Author Archives: hakkaiedit

AWA Clear Sparkling Sake Launches in the US!

Sparkling Sake is nothing new, but Hakkaisan has challenedged itself to raise the bar and create a premium sparkling sake of note. The result is Hakkaisan’s AWA clear Sparkling Junmai Ginjo sake, which made it’s debut in the US market on June 5th. AWA means bubble, and that is the starting point that explains why this sake is different. Hakkaisan uses an in-bottle secondary fermentation to create CO2 through natural fermentation. This produces a fine and elegant bubble that can best be achieved in this way. The sake is lightly sweet up front with a clean finish and an overall light impression. Perfectly refreshing!

Hakkaisan Arrives in the USA
Hakkaisan AWA arrived in the USA with a special guest – Mr. Shigemitsu Nagumo, the Toji or Master Brewer at Hakkaisan Brewery. Mr. Nagumo came to New York to introduce the locals to Hakkaisan’s new and premium sparking sake. The launch event was held on the St. Cloud rooftop bar of the Knickerbocker hotel in Times Square. In his short remarks to the guests, Mr. Nagumo told everyone that this event in New York was one of the most fun events he has attended in his career and with a sincere thank you, he got the event off to a great start with a hearty “Kanpai!” (cheers!). It was a beautiful summer’s evening at sunset as guests gathered to try AWA served chilled and crisp into flutes which helped all to enjoy the aroma, taste and presentation of this new premium sparkling sake. Guests commented on the light taste and balance of this new premium sparkling.

How can you serve and pair AWA? Hakkaisan’s AWA clear sparkling sake can be served as you would a sparkling wine, but also in new ways as well. Enjoy AWA as an aperitif before dinner to enliven the palate and wake up the taste buds. AWA also pairs beautifully with appetizers and light salads as well as seafood and shellfish with a special recommendation for oysters. Given the light sweetness on the palate, you can also try AWA with desserts, a favorite match up being a light-as-air chocolate or matcha macaron.

AWA will be available in both 360ml (12 oz) and 720ml (24 oz) sizes. If you are a fan of sparkling wine, AWA will give you an entrance into the world of sake! Welcome and kanpai!

Hakkaisan Week at Sake Bar Method in NYC: May 15-20, 2018


May 15-20th, 2018, come to dinner at Sake Bar METHOD in Hell’s Kitchen. We are offering a one week special on Hakkaisan 3 Year Snow-Aged Junmai Ginjo. This is an aged sake unlike any other you have tried! Matured in stainless steel for 3 years in our frosty snow storage cellar (Yuki Muro), you have to experience this sake!

Order this sake by the glass, carafe or bottle. Try it warm or cold. Customers who order a bottle of the Hakkaisan 3 Year Snow Aged Sake get a special gift from the brewery while supplies last!

Sake Bar Method: 746 10th ave. New York

https://kitchensakebarmethod.nyc/hours

Hakkaisan at Ginza Six!

I think it is fair to say there is no shortage of places to go shopping in Tokyo. You can drop big bucks on electronics in the Akihabara district or shop for cutting edge, mismatched outfits in Harajuku. However the epicenter of serious retail therapy is without a doubt in Ginza. The Ginza district is famous the world over for high end boutiques, Towering department stores, and an endless parade of Ladies Who Lunch.

The latest addition to Ginza’s retail arena is known as Ginza Six which opened to much fanfare in April 2017. If the rest of Ginza is cool, Ginza Six was built to impress even more. With 421 stores in over 500,000 square feet of space, Ginza Six is one of the biggest shopping complexes in Ginza. Entering, you’ll see the central atrium outfitted with a stunning polka dot sculpture designed by arguably Japan’s most famous living artist, Yayoi Kusama.

Ginza Six Atrium

Ginza Six Atrium

Almost Every Japanese department store has an over-the-top food court on the basement level, this is known as a “depachika” (a mix of “depato“, which means department store, and “chika“, which means basement). Most visitors to Japan will easily remember their first visit to a depatchika as the vast selection and stunning presentation of foods is hard to forget. Ginza Six also has a basement food floor on the B2 level, but they really kick it up a notch.

My recent visit to Ginza Six was to check out their basement food floor to enjoy Hakkaisan’s new Ginza Sennenkoujiya shop.

Hakkaisan's Ginza Sennen Koujiya.

Hakkaisan’s Ginza Sennen Koujiya.

Sennen Koujiya is Hakkaisan’s retail shop that sells all of the Hakkaisan sake, but also food and other fermented items from Niigata. The Ginza Six branch is the latest to open.

I visited for the first time on a rainy Saturday. My first impression of Ginza Six was how popular it was. Shoppers were everywhere, even on a rainy day. Lots of people are curious about this new shopping complex and it seemed that every shop was busy. I headed down to the B2 level and took a look around for Sennen Koujiya.

