Sake Talk Anyone?


A map of to demonstrate how far the passion for a product must be passed to get from maker to mouth:




Distributor (sometimes sake are imported and distributed by the same party)

Sales Manager

Sales Rep

Restaurant Owner, Manager, Somm

Restaurant Staff

Mouth (End Consumer)

If you can make it through all of these (increasingly difficult) levels, you can get your sake to the mouth of the consumer. This is the hardest part of expanding unknown products in new markets.


Thank you for detailing the process! I totally get the hardship in general on quite a few of those levels.

So many factors at play!. I’m sure the political and people/personality part can complicate things so much more.

This is why I truly treasure (and get a high) being able to locate high quality small production (and sometimes ridiculously limited and rare/sought after) and/or seasonal bottles from out of the way mom and pop sake shops in Japan and hand carry them myself back whenever I visit, or pay whatever markup overseas when visiting (e.g. metropolitan Asia where sake is exported, but you don’t find in the USA). But then I also do appreciate it when a sake that tastes like how they do in Japan, makes it over here, despite the markup and passing through all the pain points.

It shouldn’t be this complicated, but unfortunately it is.

I guess for now you and I and whoever else chooses to join are the FTC sake ambassadors and evangelists!


They need people like you and @Starchtrade.

That seems kinda’ wasteful from a business stand point. They’re operating under the assumption that most customers have little Sake knowledge. They’re right. But Sake might be starting to trend. KL Wines has started hosting tastings.

A lot of California restaurants and wine shops have similar relationships with vintners. They offer lots of perks to shop owners - consulting, free bottles, exclusive tasting weekends.

We tried to go to Kinjiro a while back, but were told they weren’t accepting new reservations (new chef training or some such thing). We were fine with that until @Chowseeker1999 called and had no problem getting a rez. What am I, chopped liver? It’s okay though. We went to Aburiya Raku and have been regulars ever since.


@beefnoguy have you tried Brooklyn Kura?


I have not, since they are based in the East Coast only and have not to my knowledge, distributed any in California. On a side note maybe you heard that Dassai plans on expanding their brewing operations into the East Coast? Though the kicker is that while they will brew sake in the USA, it will be under a different label and pricing structure.

On the West Coast, in San Francisco Bay Area there is local sake, Sequoia Sake
Their nama and their genshu are pretty good if you keep an open mind. Even better if you can find a place that sells their sake on tap.

Their Coastal Ginjo won the International Wine Challenge “Commended” award in London recently,. Considering they competed against some of the best and toughest in Japan…definitely commendable!


I’ve heard great things about Brooklyn Kura.
They are getting A LOT of inside-industry attention.
I look forward to trying their sake!


Found Brooklyn Kura’s menu, it does sound very interesting!

We definitely need something like this in California! Sequoia Sake on the other hand, doesn’t do pub style (but when they have their tastings for a fee at their showroom on Saturdays, once in a while they’ll do pairings like with Dandelion chocolate).


Most interesting menu item: Moromi

This is essentially going to the brewery, taking a scoop out of the ferment, and drinking it.
Pretty cool that they have this on the menu.

Regarding food: more otsumami, please! :yum:


So many possibilities…if I may be allowed to daydream a fun menu with a NY theme:

Sake Kasu cream cheese bagel with smoked kanpachi

Shimesaba with capers, onions in cream sauce

Wagyu or Washugyu brisket/pastrami

Sake Kasu cheesecake

Sake “egg cream” using moromi (maybe not)

Gefilte fish / sumire type of dish

Sake Lees Vinegar marinated “dill pickles”


You’re speaking my language.


Going to hit Ramen Lab sometime this week and check out the new ramen menu incorporating Kura’s sake lees

Wonder if it would be faux pas to bring some shiokara etc along with me when I visit their tap room?


Only if they don’t charge you corkage for your bottle of shiokara (or can…cannage?) :sweat_smile:


Channeling David Chang’s childhood plight… wtf is the nasty shit the asian dude is eating out of the jar???


“And he’s washing it down with AMERICAN made sake!!”


Hi @beefnoguy -

Okay, you weren’t kidding. This seems to apply to the Sake biz as well. I spoke with K&L Wines about upcoming tastings. They recently had one, but not frequently. Reason? Legally they can only have a Sake tasting when a rep from the distributor is present. Do you think this is the same case?


Not too surprised at this.

