Early Autumn Greetings to all readers. If only it would start to cool down. While it is already early September, no one seems to have told the climate! Summer heat rages here in Japan, and the
punishing humidity along with it. But having entered this - my favorite month of the year - a gaggle of industry tastings is just around the corner. Tiring though it might be, it will be fun. And of course there is the
cuisine of fall, easily as good as it gets in Japan for me, vibrant in appearance and well-developed in flavor and taste. And of course, there is sake: last season's brews are still just a bit young, and boast that very
appeal. Maturity can be enjoyed again later.
Other upcoming news: I will hold the autumnal Sake Professional Course October 28 to 30 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hang around after the course for Halloween in Vegas - that
has to be fun. You can learn more below, or by sending me an email to that purport. And please, as always, enjoy the newsletter - preferably with a glass of autumnal sake! Warm regards, John Gauntner
Admittedly, the subject of yeast types begins to push the envelope of geekdom. While some want to know both in theory and practice the difference between a Number
9 and a Number 10, and perhaps even between a CEL-24 and EK-1, most of us are content to sip and smile. Even so, there are some interesting historical, cultural and technical anecdotes surrounding even things as dryly
scientific as yeast, and the topic of foamless yeasts, or "awanashi kobo," is one such example.
First of all, just what is foamless yeast? Usually, when sake undergoes its 20- to 40-day fermentation, the
foam rises in great swaths and falls again, especially over the first third or so of this period. In fact, brewers of olde would judge the stage, progress and condition of a given batch by the appearance (and smell, and
taste, and even sound) of this foam atop the fermenting mash. Also, there are ten times more yeast cells in the foam than the mash itself, so very often yeast for subsequent batches is removed from the foam of healthy,
vibrantly fermenting tanks.
So foamless yeasts, obviously, are strains of yeast that do create as much foam (there still is a little bit) as they convert sugars to alcohol, carbon dioxide, and more. The question is,
why would anyone want to use them?
There are, actually, a number of very good reasons. Most of these are centered around efficiency, sanitation, labor-savings, and even safety. For instance, since the foam rises so
high during fermentation, brewers cannot fill a tank to the brim with rice, koji and water since it would soon overflow with foam, leading to hygienic nightmare. Rather, they can only fill the tank initially about 3/4 of
the way to leave room for the foam to rise and fall. Naturally, this puts a damper on one's yields and efficiency. There may be 30 tanks in a fermentation room, but if you can only fill each up 3/4 of the way, your monthly
yields are only 75 percent of what they might be. With foamless yeasts, however, this concern is all but a non-issue, and a brewery can get the higher yields out of each batch and tank.
Also, when foam does rise and
fall, the remains that cling to the side of the tank are a veritable hotbed of bacterial activity, an orgy of undesirable microorganisms just hankerin' to drop back in and do damage to the unsuspecting ambrosia-in-waiting
below. So this must be assiduously cleaned off by the brewers. Not only is this hard and time consuming work, it is also quite dangerous, since it generally requires leaning into the tank. Falls into tanks are almost always
fatal since there is no oxygen and the huge amount of carbon dioxide billowing up from the mash is harshly engulfing. So by eliminating the foamy remains, time, labor, and risk are spared. Finally, without all that gunk in
the way, the hard-working yeast cells move and work a bit more freely, so that fermentation proceeds a smidgeon faster and can finish a day or two earlier.
Why are they foamless? What happens, it seems, is that most
yeast cells will cling to bubbles of carbon dioxide that are created and then rise to the surface. Foamless yeast cells, on the other hand, for whatever reason do not cling to these bubbles and so are not carried up, up,
and away. Since the bubbles are unencumbered, they pop, and there is no foam rising high above the mash.
The foamless yeasts that are commonly encountered out there today are non-foaming versions of the "usual
suspects," rather than being new, unknown, or total mutant life-forms.
Actually, they appear naturally and spontaneously. About one in every several hundred million yeast cells of a given type are foamless, but
obviously, if just one in several hundred million is non-foaming, no one will notice. It just takes patience to isolate some and cultivate a pure culture of them.
Also, they have been around a long time, it seems,
but proper records go back until only about 1916, when several breweries reported experiences with them. Apparently, until then, the brewers that encountered these thought, "Whoa. This can't be right. Let's just
quietly throw this mutant away before anyone finds out about it. It could be bad for our rep and all."
