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  • Greg Beck

I MADE Wild Sake...


a cloudy bowl of rice water and metal bowl of koji rice.

I swore I would never dare make my own Sake. I'm fond of saying, "I have too much respect for Sake to brew it myself. So how did this happen? More importantly: How does it taste?!?


For context, it's worth mentioning that I have home brewed craft beer for close to 10 years, now work as a professional brewer, and have a friend who is making his own Sake professionally at Nova Brewing Co. in Covina, L.A. County. (In his case, he also interned at an outstanding Sake brewery in Japan.)


Invite Pending

I was invited to a private, online Sake Group. It turned out this invitation included detailed instructions for something called "The August New Moon Sake Brew". Intrigued by the name, I read on and realized this was absolutely something I could manage at home.


Most Sake is made from rice strains specifically for brewing. This is where my Sake knowledge came in handy. I knew that one strain of table rice (for eating) is also used in some Sake: Koshihikari (pronounced "Co.-She-He-Car E", but think "Kosher Hickory" if that helps you remember). So I bought a nice, big bag of it and raced home to ... wait a week!

a jar containing water and a ball of cooked rice floating above a layer of uncooked rice

Instructions were for a wild fermented Sake, using an ancient method called Bodai-Moto - basically the sourdough starter version of Sake-making. After waiting that week, the water had become nice and acidic. I removed the uncooked rice, steamed it, cooled it, and reintroduced it to the water, mixed with re-hydrated, store-bought, Koji rice.


glass jar containing steamed rice and koji rice with a layer of acidic residue on top

What followed was several days of aggressive fermentation. From my bedroom I could hear the jar of rice, Koji, wild yeast, and water bubbling away in the kitchen! After a couple weeks of daily mashing and stirring (a step called Yama-Oroshi), the mixture became almost completely liquid. Tasting it, there was a pleasant balance of creamy rice sweetness and dry, acidic alcohol.


The Lesson

My next step was to strain it. Pouring the the whole thing into a nut-milk bag, I got a tiny amount of yellowish, somewhat-transparent sake out. This tasted very rich in Umami and slightly citrus, like lime, but the rest of the Sake was too thick, so I had to switch to a cheesecloth.


Unlike every step prior, straining was hugely difficult, messy, and required constant squeezing and re-adjusting. My resulting Nigori (cloudy) sake tastes good, but would have needed much longer to breakdown and a specialized press to ever become a beautifully clear bottle of Sake.


I am left with a small amount of interesting and honestly pretty tasty, home-brewed Sake, an understanding of how difficult the pressing process for real Sake-makers has been historically, and immense, renewed respect for the beverage I love to buy and effortlessly enjoy.


Fruit of My Labor

Ultimately, the process took close to a month, and I achieved 40 ounces of Nigori Sake and a small jar of Sake Kasu - the leftover rice pulp from Sake making - which I look forward to using as an ingredient in baking!


I hope you enjoyed reading about this experience. Did it leave you wanting more? Or want to skip the learning and go straight to tasting Sake? SAKE SECRET can help:

CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED

Get involved! Want to share your experience or ask a question? Read something that didn't make sense? Feel free to comment below, or continue the conversation on

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Until next time,

Kanpai!


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