We're seeing a shift these days of brewers making sakes that are higher in acidity and experimenting with using different kojis and yeasts to create more sour profiles than sweet. I am calling this Avant-Garde Acidity!
In the sake world, it’s pretty standard that you see the SMV (sake meter value) which indicates the sweetness of sake, and the seimaibuai (rice polishing). Very rarely will you find the acidity on the label, and as a rule of thumb, sakes over 1.5 on the acidity scale is considered high in acidity. Most sakes, however, clock in around 1.3 on this scale.
After corresponding with all the brewers from this month’s selections, I’ve concluded that high acidity sakes is an avant-garde movement of sorts. Like my favorite avant-gardists the Fauves, Rei Kawakubo, or Thelonious Monk, these brewers are blazing trails in the art of sake-making, veering off from the trend of fruity, floral sakes. Yosuke Tanaka of Level 1 bottle Ima Junmai, says of acidity and sake-making: “Glutamic acid enhances umami, malic acid brings sourness, tannic acid for astringency and lactic acid for strong acidity. In our sake making, sometimes we focus on one or two of the acids mentioned but mostly it is about balance and the sensory evaluation of the sake.” I find this infinitely interesting, to balance different acid types to create a delicious beverage!
These sakes will pair perfectly with all your favorite Thanksgiving Day dishes: mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and a big ol’ turkey leg! And Yoko's newest Japanify recipe, Kinoko Risotto, full of cheese, butter, and a touch of black vinegar, pairs excellently with these acid-forward sakes. We hope you are all staying cozy and enjoy these sakes with loved ones during the upcoming holiday season.
Yoko’s Sidekick + Shochu Director
LEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Imayo Tsukasa Brewery (Niigata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Gohyaku Mangoku 65%, SMV: -11, Acidty: 3.0
All you oyster lovers, this one is for you, as this brew was actually made to specifically pair with oysters. The CEO of Imayo Tsukasa Brewery, Yosuke Tanaka, personally likes oysters so he wanted to create a sake to enjoy alongside his favorite bivalves from nearby Sado Island or Kamo Lake in Niigata. The brewer and team worked with various yeast strains to get the right malic acid level for Ima Junmai – you’ll get a creamy, yogurty nose, and a bright, mineral-forward, tart Granny Smith apple profile. According to Mr. Tanaka, the malic acid (which is most commonly found in apples) is what makes this avant-garde sake pair well with the oysters. Other food pairings he recommends is gyoza and oily fish like smoked salmon. We loved it chilled with (of course) fresh oysters (Sweet Water and Beausoleils) and a shrimp Louis salad!
Sawanoi Tokyo Kurabito Kimoto Junmai Ginjo
Ozawa Shuzo (Tokyo, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Gohyaku Mangoku 55%, SMV: +1, Acidity: 1.9
We love to feature sakes from Tokyo breweries since they are so few and far between. Since 1702, Ozawa Shuzo has been brewing sake in the wooded outskirts of Tokyo. As a kimoto style sake, the acidity is high since there is naturally occurring lactic acid. But it’s also a junmai ginjo, so you’ll get ripe bananas on the nose, and some creamy avocado notes. This sake was excellent with Kinoko Risotto, or with a heartier dish like mac + cheese! Try this one warm, you won’t regret it.
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Yucho Shuzo (Nara, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Tsuyuhakaze 80%, SMV: +0, Acidity: 2
Remember when we featured Kaze No Mori with the white label in March? There are a few notable differences between the two, mostly that the black is an Extreme Junmai, polished only 20%, so the sake is wilder than its white label counterpart. You’ll get some fizz, and ripe melon and tropical notes with a long, smooth finish. Mr. Chobei Yamamoto, President of Yucho Shuzo told me, “In our process, the sake has been fermented for more than 30 days, so the yeast makes a good aroma in low temperature conditions and long fermentation.” Try this chilled with smoked fish and Kinoko Risotto.
Brooklyn Kura (New York, USA)
Seimaibuai: Calrose 50%, SMV: +5 , Acidity: 1.9
This is a sake like you’ve never had before – incorporating hops and a bit of white koji to create citric acid. Brandon Doughan, co-founder and head brewer says, “The hops bring a very different kind of "acidity" in that the alpha acids are converted by boiling (a beer wort) to bitter compounds. You’ll get a very floral IPA nose, with strawberry and lychee profile. This drinks like a rose wine and looks like it too with a tinted hue. I loved this truly avant-garde sake chilled with a caesar salad and a few slices of pizza. Tune into our Zoom event with Brooklyn Kura on Dec. 2nd – details to come!