While foamless yeasts were used sparingly and experimentally for decades, the first commercial use of a
foamless yeast was actually in Hawaii, believe it or not. In 1960 or 1961, a full ten years before it was used on anything remotely resembling a large scale in Japan, foamless yeasts were used by Takao Nihei of the Honolulu
Sake Brewery. Dispatched by the brewing research organization within the government of Japan, he was the first to take what information there was on these yeasts (and a sample, of course) and run with it. His focus was
saving labor and producing great sake with great efficiency, and this he did with great success.
Are these foamless yeasts really the same as their bubbling counterparts, except for the foam? Most brewers say,
"Yes, the results are essentially same, and the practical advantages make it a clear choice for us." However, there are a still a few hardcore toji who insist that the foamless manifestations are not quite as good
as the foaming yeasts. Naturally, the ability to gather information from the appearance of the foam is eliminated. Still, most brewers feel that with foamless yeasts they get the same quality of sake, with less mess.
Foamless yeasts, at least those distributed by the Brewing Society of Japan, are designated by a -01 after the normal nomenclature. So a foamless Number 7 is known as 701, foamless Number 9 as 901, and so on. Those you are
most likely to come across these days are 701, 901, and 1801.
Brewers are not obligated to provide information on the choice of yeast used, but often do. While there are countless yeasts used in sake today, just a
few are non-foaming, and now you can recognize them.
Sake Brewery Tours in Japan 2014
Here is the latest from Sake Tours
very excited to announce two new destinations in 2014 to Okayama (January 27th - 31st) and Niigata (February 17th – 21st). There's something special about these two destinations. The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers
Association is supporting part of the cost. They invite all sake enthusiasts to really experience Japan through sake with their help. This is a one-time opportunity you cannot miss!
Both tours are 5-day excursions
into the world of sake brewing, drinking, and enjoyment, featuring an exclusive seminar by the greatest sake sensei. The contents of the tours feature sumptuous cuisine, luxurious yet quiet relaxing time at hot springs, and
excursions to fantastic cultural highlights in areas seldom visited by foreigners.
Okayama January 27 - 31, 2014 (Monday-Friday)
Visit four sake brewers in the home of Omachi sake rice. The Okayama tour combines
sake, food, and art with visits to beautiful classic towns. Some very memorable experiences you will find only with us are: a session with Omachi sake rice grower, hands on rice field plowing, private Kagura dance
performance, private Shiki Hocho fish cutting knife ritual once performed only for the emperor, hands-on guinomi sake cup making experience with Bizen artists, observing art of sword making and more. On the last day, simply
relax at the hot springs by the river far away from the city, in the snow.
Niigata, February 17 – 21, 2014 (Monday-Friday)
Niigata is known as the sake and rice capital. From over 90 breweries, you will
visit four breweries who represent very distinctive traditions including Sado Island. In addition to a chance to interview sake brewers and rice growers, some special moments include: a private Geisha performance at dinner,
a masterful tea ceremony, paring of Niigata sake at French restaurant, and hands on experience of Kodo Taiko drum. Of course, we'll have time to explore the distinctive cultural heritage of the area and to relax at hot
Both tours are 270,000 JPY per person. With 50,000 JPY support from Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, your cost is only 220,000 JPY. Please visit http://saketours.com for tour information after
September 15. Group size is limited to 12. Details are still being finalized for the Okayama and Niigata tours. For more details, contact Etsuko at saketours.com.
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Sake Professional Course
Las Vegas, Nevada, October 28 to 30, 2013
Now accepting reservations...
The next Sake Professional Course will
take place October 28 to 30, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. More about the seminar, its content and day-to-day schedule, can be found here. The Sake Professional Course, with Sake Education Council-recognized Certified Sake Professional certification testing, is by far the most intensive, immersing, comprehensive sake educational program in existence. The three-day seminar leaves "no sake stone unturned." The tuition for the course is $825. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions about the course, or to make a reservation.
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Sake Education Council
Please take a moment to check out the website for
the Sake Education Council, the organization behind the Certified Sake Professional and Advanced Sake Professional certifications. We plan to grow steadily, strongly and continually, and we will need the support of all
those that love sake to do so. Follow us through the "usual suspects" of social media.
Sake Homebrewer's Online Store
Please be sure to check out Homebrewsake.com for supplies, information and a forum, including lots of supporting information on everything from recipes to history. I have been meaning to mention this site and the gentleman behind it, Will Auld, but have repeatedly forgotten in past newsletters. The site is replete with instruction, augmented with videos, schedules, and more. If you are even remotely interested check this site out right away.
SAKE EDUCATION CENTRAL
For Your iPhone & iPod: The Sake Dictionary App.
Newly improved, now with audio, and
drastically reduced in price to $0.99!