Lots of Hakkaisan Sake for sale at Sennen Koujiya

Lots of Hakkaisan Sake for sale at Sennen Koujiya

Hakkaisan Ginjo Funaguchi

Hakkaisan Ginjo Funaguchi

The shop has a beautiful open wood panel design. Along the left wall, there is a full range of Hakkaisan Sakes, but the refrigerator in the corner contained something special. This shops sells some limited sake that is not for sale anywhere else! These include rare Hakkaisan ‘Funaguchi sakes’ – that is sakes right from the sake press! Fully unpasteurized and non-charcoal filtered. Each bottle is labeled by hand.

Another rare sake that you can only find at Ginza Six is Hakkaisan Ultra Premium Kouwagura 25% Junmai Daiginjo. This is an outstanding sake that has the rice milled to 25% remaining and is aged for 2 years at 0˚C. Super rare and delicious!

Hakkaisan Fermentation goods including Amasake.

Hakkaisan Fermentation goods including Amasake.

The back wall of the shop contains space for all of the perishable fermentation goods including Amazake (a sweet, no alcohol koji rice drink), as well as koji, shio koji as well as koji marinated meats and veggies.

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Along the right side wall is a small tasting counter. Guests can order a limited menu of bites and small appetizers and a sake pairing. I was excited to try, and I was able to enjoy a unique and wonderful pairing! I tried the Snow Aged Junmai Ginjo 3 Years served in a beautiful antique glass along with the recommended pairing of Fukinoto (spring mountain vegetable) Miso paste along with sour cream and a drip of lemon. It was a beautiful savory and rich pairing with the Snow aged Junmai Ginjo.

Tasting bar and Ginza Sennen Koujiya.

Tasting bar and Ginza Sennen Koujiya.

If you get a chance to visit Tokyo, don’t miss the chance to stop into Ginza Six! A delicious sake and snack is waiting for you at Sennen Koujiya. Pick up some sakes and niigata foods while you are there. You’re friends back home will have depatchika envy!

Ginza Six is popular even in the rain!

Ginza Six is popular even in the rain!

Ice Ice Baby! Tasting Hakkaisan’s Super-Chilled Summer Sake

junmai-genshu3OK, so this is my first summer in Japan. I knew it would be hot, but I didn’t realize it would be h-o-t. And humid. And uncomfortable. Although the summer weather is shoganai (a wonderful Japanese word that means “it can’t be helped”), one thing we can do to cool down is drink some chilled sake. Chilled sake is delicious, but Hakkaisan raises the bar with their limited summer sake release.

It is only for a limited time – from June to August only – that Hakkaisan begins selling their Tokubetsu Junmai Namazume Genshu. Unique to this sake is that Hakkaisan recommends serving it at an ice-cold temperature in a small glass right from the freezer.

This near freezing creates a super crisp and refreshingly brisk sip of sake, with a texture that can border on a sake slushie. It is a perfectly delicious antidote to any summer heat wave.

junmai-genshuIf you chose to serve this sake gently chilled and not ice cold, you’ll enjoy other flavors. I find the taste to have a clean and lightly dry rice flavor with a bright freshness. A crisp finish leaves you wanting another sip.

This sake is a “tokubestu Junmai”. Junmai is “pure rice style” meaning no added alcohol. Tokubetsu means special, and this sake has a luxurious rice milling rate of 55% – much lower and more premium than other Junmai-grade sakes. This sake is also namazume. That means the sake was pasteurized just once after pressing, not twice as is usual with most sakes. This single pasteurization gives the sake a fresh and buoyant edge. Finally this sake is also a genshu – undiluted with water weighing in at 17.5% alcohol. Genshu sakes have more body on the palate and generally can stand up to richer foods. Hakkaisan is known for clean and crisp sakes, so this genshu is gentle and approachable.

Restaurant carafe service of Hakkaisan's Ice chilled Tokubetsu Junmai

Restaurant carafe service of Hakkaisan’s Ice chilled Tokubetsu Junmai

Let’s take a look at the stats for this sake:
Alcohol 17.5%
sake meter value ±0.0
acidity 1.5
amino acid 1.4
koji rice used Gohyakumangoku
brewing rice used Yukinosei, Yamadanishiki, Todorokiwase
rice-polishing ratio 55%
yeast Kyokai No. 1001, Kyokai No. 1801

Hakkaisan Tokubestu Junmai Namazume Genshu is not for sale in the States, but if you do visit Japan in the steamy summer months, I hope you get a chance to try it ice cold. Let’s stay cool this summer!

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Los Angeles International Wine Competition 2017

The Los Angeles International Wine Competition has been awarding the finest wines from all over the world since 1939, and the finest Japanese Sake since 2009. We are proud to announce our sake awards from 2017, the 78th year of the Los Angeles International Wine competition.

