Sake, often called “Rice Wine,” is actually made through a process similar to beer brewing than winemaking. Sake is brewed, not distilled. Typical sake has 15-16% ABV, slightly stronger than wine but not as strong as vodka or tequila.
While you will find fruity and floral flavors in Kato Sake Works’ craft sake, it is made of rice, a starchy, bland grain we eat every day (at least in Japan.) To make good sake, rice grain is milled to about half of its size; unwanted compounds on the outer layer is removed. It’s expensive but good for sake. And, by the way, rice is 100% gluten-free.
80% of sake is made of water. The quality of water not only impacts the taste of sake but also determines how rice is fermented. Hard water accelerates fermentation, resulting in rich and bold, dry sake. Soft water slows it down and makes clean, crisp, sweet sake. Our water comes from the beautiful Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York, a hundred mile north of NYC.
Koji is a type of domesticated mold widely used in Asian culinary culture. Soy sauce and miso are other examples made with koji. Koji is cultured on steamed rice for 48 hours until rice grains become fluffy like brie cheese. Koji is to sake what malt is to beer. It breaks down the carbohydrate in the rice grain into sugar, which is then fermented by yeast to alcohol.
Yeast ferments sugar into alcohol. Most alcohol producers around the world have developed fermentation techniques, such as temperature control and additional nutrients, to provide the optimal environment for the yeast to work happily. That’s not the case for sake. We put them under the temperature too cold and feed them too little. Only the yeast endured this harsh environment can produce a beautiful sake. It’s like the art of Samurai.
If you dare to explore the world of sake farther, we can guide you to more advanced topics. We are also going to offer brewery tours and educational sessions once the brewery is open. Please follow us on social media and we will keep you updated.