The last three days have been fantastic. I was honored to spend some time with some of the great sake professionals across the US and Canada, as well as Phillip Harper from Kinoshita Brewery and Kosuke Kuji from Nanbu Bijin (a master of sake in so many ways).
It was great to taste a multitude of tasty and adventurous sakes from across the continent and to have my peers, and those two amazing mentors, give great feedback and encouragement. The several days and nights I spent with these folks was quite eye opening and filled me with great enthusiasm for what we are doing. The talk ranged from everything about our individual breweries to delving deeeeeeeeeeeep into rice varietals and new crazy yeasts that are being made to do some crazy things (one makes hops smells and another makes color as it ferments). My brain is still reeling from all the conversations. I'll be pouring over my notes for a while.
This event was exactly how GABF seems to me. Great people doing great things to go back home and make even better things.
One thing that stuck out to me that Kuji-san said early on in the conference was something that has been in my marketing speech for a while. He asked us to cut our own path. To take the ideas from the California wine producers and start making sakes that are truly American (all paraphrasing).
Starting the event out at Sequoia Sake was definitely the best. Seeing their space, how they do things, and spending time with Jake and Noriko was fantastic. Their place is pretty big in comparison to ours. I think our entire brewery actually fits inside their brew space. It definitely makes me want to travel to around and see what everyone else is doing. It also brought up the idea of instituting an exchange program similar to one they have in Japan where brewers travel around to different breweries and train with and under different staff. I think this would be great and a great way to spread knowledge from region to region. I was thinking about Nami Sake. Since they're at a similar elevation they might be best to chat with about high altitude brewing issues. I'll have to work on my Spanish though.
The best part about the opening reception was seeing that there were folks who were just as interested in thinking outside the box as I was. Proper Sake brought one of the best sparkling sakes I've ever had. A big surprise was a sake that Harper-san brought called Time Machine. Not only is it brewed with an ancient recipe and spontaneous fermentation, it is aged for at least 3 years. The one he brought was full of caramel and much like a port. If we had vanilla ice cream, I'm pretty sure we would have just poured it all over it and enjoyed this boozy treat.
It was great to be reassured that sake doesn't need to be just one thing. It can be many things.
Find great sake in your area and go visit it!
Arizona - Arizona Sake
Arkansas - Hot Spring Sake
Colorado - Gaiijn 24886, Colorado Sake Co.
Georgia - Atlanta Sake Brewery
Louisiana - Southern Sake
Maine - Blue Current
Massachusetts - Dovetail Sake
Minnesota - Moto-i
New York - Brooklyn Kura,
North Carolina - Ben's Tune Up
Pennsylvania - Sango Kura
Tennesee - Proper Saké Co.
Mexico - Nami