Discover Gifu Saké Brought a Taste of Japan to NYC

Saké, the Japanese rice-based alcoholic beverage that’s brewed like a beer, escaped my purview until recently. I sampled the drink in the past, usually in very small amounts during masterful K-town karaoke sessions, but didn’t bother to learn more about it until I received an invite to attend the Discover Gifu Saké showcase. It’s one of the benefits that living in New York City affords.

Discover GiFu Saké was held in Astor Center, a space above NoHo’s excellent Astor Wine and Spirits. Japanese Brewmeisters and their assistants were in attendance to talk saké, drum up buzz for their brews, and hopefully sign deals with American distributors. In a way, the event was one part introductory class, one part media event, one part business meeting. I learned about the brewing process, fermentation, and what’s required to sell saké in the United States. That said, those elements never got in the way of the showcase’s core: The saké tasting.

I won’t get into the saké basics, as a site superior to mine does a fine job of explaining the beverage. Instead, I’ll touch upon the three drinks that I enjoyed the most. 

  • Junmai Yuzu Sake by Nakashima Saké
    This 8.5-percent liqueur is made with fresh yuzu juice and Kozaemon junmai saké. It’s an excellent blend that creates a delicious lemon-lime flavor that’s incredibly sweet.
  • Shirakawago Awa-Nigori Junmai by Miwa Shuzo
    This carbonated saké is created with an in-bottle fermentation technique known as the “Champagne method” that produces a refreshing, satisfying finish. It boasts an 11 percent alcohol volume.
  • Cody’s Saké Junmai Ginjo by Watanabe Saké
    Masterfully brewed by Darryl Cody,  the first American saké  brewmaster, to commemorate his 10th anniversary as the big dog. This Junmai Ginjo has a 15 percent alcohol volume and a wonderfully smooth and clean taste.

Whittling down the selections was difficult, because there were so many excellent selections. But, by god, I found the will to drink and drink and drink until the top three were determined.

So, my big takeaway from the Discover GiFu Saké event is this: I like saké quite a bit! I will add it to my drink catalog, as I prefer to down the Japanese brew instead of, say, wine or hard liquor. It’s lighter, cleaner (the filtered variety, anyway), and the taste is like a kiss from a rose.

Now I just need a set of those cool saké drinking cups.

The Pumking rules at NYC Craft Beer Festival (Fall 2015)

Hipsters are the one demographic who New Yorkers publicly shame and ridicule without remorse, but I give my bearded, tight-pants-wearing friends credit for delivering the five boroughs from beer hell. The Big Apple once suffered the plague of Budweiser, Michelob, Colt 45, and the like, but it now drifts in a sea of tasty beverages that delights and amazes.

Halloween weekend’s New York City Craft Beer Festival celebrated the renaissance. My $55 general admission ticket granted access to drinks from breweries within city limits, upstate, and across the country, and supplied me with a small, commemorative 2-ounce tasting glass. I initially thought the glass was too diminutive for proper tastings, but when my eyes fell upon the dozens of vendors, and even more drinks, I realized that it was the perfect size to sample suds without getting absolutely hammered within the first 30 minutes.

Southern Tier Imperial Pumking

The Southern Tier Imperial Pumking at the New York City Craft Beer Festival.

There were many delightful brews in Metropolitan West’s two-story space, but the one that I deemed the best of show was Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Imperial Pumking. The seasonal wasn’t the only pumpkin-flavored beer at the festival, but it was the one that instantly made me James Franco.

Imperial Pumking tastes like a liquefied slice of grandma’s pumpkin pie that was given a proper chill. I was shocked by its robust pumpkin flavor during my first tasting; rich and sweet, but not at all a candy-like. Many pumpkin brews taste like they are made with pumpkin spices; Imperial Pumking tastes like it’s made of real pumpkin, and has a consistency to match. It’s a heavy beer, with a heavy flavor.

Pumking is best sipped, not guzzled, as the taste comes in waves. The first is the strong ale flavor; the second is  the delicious pumpkin. Drinking Pumking was not unlike drinking two beers at once, and that is not at all a slight.

I’m not so bold as to say that Imperial Pumking is now one of my all-time favorite beers after sampling just four ounces, but it’s certainly a drink that I’ll be searching out in the very near future. In fact, I may order a case, or five, from a distributor, so that I’ll have the deliciousness at hand throughout the holiday season.

Join Me at Kevin Powell’s 14th Annual Holiday Party and Clothing Drive

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…so why not lending a loving hand to the New Yorkers who need warmth this holiday season?

Friends, I implore you to join me at Kevin Powell’s 14th Annual Holiday Party and Clothing Drive on 12/12/2014. Bring a clothing donation and you can join a night of music, comedy, dancing, and good vibes with no admission charge! Details below. Please share. I hope to see you there!

Kevin Pw

Image courtesy of Storage Clothing, Inc.