I’ve attended sake events held in Japanese restaurants (in Northern California), and unless the restaurant has a direct/separate relationship with a rep (or president) from the brewery (e.g. the rep or whoever is visiting and promoting the portfolio sans distributor), it’s not uncommon for the distributor’s rep to be present to host the event (and in some cases advise and provide the master plan). It’s also entirely possible that depending on the restaurant, the rep may even have to come up with food pairing ideas for the restaurant (or give them inspiration). In a way this can be mutually beneficial and the end result being the customer getting a better experience of trying the right sake with the optimal food to pair with. If the restaurant’s sake event is done in a format where there is a lineup, and the customer gets to choose/mix and match, it is great data collection for the distributor rep to gauge customer preferences, and potential market for importing new sake.

No idea what’s in those contracts and the relationship between the restaurant/wine shop vs the distributor but those are quite interesting (and challenging) stipulations indeed in the case of K&L. I can see the reason for the distributor’s rep to be there, so that the distributor’s portfolio is properly represented, and the rep mostly could easily answer any questions customers might have about the product lineup (not uncommon if the reps are also WSET or equivalent certified). I remember several years ago K&L Northern California had a dedicated sake buyer (also wine certified) who was rather knowledgeable, but that person departed for some time. I don’t know who is handling the sake buying and how items are selected. Now there are at least three sources for their sake (Vine Connections, Winebow group, World Sake). Also entirely possible that one of these sources don’t want other sake in a tasting lineup (which is a bit silly but I get it). Or if a restaurant has 3 sources for sake, and one of the reps from one of the three sources handles and collaborates for an event, of course that person would want to dictate that the event lineup have sake come entirely from their portfolio.

It’s a shame that even something like tastings can get political and contentious. But then again, with all those layers of distribution from the brewer to the end consumer as Starchtrade has shown us, and with the people element, things always get more complicated.


Hi @beefnoguy -

I think this is probably the case. Yes, “complicated” is the exact word she used. I didn’t press her because she was also looking up selections for me and I didn’t want to “complicate” things. :grin:


Checked out Brooklyn Kura this afternoon. The place was mobbed, had to wait line to place my order. I don’t drink sake very often and when I do it’s usually a Daiginjo, so take this with a grain of salt. From what I have been able to gather they’re brewing Junmai (60% polish). Ordered the Lake Suwa Shiboritate ($14) & Blend ($11). First piece of advice, DON’T order the shiboritate, inappropriately marked up for unaged sake, found out after ordering when I looked up the definition. First sip of the Suwa, floral melony flavors but subsequent sips found it a litlte one dimensional and not lot of residual aftertaste.
Blend was floral and drier, bit more savory finish.

Overall found the flavor more along the lines of $20-$30 1.5L bottles of sake from Mitsuwa I use primarily for cooking. Didn’t quite do it for me… will be curious to see what @Starchtrade & @beefnoguy think when you guys get a chance to try it. Kura is definitely on to something if they crowds continue at the current pace


Another aspect to this is not the passing of passion from Maker through Restaurant/Retail staff, but also the specific transportation issues.

Keep in mind – and I agree this might be a bit esoteric for some – it is up to the importer to see HOW the wine is transported. Is it shipped in a dry box? above the waterline? Perhaps with some insulation wrap? A refrigerated container? A “reefer” thats a) actually turned on, and b) stored below the waterline? (This is especially important if the ship goes through the Canal and docks on the East or Gulf Coast.)

Meanwhile – if the ship docks in LA/Long Beach, Oakland or Seattle – the distributor/wholesaler is responsible for its transport from the port of entry (or the importer’s warehouse) to their own warehouse – again, is it in temperature-controlled transport, or is it in a dry box, w/o insulation, as it sits in a Texas summer’s day next to that diner at 12 noon while the driver loads up on barbecue before continuing on to Florida.

Clearly this is true with any imported alcohol, whether it’s sake, wine, beer – even with distillates (albeit somewhat less so).


60% polish is quite interesting and slightly on the low side for a Junmai. Guessing it’s probably more Junmai Ginjo in style and approach. I’m guessing your glass on the left is the Shiboritate as it’s more cloudy. How chilled were the sake? Good that they gave you wine glasses, hopefully the aromas were interesting enough for you.

How was the food, if you tried any at Brooklyn Kura? I wonder if they will offer Arabashiri and nama? explains it better than I can.

I had a glass of the Sequoia Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu (straight from the tap) at an izakaya the other day. There was an interesting fizzy/effervescent element to it and not too much (but noticeable).

I will have to plan a trip to NY in the future…so much good stuff I want to try and experience!