I have no idea how it happened, but I still didn't tell you anything about sake. Even though I should have brought it right after geisha - few things in Japanese culture are surrounded by as many misconceptions as these two. For example, sake is not rice vodka and not even rice wine, although it does taste a bit like wine, but in essence it is rice beer. And it is far from being the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. Or do you know the rule that good sake is drunk cold and bad sake is drunk hot? Forget it, because it's a big fat myth. And anyway, what exactly is hot? 30 degrees Celsius? 40? 55? I can keep listing myths about sake, but I think you've got the picture. We desperately need to have a talk about what sake really is.
Part 1 – The Past and Present of Nihonshu
- “The Japanese consume alcohol.” – the first mention of sake
- Sake from “Your Name” – the kuchikamizake
- The Myths and Poems about sake
- From aristocrats to samurai and monks. Sake in the middle ages
- Edo nomidaore and Kingyoshu – sake in the Edo Period
- For the sake of the Country! or the sake taxes of the Meiji Period
- Mixed, diluted and simply awful – sake of the 20th century
- The raise of ginjo and sake Renaissance
- Sparkling, vintage and from space. Sake nowadays.
Part 2 – From rice grain to dining table. All you need to know about sake (Coming soon)
- Sakamai – the rice for sake
- Polishing rice
- A word about Koji mould
- Sake mash and dancing yeast
- Filtration, pasteurization, civilisation
- Miyamizu or a story of ideal water
- Choosing sake: simple or premium
- Ginjo, daiginjo, junmaishu and other tricky words
- Unfiltered nigori-zake
- To each their own: unpasteurised, vintage and barrel-stored sake
- Sake dinosaurs: yamahai and kimoto
- Warm bed one, cool good one, and other sake myths
- Drinking sake: hot, warm, cold and many other options
- BONUS: Sake vessels (Patreon Exclusive)
Bonus – Expert talk with Dick Stegewerns
- Jizake (regional sake) – myth or a marketing strategy?
- Traditional breweries/ How many are there?
- Dassai. Why the hype? Is it really THAT good?
- Picking good sake by yourself. What to look for on the label & useful tips
- Sake comes West. Three waves of sake appreciation in Europe and the USA
- Unusual sake. The story of 40-year-old kijoshu
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More to Read
- John Gauntner “The Sake Handbook”
As the cover promises this book has "All the information you need to become a sake expert". Of course, you still need to buy your sake and sample it. Or better join a brewery tour to see how sake is made with your own eyes. But all in all, it is a great book that allows you to move from a complete beginner to a person who can pick and appreciate sake.
- John Gauntner “Sake Confidential: A Beyond-the-Basics Guide to Understanding, Tasting, Selection, and Enjoyment”
The Sake Handbook is a handbook that gives you a basic understanding and tips, Sake Confidential is a book that answers all your "why?" questions about sake. But it also covers the basics, so you won't feel lost even if it's your first time reading about sake.
Nippon.com has a great 19 article series on sake. I learned a lot from them and hope you will too.
- “Nihonshu” Now: Behind the Global Sake Renaissance
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: Understanding Sake Brewing
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: Types of Sake and Their Characteristics
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: Sake Tasting Demystified
- “Nihonshu” Now: Yamagata and the Sake Renaissance
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: Sake Wisdom for Guilt-Free Drinking
- “Nihonshu” Now: Japanese Brewery Senkin Rewrites the Sake Rulebook
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: The Many Faces of Sparkling Sake
- “Nihonshu” Now: Adventures in Creative Sake Pairing
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: How Serving Temperature Affects Flavor
- “Nihonshu” Now: How the Maker of Jikon Turned Mold Into Gold
- Know Your “Nihonshu: Drinking and Serving Vessels
- “Nihonshu” Now: “Jizake” Boutiques Make Sake Shopping Fun
- Know Your “Nihonshu: Let’s Go Sake Shopping
- “Nihonshu” Now: The Source of Kikuyoi’s Quality Runs Deep
- Know Your “Nihonshu: Savoring Sake’s Regional Riches
- Nihonshu” Now: Old School Label Shichihon-yari, a Sake Lover’s Sake
- Know Your “Nihonshu”: Touring a Sake Brewery
- “Nihonshu” Now: Sustainable Grower-Brewer Izumibashi Shuzō
And if you’re interested, there are some really beautiful sake bottle designs out there too:
- Nishiki-koi: a brand of sake inspired by an age-old fraud
- Shibuya-Branded Sake Features Hachiko and Scramble Crossing
- Soto: Japanese Sake Redesigned For an Overseas Audience
- Takashi Murakami is Getting into the Sake Business
Just make sure to stop before you end up like one of these figurines (Yopparai (Drunk) Figurine Capsule Toys Remind You of Your Bad Decisions) or a passenger of a rescue bus (Tokyo ‘Rescue Bus’ Will Pick Up Drunk Passengers Who Fell Asleep and Missed Their Train Stop)
More to watch
- BEGIN Japanology S2E3
- Kampai! For the love of sake
An American journalist, a British sake brewer and the president of a centenary Japanese sake brewery join together to explore the world of sake.
The main character of this story doesn’t even work anymore. Instead, he spends his work hours visiting sento and drinking sake in bars.
If you go on YouTube, seems like everyone there has a video about sake. And they are mostly the same. These two dedicated channels, though, looked interesting, so I'll leave them here for you to check.