Home' Hospitality Business : HB NOV 2016 Contents ZENKURO'S GUIDE TO SAKE
WHAT EXACTLY IS SAKE? IS IT A BEER, A WINE OR A SPIRIT?
Sake is brewed, similar to a beer. It is not a simple fermentation
like wine, and it is definitely not distilled. There are three main
differences between sake and beer brewing:
• The source of enzymes for converting starch to sugar for
fermentation comes from koji mold, not from malting the raw
materials (barley for beer).
• For beer, starch-to-sugar conversion takes place first, followed
by alcohol fermentation after that. For sake, the starch-to-sugar
conversion and sugar to alcohol fermentation takes place at
the same time, in the same tank. This is called multiple parallel
fermentation, a unique brewing process which allows sake to have
the highest alcohol content of any non-distilled beverage in the world.
• Sake is made from rice only, while beer can be made from
wheat, barley and other fermentable materials.
HOW MANY TYPES OF SAKE ARE THERE?
Sake can be separated into two main grades - Ordinary Sake (table
sake) and Premium Sake. Ordinary Sake makes up to 70-75%
of the entire sake market and is usually made with run-of-the-
mill rice, usually using automated brewing processes, and is cut
with plenty of pure distilled alcohol. Some sake in this grade has
organic acids and sugars added to “adjust” the flavour.
Premium Sake has various sub-categories, based on the degree to
which the rice used has been milled. Premium sake can be broadly
divided into two - those with distilled alcohol added (in small quantities
for flavour and aroma) and those made using rice, koji and water only.
WHAT IS TYPICALLY THE ALCOHOL PERCENTAGE OF SAKE?
When fermentation is complete and the sake is pressed the alcohol
content is usually between 18-20%. However, it is usually diluted
with water down to between 14-16% for ultimate enjoyment.
HOW SHOULD SAKE IDEALLY BE SERVED?
There are no set rules on how to serve sake. While many brewers
will recommend how they want you to drink their sake, and it
is good to follow their advice, it is fun to experiment with sake.
A very general guideline might be that Premium Sake is better
enjoyed cold, while Ordinary Sake is good heated.
Other than Wakatipu Sleeping Giant, we recommend drinking
Zenkuro Sake lightly chilled for a start, then allowing it to gradually
warm up to room temperature as you dine. Nigori-zake (cloudy
sake) is best enjoyed chilled.
life in Japan. Sake is also a ver y interesting, pleasurable, happy and easy
medium for introducing Japanese culture to New Zealand.This is ver y
important for all of the Zenkuro team.
IS THERE A BIG MARKET FOR LOCALLY-PRODUCED SAKE?
There is certainly a great deal of interest in our New Zealand-made sake,
not only within New Zealand, but also (to our sur prise) from all over the
sake world. Kiwis have been interested right from the start, but now local
Japanese are also starting to show their support and encouragement, which
is very satisfying and also proving to be quite a humbling exper ience for us.
While the size of the sake market in New Zealand is still relatively
small, it obviously has a big future with the worldwide increase in
popular ity of Japanese food, pop culture and sake. Since our success at
the London Sake Challenge, we have received distribution offers from a
number of countries.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE BREWING PROCESS
AND HOW LONG IT TAKES?
The ingredients for Junmaishu - the style of premium sake we produce
are basically rice, koji (steamed rice inoculated with a type of mold
called aspergillus oryzae), water and yeast. To explain briefly, these
ingredients are mixed very precisely in stages over four days. After four
days the mash (moromi) is created, and from here it is nurtured by the
brewer as it fer ments for around 30-35 days. The mash is fer mented
at a very low temperature, between 8-13 degrees, and is stirred gently
and analysed once a day, until the head brewer decides the mash is
ready to be pressed. Pressing is the process of separating the liquid sake
from the solid lees. Once the mash has been pressed the liquid can be
called sake, though the new sake will need to be racked and filtered
several times, stored for several months then pasteur ised before being
bottled and labelled for distribution. Four months is probably the
minimum per iod required for the entire cycle.
After fer mentation is completed and the sake is pressed from the
lees, many things take place that can greatly influence the flavour
and aromas, such as pasteur isation, how much water is added (if any),
filter ing, storage and maturation. So great care is taken of the sake by
the brewers, r ight through until shipping.
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO A GREAT SAKE?
As water comprises around 80% of the final product, great water is
absolutely essential. Obviously good rice, well-made koji and the r ight yeast
to match your water and rice are also key ingredients. A cool, dry climate
as we have in Queenstown is also helpful, as it provides the opportunity to
brew throughout the year and limits the occurrence of unwanted bacteria
in the brewery. Beyond this, the creation of great sake undoubtedly relies
on the skills of the Toji (head brewer) and his brewing team (Kurabito). n
Zenkuro Sake boutique brewery produces 400 bottles a month and supplies
restaurants in Auckland,Wellington, Christchurch,Wanaka and Queenstown.
For a full list, visit www.zenkuro.co.nz
“With interest in Japanese
food and beverage
throughout the world,
we felt the time was
right for New Zealand’s
first sake brewery.”
The Zenkuro Sake range
Hospitality BUSINESS | November 2016 | 61
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