Welcome to the fifth installment of America's sake-centric newsletter.
Just a quick thank you to all those who helped make True Sake's
December the best sales month to date. I think more and more people
are discovering what you already know, that sake is a fascinating
beverage and the cleanest burning fuel in the booze market. True Sake
looks forward to the Asian "Year of The Chicken" as we put the "Year
of the Monkey" to bed. Speaking of chicken this is the year that you
step out of your sake comfort zone and try some of the more
adventurous or historically more important sakes that have made their
way over from Japan. Lastly, I am not certain about monkey, but I
know for sure that sake and chicken go together like holiday air
travel and lost luggage.
In this issue:
THE TSUNAMI OF 2004 - True Sake Offers a "Toast To Life"
Without getting too deep into the story that we all know, we at True
Sake were looking for a way to offer a little to help to the millions
of suffering victims in Asia. So it is with great feeling that True
Sake will be donating 20% of our entire January sales figure to those
in need. We call it a "Toast To Life" and encourage as many of you as
possible to buy a bottle for a great cause. And for those of you who
are curious, Yes! we will be donating the proceeds to a very reputable
American charitable organization.
Please tell a friend, and by all means forget those damn X-mas Visa
bills and splurge on that really expensive bottle of sake that you
always wanted to try. And remember sake tastes fabulous on its own,
so imagine what it will taste like when you know that others will be
benefiting from your buzz!
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BEAU'S BOOK ON SAKE - Deadline and I am Still Alive!
As most of you know for the past year I have been penning a book for
Chronicle Books. On what? Well, wine of course! Just kidding. My book
is on a libation called Sake and I look at this amazing beverage from
the American perspective. It has been an incredibly fun process, and
I would like to thank many of you for your trials and tribulations of
purchasing sake at True Sake, which has provided some powerful
The book, which is due January 14th, is a mixture of history,
technique, anecdote, reviews, recipes, and a few other twists. I have
been told that a sales date is scheduled for Winter 2005, but this is
subject to change. At this point we don't even have a name. Any ideas?
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HIRE-ZAKE (HIRE-SAKE) - There's A What In My Sake?
I am a sake purist at heart - always have been! That said, and please
don't tell my sake gurus, I am a sucker for fugu! Fu-who? Fugu.
Commonly referred to as blowfish. Yes, the same fish that if prepared
incorrectly will kill you. (There are 5-10 "death by fugu" each year
in Japan. A result of the liver being pierced and added to the mix,
which should not happen)
Hire-Sake quite simply is heated sake with a blowfish fin added to it.
First visualize a blowfish! Fat with those two side wings/fins that
look completely ineffective as a stabilizer for such a portly fish.
They take these fins, grill it, and then add them to atsu-kan (piping
hot sake) that is served in a cup with a lid. Heating is the key,
because the fin itself needs to really steep in the sake. Thus the lid,
which you should leave on for two or three minutes after you have been
served. The result is a super savory flavor that is extremely
addictive. Sort of like a cross between sake and soup! But it is still
very clean, and I have had much more success with dryer sakes that
have a higher amino acid count.
What you mean SafeWay doesn't sell fugu fin? In Japan, despite sake
connoisseurs frowning on hire-sake, there is demand enough that they
sell airtight packs of dried fugu fin in most major markets. Also the
big food courts of the major retailers will sell fresh fugu fin, which
I find is not vastly better than the dried ones. If you have a friend
going to Japan add this to your wish list.
Finally, I am reminded of a time when I was in Osaka and went to a
sushi bar under the tracks! At one end of the bar there was a
pillar/pole that went to the ceiling. This pole had a thick rope
wrapped all the way around the length of it. In the creases of the
rope there were little skewers sticking out with dried fish on each
skewer. Small little fish that looked like grilled trout (about three
inches long) were poking out this way and that. I asked the chef if he
had Hire-Sake, and he said that he had something better! He proceeded
to pick one of the little dried grilled fish on a stick and made
Hire-Sake out of it. He served it the same way that I was used to with
fugu fin, piping hot with a lid to steep the flavor. Honestly, the
taste was amazing, light and savory! So I leave it to your imagination
and that of your local sushi chef to try and make Hire-Sake out of a
dried grilled fish of choice if you don't have a pocket full of dried
fugu fin like I do!
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BREWING SAKE IN WINTER - Is It Cold Where You Are Right Now?
It is a plain fact; historically sake brewing took place in the winter
only. Of course today they brew year-round with all sorts of new
fangled refrigeration and cooler systems, but back in the day Old Man
Winter made sake his way and his way only. Why? Several reasons
really, and they all came from trial and error. Sake is a fermented
beverage, and the act of fermentation requires great energy to convert
a starch into a sugar and a sugar into alcohol. This energy is
released in the form of heat. And as sake uses yeast to do a lot of
this work yeasts are susceptible to death by overheating. Kill the
yeasts and the fermentation never gets completed. Thus, how does one
keep these yeast cool? You guessed it!
