First brewed about 2,000 years ago, saké is steeped in history. When the Japanese adopted the practice of wet rice cultivation around 300 B.C., they perfected the brewing of saké and called it the “drink of the gods.” The beverage remains an inseparable staple of Japanese food culture, and is still produced with age-old techniques by breweries around the world.
Carrying on that tradition is SakéOne, based in Forest Grove, Oregon. Established in 1992 as a saké importer, SakéOne started making its own sake in 1997 after building its kura (brewery). Now, it’s one of seven saké breweries in the United States and the sole saké brewery in Oregon. Working with veteran saké brewer Greg Lorenz, SakéOne produces both saké and shochu—two very different beverages. Saké is fermented, like beer, and shochu is distilled. “While saké is always made from rice, shochu can be made from rice, barley, sugar cane or sweet potatoes,” says SakéOne president Steve Vuylsteke.
For first-time saké drinkers, Vuylsteke recommends Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo or Moonstone Asian Pear that boast an “up-front fruit flavor and a rich, medium-bodied texture that are easy to appreciate.” He also suggests the bold and earthy G Joy or the spice-tinged Momokawa Silver for the saké enthusiast.
Ready to buy some saké? Here are five quick tips from SakéOne:
- Unlike wine, saké does not improve with age. Store your saké in a cool, dark area–the refrigerator will do. The cooler the storage area, the slower the saké will age.
- Keep in mind that once opened, saké will stay fresh for about a month.
- Despite conventional thinking that saké should be served warm, saké is intended to be enjoyed when chilled and is best at about 44-47° F.
- When serving, special saké glasses aren’t necessary—just pour into a wine glass.
- For saké styles, categories and helpful lingo, check out SakéOne’s extensive list.