GOLD Medal : Snow Aged Junmai Ginjo 3 years
SILVER Medal : Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo
BRONZE Medal : Junmai Daiginjo (45) Kouwagura

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Los Angeles International Wine Competition is the platform for an extensive wine education program available to the nearly 1.3 million visitors at the annual Los Angeles County Fair. The Fair’s wine education center features consumer-driven classes, tastings and displays of the award-winning wines. With the Los Angeles International Wine Competition committed to educating the public about wine, the Fair’s wine education program features industry experts with extensive knowledge about wine growing and selection, wine tasting as well as wine and food pairings.

http://www.lawinecomp.com/wos/wine_competition/index.asp

Climb Every Mountain… for Sansai!

Freshly picked Zenmai fern leaf buds.

Freshly picked Zenmai fern leaf buds.

Since I arrived in Niigata last year, I have been eating a lot of sansai (山菜) which means simply “mountain vegetables”. They are a staple food here and the product of foraging by hand in the mountain-side forests. In this snow bound and mountainous area, these vegetables are eaten soon after they are collected, but also preserved and enjoyed all year round. Sansai are famous for having a bitter taste. Their natural bitterness is actually a defense mechanism against animals nibbling on them.

The locals here have developed a taste for the bitter greens and they are served in many ways, the most popular being flash fried as tempura, blanched and serve with a soy sauce and also preserved as pickles. The taste is indeed bitter, but I’ve come to love sansai. Believe it or not, the bitterness is actually a perfect compliment to sake, too!

The Mountain is getting steep!

The Mountain is getting steep!

I was surprised when I received an invitation to go Sansai picking myself. A local guide heard about my love of Niigata mountain vegetables and offered to take me to his favorite spot for picking mountain vegetables. My only instruction was to wear boots and gloves. As we were driving to the mountain, my guide told me we would be picking only one kind of plant that day, zenmai (薇) known in english as cinnamon fern or by it’s scientific name Osmunda Japonica. I had never heard of this plant before, so I was wondering how I would recognize it in the wild.

When we arrived on the mountain, we began climbing up and within three minutes we saw our first zenmai. I quickly learned that they were the first growth of a moisture and shade loving wild fern and they look very much like an extra large fiddlehead fern covered in a kind of mossy spiderweb. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but I’m assured they are delicious. I was outfitted with an apron with a deep pocket and a backpack and away we went.

After about 20 minutes or so we  stopped and wrapped up our Zenmai haul to put in our backpacks.

After about 20 minutes or so we stopped and wrapped up our Zenmai haul to put in our backpacks.

As we started to climb up my guide would expertly spot the Zenmai from far away. We would snap the stems about 2/3rds of the way down and I would collect the stems in my pouch. There were also some guidelines on what not to pick. If the zenmai were too small, we left them alone to grow for next year. I also learned that the Zenmai are only edible when they are in the fiddlehead fern shape. If they had begun to open and spread their fern leaves, I was to leave them alone.

Getting Tired!  Is the air thinner up here? ;-)

Getting Tired! Is the air thinner up here? 😉

As we marched up the mountain side, the slope got gradually steeper and steeper. When my apron’s pouch was full of Zenmai, I would wrap them in a cloth and load them into my backpack. This foraging became a fun game and spotting the ferns on the mountainside became easier and easier.

After climbing up for 90 minutes, we decided to make our way back down. My backpack was loaded full of zenmai. I learned that my guide usually hikes to the top of the mountain when foraging… that would have been 3 hours up and 3 hours back down! Even though I was wiped out, I was just given the beginner’s course! I’ll need to do some training if I’m going to mountain climbing again.

When the day was over I was impressed with our haul. If you know what to look for the mountain can really provide bounty. The zenmai that I collected will be cooked and preserved for eating next year – can’t wait to try them! Think sansai foraging might be a brand new hobby!

If you don't pick the tender buds, Zenmai turns into an inedible fern like this one.

If you don’t pick the buds, Zenmai turns into a fern like this one.

TEXSOM International Wine Awards

TEXSOM is a leader in bevarege education, and hold an International Wine Competition annually in TEXAS, USA.
Judge sommeliers travels from over 60 countries and judge fairly. TEXSOM is one of important and widely known competition in the world.

This year, Hakkaisan products awarded Silver and Bronze medals.
Silver – Hakkaisan Sparkling Nigori
Bronze – Hakkaisan Snow Aged 3 year Junmai Ginjo
Bronze – Hakkaisan Kouwa Gura (45) Junmai Daiginjo

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The End is in Sight! Koshiki Taoshi

In Japan, most breweries make sake on a seasonal schedule. That means production for a given Brewing Year (B.Y.) usually starts in October and runs through the time of rice planting in the late spring or early summer. When the Brewing Year is winding down, there are some ceremonies and gatherings to mark the end of the season and recognize all effort and hard work of the brewers.