Get it here: http://itunes.com/apps/sakedictionary
are, perusing a menu, or standing in front of a shelf of great sake, or perhaps reading a sake newsletter… and up pops one of those hairy, pesky sake terms in Japanese. You know you have heard it many times, but dammit,
you just cannot remember what it means now…
No problem! Just whip out your iPhone or iPod and fire up your trusty old version of The Sake Dictionary. In a matter of seconds, you'll be amongst the cognoscenti once
again. But… if only you could pronounce it properly. Now that would really rock!
Done! Just tap on the term and you will hear a clear example of how to pronounce the term in Japanese. Repeat it a couple of times
and the term is yours for eternity, to toss about and impress your mates.
What's more, it's less! Less than what it cost before, much less. Like less than one-seventh less. For a limited time only, the
audio-enhanced version of The Sake Dictionary iPhone app is available for a mere $0.99.
The Sake Dictionary is a concise little package of all the terms you might ever come across when dealing with sake. Almost 200
of them - including sake grades, rice variety names, seasonal sake terms, special varieties, rare types, post-brewing processing words and the myriad terms used in sake production - many of which are not even familiar to
the average Japanese person on the street - are listed up here with concise, useful and clear definitions and the written Japanese version as well. And now, with the new audio component, you can listen and learn just how
to pronounce those terms properly.
Start to toss around Japanese sake terms like you were raised knowing them! Gain a level of familiarity hitherto unimaginable! Avoid frustrating paralysis when faced with a
Get your copy of The Sake Dictionary now and never be confused by sake terms - or how to pronounce them - again.
Get it here: http://itunes.com/apps/sakedictionary
(Note if you have already purchased it, this upgrade to the audio version is free. Just go to iTunes and get it!)
Sake's Hidden Stories
I am very pleased to announce the publication of my new ebook, Sake's Hidden Stories, subtitled The Personalities, Philosophies, and Tricks-of-the-Trade Behind the Brew.
Sake's Hidden Stories ($14.99) will give you a view to what goes on in the sake industry
behind the brew we all love so much. The book goes into stories much deeper than the information we most commonly encounter; way beyond simply what ginjo-shu is, what junmai-shu is, or what the role of koji is. You will
learn about the personalities behind the sake. You will see in just how much detail some brewers make sake, and how each is different in where importance is placed. And most significantly, something that has not been
written about in any book on sake in English, you will meet more than a dozen brewers, and encounter their personalities. You'll see what makes them tick, what drives them in their work, and how their histories and
idiosyncrasies affect the sake they brew.
For more information on content and get your copy, go here.As with any ebook or informational product I offer, satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you don't like it or feel
it was worth what you paid for it, I will cheerfully refund your money. Finally, for a nice third-party review of the book, check out this cool blog.
Sake Educational Products
Jump-start your sake savvy
Just a reminder to check out the Sake-World e-store, currently offering three educational products immediately downloadable for your education and further sake enjoyment. We
offer three products, with more to come soon, including a full-blown, comprehensive self-study course covering all the material in the Sake Professional Course, and more.
First is The Sake Notebook, a 15-page pdf file guaranteed to jump-start your sake understanding and appreciation. It covers everything related to sake in a tight, concise and easily digestible presentation
replete with plenty of photos and diagrams for at-a-glance enlightenment. Sake basics, history, grades and quality levels, aging, temperature, storage and more are all briefly touched upon to create a foundation upon which
more sake learning can flourish. There is also a list of 250 (count 'em!) sake brands to look for and try. Finally, included with purchase is access to a password protected area on www.sake-world.com known as "The
Goodstuff" a regularly updated list of good sake recommendations, replete with brief commentary on each, and some indication of John's personal recommendations and preferences. Available for $15.
The Sake Production Slideshow, an executable file (Photojam) wherein resides a 15-minute slideshow of photos of the sake-brewing process from beginning to end, giving you a glimpse into the day-to-day brewing environment of
sakagura in Japan. Available for $15. Also, access to "The Goodstuff" comes with this product as well.
Third is a bundled package of both The Sake Notebook and The Sake Production Slideshow for those
that cannot make up their minds or simply have to have - or give - both as gifts. Available as a set for $25.
Surely these would make wonderful gifts for those close to you that are itching to get into good
sake, and their easily downloadable digital format makes it all that much easier.
More information on the following topics can be found at
- Sake Homebrewing
- Books on Sake
- Information on the archives of this newsletter
- General information related to this publication
Questions and comments should be directed to John Gauntner. Email John from this link: www.sake-world.com/html/email.html
All material Copyright, John Gauntner & Sake World Inc.