Oakland's own-- if you know, you know.
Batch 18, bottled late June 2023, is fresh and bright, with notes of green apple, blueberry flesh, meringue, kumquat, calamansi, pear nectar, high mineral spring water, and a satisfying astringent grip on the tongue that reminds me of white grapefruit.
On a recent trip to Japan & time spent at Senkin Shuzo, Yoshi continued his refinement of the white koji, ko-on tooka (warm starter) method which has come to define his very popular Den Blanc brew. Batch 18 of Den Original is particularly exciting because it is with this batch that all Den-- including Original-- uses the white koji, ko-on tooka starter, making no lactic acid additions necessary. Maybe it's just me, but I also feel that Batch 18 is a huge improvement from Batch 16, which I felt was a huge improvement from the previous...and so on. Right when I think he's figured it out, Den just keeps getting better.
Yoshi's continued study and pursuit of knowledge and technique in Japan is an exciting sign for the future of American craft sake, and an indication of things to come for Den.
Yoshi’s background as a floor sommelier and beverage manager in SF restaurants inspired Den Sake Brewery and informs the brewery’s style, which has elevated acidity and plenty of umami, making it especially suited to strong flavors & acidity. Consider making a batch of Hwe Muchim: a sort of Korean poke; grilled pineapple, lime, cilantro & shrimp, pork, or chile- rubbed seitan; pecorino & summer corn pasta with lots of basil; or an Ottolenghi classic: soba salad with mango & eggplant (google it!)
- Size: 500ml
- Location: Oakland, CA
- Grade: Junmai Namazake
- Rice: Calhikari from Rue and Foresman Ranch
- Polishing: 70%
- Yeast: #9
- Starter: ko-on tooka with white koji (no lactic acid additions)
- Water: filtered tap, medium-soft water from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, originating in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Training: Kubota (Niigata), Shiokawa (Kanagawa)
Founded in 2017 by Yoshihiro Sako, Den Sake Brewery is the first sake brewery in Oakland, California. Sako brews small-batch sake using traditional Japanese brewing methods and proprietary techniques adapted for the California climate.
Den Sake is a pure rice sake made from single origin Cal-Hikari rice from Rue & Foresman ranch in the Sacramento Valley.
Yoshihiro Sako spent years as a sake buyer/sommelier in Bay Area restaurants and gained the knowledge to brew sake during apprenticeships at Kubota Brewery in Kanagawa-ken and Shiokawa Brewery in Niigata Prefecture.
However, because of the environmental differences between Japan and California, and the differences in the basic ingredients of rice and water, Sako needed to develop an alternative method of brewing. This included recalculating the water absorption ratios in the drier California Cal-Hikari rice versus traditional Japanese rice and taking into account the lower mineral content in Oakland, California water.
Den Sake is brewed to pair with an American cuisine that is more protein rich than that of Japan. Therefore, the Oakland-made sake has a higher acidity level to cut through the oils of foods higher in fat and protein. The result is an overall bolder sake than traditional Japanese sake that still pairs well with Western and Asian foods.