Sake Column in Eat North

Please check out my sake stories in new Canadian food-centric website, Eat North. The intention of the site is to focus and celebrate food and drink with a Canadian twist. My hope is to highlight what’s going on in the Canadian sake scene as much as possible.

If you have a story idea or have an upcoming sake related event in Canada, I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, I’ve written a three-part series on the burgeoning sake brewing scene in Canada. I speak with ArtisanSakeMaker in Granville Island, Vancouver; Ontario Spring Water Sake Company in Toronto and YK3 Sake Producer in Richmond, BC. Let me know what you think. I’d appreciate the feedback and any suggestions you might have!





Sake for the Holidays


I was asked to submit a few sake ideas for the upcoming Christmas Guide for The Bulletin, and decided to choose a few unique sakes this time around. Here’s a preview for you to enjoy. Kanpai!

Hakkaisan Junmai Sparkling Nigori

The snow-capped mountains of Mount Hakkai provide not only a lovely backdrop to Hakkaisan Brewery in Niigata Prefecture, its pristine spring water is used to make the brewery’s famed delicately light and crisp sake. Hakkaisan Sparkling Nigori is highly textured and perfect for entertaining. Nigori is sake that’s been roughly-pressed so some of the rice sediment remains in the bottle. This nigori, however, also has bubbles, enhancing the mouthfeel further. Lively and fun, this sake is mildly sweet with a dry, clean finish and the delicate fragrance of ripe persimmon and Anjou pear.

Pair with a nice medium fat brie or Manchego cheese. Serve lightly chilled.

Available at select BCLDB stores – $24.99 for 360 ml

Kozaemon Junmai Umeshu

This small brewery from Gifu Prefecture approaches their craft with deep respect for sake brewing tradition and a healthy dose of youthful innovation. The three-person production team–all in their 30’s–have incorporated sustainable and forward-thinking approaches to making sake, which bodes well for this 300 year-old brewery’s continued success. Kozaemon’s umeshu is unlike most in the market, which are typically blended with distilled alcohol like shochu and are cloyingly sweet. Kozaemon has created a junmai sake specifically for theirs, adding a depth and gentleness distilled-alcohol umeshu cannot emulate. Softly sweet, balanced with the rounded tartness of the plums, this is a delightful aperitif or digestif that’s perfect for the holidays. It also comes in a handsome elegant bottle that would make for unique and memorable gifting.

Pairs well with a fruit sorbet, but simply perfect on its own. Try it neat at room temperature or add a couple of ice cubes in a rocks glass and enjoy like a whiskey or scotch.

Available at Viti Wine and Lager, Kitsilano Wine Cellar, 16th Street Liquor Store (W Van), Liberty-Park Royal, Liberty-Granville Island – price will vary, approx. $75 for 500 ml

Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold Daiginjo

A more traditional sake than the above choices, this super premium sake, which hails from Hiroshima’s esteemed Kamotsuru Brewery (est.1623), comes with a twist. A technological sake pioneer, Kamotsuru was one of the first to utilize modern rice-milling machines, consequently producing some of the earliest ginjo and daiginjo grade sakes in Japan. The pinnacle of Kamotsuru’s sake is their Tokusei Gold Daiginjo—a lovely soft-on-the-palate sake. Lightly sweet, it’s clean and smooth with touches of anise and cantaloupe. The gorgeous teardrop-shaped bottle (shown above) is a conversation piece in itself, but if you look closely you will see sakura-shaped gold flakes (kinpura) dancing inside.

Pair this with sashimi or light fresh cheeses like burrata and ricotta. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Available at Legacy Liquor Store – $85.25 for 720 ml

Yoshi no Gawa Sake Dinner at Minami


There’s lots happening sake-wise at the end of this month, so please get out there and taste some of the great sakes that are available in town!

One event of note is a sake dinner at Yaletown’s Minami Restaurant which features the President of Yoshi no Gawa Sake Brewery, Koji Kawakami. He along with Minami’s sake specialist, Miki Ellis, will guide you through some sake basics, whilst tasting a variety of this Niigata brewery’s elegant lineup of sake. With your sakes, Minami is planning fabulous and delicious food pairings, specially designed for this tasting–yet another highlight to the already delicious evening.

Founded in 1548, Yoshi no Gawa is the oldest brewery in Niigata prefecture and Kawakami-san is the 19th generation president. With such a long and storied history, I’m certain you’ll be able to taste the precision and pageantry of Yoshi no Gawa’s sake brewing with each sip.

Sounds like fun! If you’re interested, please make sure you call Minami at 604.685.8080 to reserve a spot. The cost is $125 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Hope to see you there!



Tonari Gumi Sake Tasting

tonari gumi sake tasting by tangerinee
tonari gumi sake tasting, a photo by tangerinee on Flickr.

I thought I’d post a photo from last weekend’s sake event, a fundraiser for Tonari Gumi‘s seniors programs. An annual event, it was up until a few years ago, the largest tasting of its kind in Canada, but since Toronto now has KampaiTO, it has been relegated to largest in Western Canada.

Additionally, the event included a big announcement for sake in BC. The Sake Association of British Columbia (SABC) has been officially formed–a consortium of sake importers, brewers, educators who are passionate about sharing their sake knowledge and encouraging the responsible enjoyment of sake in BC.

Big plans are in the works. Sake has turned a corner in BC. It’s finally happened! Stay tuned for more.

Via Flickr:
sake revelers enjoying western Canada’s largest annual sake tasting event.

Sake Making Class

moto by tangerinee
moto, a photo by tangerinee on Flickr.

There’s an interesting sake-making class being offered at the Nikkei Place in Burnaby next week. I thought I’d post the link in case anyone was interested in learning more on the basics on making your own sake hooch.

It appears the gentleman conducting the course is starting up a sake u-brew kit business. Class includes instructions and a take home kit. Not bad for under $60.

The courses are filling up quickly and the ones in English have a few spaces left. So if you’re interested, please check it out and sign up soon.


Tonari Gumi Sake Tasting Fundraiser

daiginjo sakes by tangerinee
daiginjo sakes, a photo by tangerinee on Flickr.

The 12th edition of Tonari Gumi’s annual sake tasting event will take place on Saturday, October 12th at The Coast Coal Harbour Hotel. It’s the largest sake tasting held in BC and not to be missed if you are interested in the good stuff.

All the local importers will be in attendance, so it’s a great opportunity to see what is available in BC and get a taste of some harder to find sakes–those which are not available at our local LDB government stores (and believe me, there are many as we sake lovers can attest and lament).

Tickets are still available. Please come and support a great cause. All proceeds go directly to funding the volunteer association’s many invaluable seniors programs.

I hope to see you there!