium sakes do not need to be made in Japan.” Read more about our ABS brewers on our blog!

Join us for these upcoming events: 4/14 A Tour + Tasting @ Brooklyn Kura and 4/24 Sawtelle Sake Pizza Party @ Umami Mart Bar

Yoko, Co-Founder of Umami Mart and Kikizakeshi


Number Fourteen Junmai Ginjo Namazake

Brooklyn Kura (Brooklyn, NY)

Seimaibuai: 60% Calrose + Yamada Nishiki, SMV: 0, Acidity: 1.8

Highlighting the deliciousness of NYC tap water, Number Fourteen is Brooklyn Kura’s flagship sake. Brian Polen of the brewery describes this sake as fresh, crisp, light, and aromatic, with a dry finish meant to be enjoyed chilled in a wine glass as an everyday sipper. Try with fish and chips or a charcuterie board. I appreciate Polen’s response to how he introduces his sakes, “We try to keep the experience simple in an effort to let the sake speak for itself.” Join Kayoko + Yoko at Brooklyn Kura on April 14 for a tour + tasting!

Read the full interview with Brooklyn Kura here.

Clear Skies

Sawtelle Sake (Los Angeles, CA)

Seimaibuai: 60% California Yamada Nishiki, SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.82

Troy Nakamatsu of Sawtelle Sake got me at the food pairing, “have it with pepperoni pizza and hot fried chicken, 5-10 minutes out of the fridge.” Indeed this lively, bubbly brew that has juicy aromas of melon, grape, and honeycomb with high acidity stands up to an all-American weakness: greasy food. Made from California grown Yamada Nishiki, I love the vibe of this free-wheeling Golden State sake – Nakamatsu emphasizes that, “There is no wrong way to drink it!” Members get two 200ml cans this month for a little bonus! Join us for a pizza party with Sawtelle Sake on April 24 at the Umami Mart bar!

Read the full interview with Sawtelle Sake here.

Catskills Junmai Daiginjo Namachozo Genshu

Brooklyn Kura (Brooklyn, NY)

Seimaibuai: 50% Yamada Nishiki, SMV: -1, Acidity: 1.6

Brooklyn Kura continues to impress with their latest (and second ever) Junmai Daiginjo. For Catskills (which is named for its water source), they used 100% Yamada Nishiki, and didn't let the fermentation go above 11°C. This luxe sake is a reflection of what the brewery’s mission is, “We want people to be able to experience the skill and craftsmanship that goes into sake making.” Enjoy this sake chilled in a white wine glass with bruschetta or fried calamari. Join Kayoko + Yoko at Brooklyn Kura on April 14 for a tour + tasting!

Read the full interview with Brooklyn Kura here.

Gravity Junmai Daiginjo Muroka Namazume Genshu

Nova Brewing Co. (Covina, CA)

Seimaibuai: 50% Calrose, SMV: -3, Acidity: 2.4

Gravity’s label depicts a Japanese marbling technique called suminagashi where ink is dripped on the surface of water and naturally forms rings. Fitting imagery, as this sake is made in the shizuku method where pressing is facilitated by dripping the sake from hanging bags full of moromi (similar to “free run” wine), which tends to result in less harsh flavors. Keep this fresh sake chilled and enjoy the sweetness of melon, banana, and cooked rice followed by a remarkably high, juicy acidity. The acidity works well with smoked ham, smoked salmon, or creamy brie cheese.

Read the full interview with Nova Brewing Co. here.