Temperature control is one of the most time consuming and potentially
costly mistakes that brewers can make. The temperature must be
monitored 24x7 to ensure proper brewing. Each part of the brewing
process from steaming the rice to spreading the koji mold onto the
rice to the actual fermentation in the tanks is solely dependant on
temperature. Therefore brewers could do battle with the increases in
heat the natural way by opening the windows to let in the cool winter
air. Vents work wonders when the thermometer begins to rise in a
fermenting tank of sake.
There is a secondary reason for brewing in winter as well. When the
air is cold this lessens the amount of natural airborne yeasts that
play havoc with a sake brew in process. One of the most important
aspects of a brewery is to keep unwanted yeasts out of the procedure.
Thus a cleaner and of course a colder environment helps to aid this
process. And lastly, it just looks so much cooler when there is a
feint glow of a tank room fermenting along from a snowy far away
outside view. Snow and sake go hand in hand like ummmm chicken and
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NEW STORE ARRIVALS:
Tamanohikari Yamahai Junmai Ginjo - This is a full-bodied arrival from
the Kyoto/Fushimi area and is a great value ginjo at $20/bottle. As
part of your learning process it is important to try a Yamahai or
Kimoto old-method sake at least once. This particular robust ginjo is
a full-figured Yamahai that would be embraced by any fan of big
Kikusui Nama Genshu Honjozo - Talk about the perfect subway sake! The
brewers who produce our number one selling ginjo in the store make
this little 180ml can of honjozo (added alcohol) sake. A product of
Niigata, this little monster talks the talk and walks the walk.
Typically dispensed by coin machines in Japan this genshu is the
ultimate "decompression" sake that most drinkers slug down before
their long train rides home. It is both unpasteurized and undiluted,
which makes it a 19% rounded slightly sweet can of attitude. $5/can.
You can review sakes on our web site:
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I have not been told of many happenings in the Bay Area as per
tastings in January. We will update our calendar on our website if
we hear of anything.
February 9th - True Sake Tasting: "Hello Sweetie!" In honor of V-day
and the sweets that go along with it, we will be hosting a tasting for
those with an inkling for the sweet stuff. This is not to say that
the selection will be unappealing to those who think dryer is better,
rather it is a great opportunity to taste some of the realms of sake
on one side of the spectrum. Per usual the tastings are $40/head for
5-6 sakes and light food accompaniments. (Should not be considered
dinner!) Limited seating. Tickets will NOT be sold at the Door (No
exceptions!) Please stop by the store or phone with credit card
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"ASK BEAU" - Questions From In The Know
Glen in Riverside, California asks: "What's up with flavored sakes and
where can I get some?" In hell Glen, that's where you can get them!
Just joshing. Flavored sakes are just that sakes that have been
infused with different fruit flavors. I cannot speak for the Japanese
market, but I will assume that they are few and far between. That said
a brewery in California that just closed its doors used to make a line
of these infused sakes. They are still available in major grocery
stores, but for a limited time I suspect.
I say Glen that if you are infusing something then you are hiding
something. The sake itself may not be that good to begin with, as such
it makes sense to dress it up. Or in this case dumb it down. People,
as I have said, I am all about sake and bringing folks to the sake
table, but infused sakes are not really sake and should not be
considered so. Sure a bar tender can take a nice sake and whip up a
cool cocktail - fine - but to get people to drink sake by adding
cherry juice in the brewery? I am not for that!
Glen, there are a myriad of fruit tones in filtered sake. Flavors from
honeydew melon to ripe bananas, and from strawberries to cotton candy
can be found naturally in sake. Don't go the route of a wine cooler.
Try your sake clean and natural. (Lastly, there are a few breweries in
Japan who are playing with fruit-based yeasts such as peach that also
bring out dramatic flavors naturally.)
Please send your sake specific questions to
askbeau2 @ truesake.com. (This
address is not for general questions and I only review the questions
once per month. All correspondence should use
info @ truesake.com.)
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The SECRET WORD! - Me Thinks The Secret Is Out
Man oh man has the Secret Word become popular. We had 94 takers last
month for "Chopsticks." This massive increase led to shortages, and
for that we are sorry. We did however always have one of the two in
stock. As always one bottle of each sake for each reader. This month
we will be offering two sakes at half price. 1) Kariho Namahage
"Devil's Mask" - a $24 Junmai reduced to $12 for the dry sake lovers
and 2) Koshi no Tousetsuka "Snow Flower" - a $26 Junmai Ginjo reduced
to $13 for the sake drinkers who like a Niigata style fruitiness that
drinks dry. We've noticed that a few of you only stop in for the
Secret Word sakes and we understand that times are tough, but let's
not forget to give a little to get a little, especially when 20% of
sales are going to help those who really need it! And the Secret Word
for January is "FUGU."
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WANTED: We Need a Flash Web Master
True Sake is looking for a temporary Flash web master who would like
to talk trade! We need somebody who can update the calendar, add new
images of sakes, start an archive for these bogus newsletters etc.
Please email us at email@example.com if you are interested and would
love to learn more about sake in the process.
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