President Nagumo's Speech to the Kurabito  (brewery workers) at the Koshiki Taoshi event

President Nagumo’s Speech to the Kurabito (brewery workers) at the Koshiki Taoshi event

As the brewing season is drawing to a close, there is that day when you steam your last batch of rice. This is the day that you finish the additions of rice and koji to your last batch of sake. Of course fermentation will continue for another month on all the tanks you’ve started, but from this point on, no new tanks will be created and no more rice will be steamed. “Koshiki Taoshi” means to knock over the rice steaming vat. The idea behind Koshiki Taoshi is to tip over the rice steaming vat for cleaning as it won’t be used any more this season.

Hakkaisan's Toji or Master Brewer greets all the brewery workers.

Hakkaisan’s Toji or Master Brewer greets all the brewery workers.

When I arrived at the event, I was surprised to see everyone dressed in a serious dark suit. I was used to seeing all the brewers in their white brewery uniform, but now I was seeing everyone dress up in civilian clothes. The mood was serious at first with everyone sitting quietly waiting for the official start. Once the event began we first had greetings and speeches. Hakkaisan President Jiro Nagumo started by thanking everyone for their hard work this year and talking about the Hakkaisan company spirit. Then Mr. Shigemitsu Nagamo, the Toji or master brewer, also thanked everyone for their hard work and dedication this year. Next was our Kanpai or toast. This was the signal that the party could begin. For this occasion, all the brewers were able to enjoy Hakkaisan’s Special Daiginjo sake. This is an ultra-premium sake not sold to the public, and it was a chance for all the brewers to taste the gold standard sake produced by Hakkaisan. This sake embodies what we try to achieve as a brewery.

Hakkaisan Special Daiginjo.  An ultra premium sake not sold to the general public.

Hakkaisan Special Daiginjo. An ultra premium sake not sold to the general public.

Everyone was able to enjoy a great meal and the Special Daiginjo served chilled and warm as well. Hakkaisan beer was also flowing! It is a custom in Japan for the new employees to go around and pour sake for their superiors. This is a great way to foster communication and it really get people talking to one another and in the mood to celebrate. It is also a time to go around and say “thank you” to any co-workers that especially helped you during the year.

Nice Dinner for everyone to enjoy together.  A thank you for all the hard work of this brewing season.

Nice Dinner for everyone to enjoy together. A thank you for all the hard work of this brewing season.

Next came a really exciting moment. All of the sake brewers and this year’s new employees gathered at the front of the room to sing a “sakauta” (酒歌) or sake brewing song. Traditionally, these songs were sung in the brewery to keep time while mixing the tank or some other such task. The songs have a driving rhythm to keep brewers mixing the vat at the same pace. At Hakkaisan, this song is not used in the brewery everyday, but is still performed at special events to keep a connection to this piece of sake culture alive. It was fantastic to see!

All Brewers joined in singing the Sakauta, or sake brewing song.

All Brewers joined in singing the Sakauta, or sake brewing song.

The Koshiki Taoshi event is not the end of brewing, but more a sign of things winding down for the year. Everyone enjoyed the party, but for most, it was back to work and back to brewing the very next day!

Ultimate Wine Challenge 2017 Result!!

UWC_yukimuroWe are very please to announce the result of the 2017 Ultimate Wine Challenge! www.ultimate-beverage.com

Hakkaisan Yukimuro Snow Aged 3 Years Junmai Ginjo Sake received the highest award, the Chairman’s Trophy!

It is available in New York City, California, Las Vegas, Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, D.C., Boston, North Carolina, Paris, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Seoul, Singapore, etc. For those you are in Canada, its on the way!!! Toronto, here we come!

This is an umami concentrated sake that pairs wonderfully with aged meat, aged cheese and similar umami rich foods.
Snow has the power to age sake in the best way possible!
Kanpai!

KAMPAI Toronto!

IMG_2476Hakkaisan again attended Toronto Canada’s biggest sake event “KAMPAI Toronto” on June 1st of this year. The Sake Institute of Ontario organized the event which is in its 6th year.. There were over 150 kinds of sake for tasting, and many brewers from Japan were in attendance as well as local restaurants booths to offer delicious food for sake pairing. The event started off with a Sake Seminar by Sake Samurais then tasting sake time for restaurants professionals and the media. A lot of people were sake educated and some traveled from far away cities such as Vancouver or Montreal. At the Hakkaisan booth, we introduced our latest sake “Snow Aged Junmai Ginjo 3 years” for the first time in Canada and gave our guests a pleasant surprise with the story and the taste of this new sake.

The event was opened to the general public in the evening with music and a Japanese drum performance which created a “Matsuri” festival feeling that helped the guests to enjoy sake, food, and a nice ambience. Every year the awareness of sake grows through this event and the event gets bigger and more fun!!

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