Draft Sake

by Sakamoto Flash

Sake is of course Japan’s national poison. Wait, you say, what about beer? Yes, beer consumption is high in Japan, but this beverage just doesn’t have the history and culture (at least not in Japan) that sake does. And shochu? Shochu consumption actually recently surpassed that of sake. That simply just makes it more popular, not more traditional, not more hallowed. Shochu was born of sake in the 16th century, when the technique of distillation came to Kyushu from the Ryukyu Islands. It had actually traveled East from Persia through Thailand making it (gasp!) not a purely Japanese drink!

Sake has been around for centuries, since before recorded history in Japan— records in China indicate that Japanese drank it. The great poetry anthology Man’yôshû includes poems detailing emperors and court officials drinking. Indeed, sake consumption was a part of ceremony, especially religious ceremony. Temples were primary production facilities for hundreds of years. Then came inevitable government controls. Sake is today a worldwide beverage.

Snobs may claim there is a specific way sake should be made and appreciated, but this runs counter to history. Techniques and styles have constantly evolved over time. Rice shortages during WWII forced brewers to add pure alcohol and glucose to the rice mash for better yields. This technique persists today.

One recent development we’ve noted is draft sake, being pioneered at Ushi-tora in Shimokitazaka, Tokyo. While they traditionally serve over a dozen varieties of craft beer from Japan and overseas, they began running two varieties of sake through their servers with great results.

Says Tora-san, one of the masters, “The CO2 from the servers pulls out lovely spiciness in the sake.” That, and it changes the body, too, and lifts out the aroma. As Ushi-tora serves only fine craft beer, they also only serve fine varieties of sake. No crap on tap here.

Sake purists will probably cringe at the thought of lightly carbonated fine sake, but it’s a sublime drinking experience. We think they’re on the cusp of the next big thing. And we think you should nudge it along by consuming some yourself!







Tokyo, Setagaya-ku
Kitazawa 2-9-3-2F

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