Following on from yesterday’s craft beer article, let’s talk about another kind of alcohol that’s popular in Japan – sake, or nihonshu. How would you like to try brewing some of your own?

The word ‘sake’ in Japanese means liquor or alcohol, and refers to any alcoholic beverage. So if you ask a Japanese person for some sake then they’ll generally want to know what kind – are you in the mood for a beer, or wine, or maybe a cocktail? What is sold as ‘sake’ outside of Japan is referred to as nihonshu within Japan, which literally translates as ‘Japanese liquor/alcohol’. More specifically, nihonshu is a ‘seishu‘, which means clear liquor. Nihonshu is made from that staple of Japanese culinary life – rice. As such, it’s sometimes called ‘rice wine’ although the brewing process is actually closer to that of beer.

We discovered this Sake Making Kit by Norse Hutchens, who also produces kits for many other types of alcohol from beer and gin to mead and wine, at UncommonGoods, purveyors of any kind of gift you could possibly want.

The blurb tells us:

“Traditional Japanese sake production can be complicated and exacting, but this kit makes it easy with everything you’ll need (except 1 lb. of white raisins and 2.5 lbs. of sugar) to brew multiple one gallon batches of your own sake in a hands-on exploration of ancient art and science. Hailing from Nara period Japan (8th century CE), sake is a time-honored rice “wine” steeped in Japanese culture, but you can bring a bit of this rich tradition to your kitchen without a trip to Kobe’s legendary breweries.”

Well the kit looks pretty legit, containing everything you need to get started including the rice, but minus two ingredients you have to provide yourself: raisins and sugar. With this you could easily be on your way to an entire gallon (3.79 litres) of tipple which typically contains 18-20% ABV when undiluted. Don’t drink it all at once!


The tagline for the kit is Good Sake, For Goodness Sake, but can you really get the pure deliciousness of real nihonshu from a kit like this?! We really wanted to try it out for ourselves, but unfortunately in Japan brewing your own nihonshu at home is forbidden under the Liquor Tax Law. If you want to brew anything with an alcohol content of over 1%, then you need a license, and the penalty for breaking this law is up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 1 million yen (US$9,300). So sorry guys, but we’re not gonna risk it!

If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, for $57 you get one complete kit which includes:

  • 1 Gallon Glass Carboy
  • Cane Siphon
  • Siphon Filter Cap
  • Siphon Clip
  • Tubing
  • Stopper with hole
  • Airlock
  • Yeast
  • Campden Tablets
  • Acid Blend
  • No-Rinse Sanitizer
  • Steeping bags
  • Short-Grain High Polished Rice
  • Yeast Energizer
  • Fermenting Bucket w/ Grommet

If anyone has any experience of brewing their own sake, why not tell us about it in the comments section below?

Source: UncommonGoods
[ Read in Japanese ]