Japanese sake brewers revive interest by using Western fermentation processes to create “Champagne Sake”

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RocketNews 24:

As imports of Western drinks increase, interest in Japan’s native alcoholic beverages has been declining. There have been efforts to bring drinkers back to traditional drinks such as sake and shochu, but they face tough competition from the likes of wine and champagne, which evoke fashionable, sophisticated images in the minds of Japanese drinkers.

One way to revive interest could be to apply Western fermentation techniques to Eastern beverages such as sake, Japan’s “rice wine”, to create unique twists on traditional drinks.Champagne sake” is an example of this done deliciously right.

Traditional or “real” champagne is sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France which, after the usual fermentation process, are fermented a second time in the bottle to produce the carbonation. In other words, it’s this special process of secondary fermentation that gives a glass of bubbly its bubbles. People all over the world, including Japan, like to crack open a bottle to celebrate special occasions. At other times, many Japanese people are partial to sake, or nihonshu as it’s known in its native land, a popular alcohol with a long history made from fermented rice.

But what do you get when you apply the fermentation process used to make champagne to sake? Well, you get an effect similar to champagne, but with that special rice wine flavor!

Because of the in-bottle fermentation process, as with champagne, you get the fizz of fine bubbles jumping out at you when you open the cap. It’s different to “sparkling sake“, which has recently seen a boom in popularity, which is simply sake with added carbonation and is more like an alco-pop with around 5% alcohol content. When using the champagne secondary fermentation process, the resultant drink has a fruity flavor and is around 12% proof. It’s very easy to get carried away drinking too much of it but, since it’s made from only rice and natural water, if you’re going to drink alcohol then this is probably a reasonably healthy choice! Apparently it goes well not only with Japanese food, but with Chinese and Western cuisine, too.

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Shusen Kurano is the oldest sake brewer in Nagano and the seventh oldest in all of Japan, and they are extremely proud of their “champagne sake”, called Kawanakajima-Fuwarin, which is different to all the traditional sake they produce. Founded in 1540, Shusen Kurano has over 470 years of history and it’s even said that the famous daimyo Takeda Shingen drank their sake at the Battles of Kawanakajima. While champagne sake may not have been around at the time, if it had been he surely would have enjoyed cracking open a bottle after a win on the battlefield.

Kawanakajima-Fuwarin retails on the brewery’s website at 450 yen (US$3.70) for 180 ml, 750 yen ($6.20) for 300ml, and 1,250 yen ($10.30) for 500ml. If you do pick any up, be sure to let us know what you think.

Taiwanese single malt whisky awarded “World’s Best” title at the World Whiskies Awards

The World Whiskies Awards just took place, and the best whisky in the world isn’t from Scotland, but from Taiwan. Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique was named the best single malt in the world, boasting 57.5% ABV and produced by the King Car distillery in Taiwan.

The winning whisky is made through maturing the malt whisky in American oak barrels that previously held white and red wines. Other winners included Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Year Old from Japan for the world’s best blended malt, and Ireland’s Redbreast Pot Still 15 Year Old for best pot-still whisky.

Check out the full list of winners at Bar Magazine’s website here, and let us know whether you’ll be trying some Kavalan.

From lotus root to alcohol: Are powdered foods the next big boom in Japan?

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RocketNews24:

What’s that crumbly brown stuff on the rice pictured above?

If you guessed that it was some combination of spices, you’re (mostly) wrong. It’s actually the powdered form of a common cooking ingredient that you can find in any Japanese home. In fact, powdered foods in general have recently been drawing a lot of attention in Japan, so we wanted to share some interesting tidbits about them with you. And like the powder in the picture above, you might be surprised by what you find!

Why buy powdered foods instead of the real thing?

When cooking with powdered ingredients, you don’t need to worry about the hassle of washing or peeling vegetables. The fine particles also create an interesting sensation while you’re eating, as if the very foods themselves were melting in your mouth. In addition, powdered and other dehydrated foods have prolonged shelf lives compared with those of fresh ingredients.

Powdered renkon (lotus root)

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Powdered renkon is said to be effective at boosting your immune system and at reducing the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever. Japanese opera singer Keiko Nakajima reportedly consumed renkon powder for a period of five years, after which the allergy symptoms which she had experienced ever since she was a child effectively disappeared. You don’t have to stress about how to eat it, either–one easy solution is to mix the powder into the filling of meatballs or hamburgers. Twitter user @k_parepu offers another idea:

Powdered onion

Onions: red, brown, whole, peeled, sliced, rings.

Quercetin is a substance found in many fruits, vegetables, and grains, with large quantities found in the flesh of onions in particular. It acts as an antioxidant, as well as helping to remove toxins and maintain blood flow throughout your body. Quercetin is also resistant to high temperatures and is easily soluble.

Powdered soy sauce

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Yup, that brown powder topping the bowl of rice in the picture above was nothing other than soy sauce! It may be strange to think about the common kitchen ingredient in a non-liquid form, but it actually makes a great addition to salads, meat, fish, sautéed vegetables, stir-fry, and pasta, and goes especially well with the crunchiness of deep-fried foods such as tempura.

As featured on our Japanese sister site Pouch, you can enjoy powdered soy sauce on:

▼Rice

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▼Deep-fried things

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▼…or even tomatoes!

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Our writer commented that the flavor and aroma of the soy sauce powder intensified when it was sprinkled on hot foods, where the soy sauce flavor combined with yuzu and hints of cayenne pepper was delightfully satisfying.

 

And last but not least, powdered alcohol! 

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Alcohol in a powdered form!? Your nose isn’t lying because that powdery stuff (conceivably) in front of you is alcohol–only with the water removed. Apparently, 17 countries in the world have special licenses to manufacture alcohol in a powdered form, which is subject to the same liquor taxes as regular alcoholic drinks. Got travel plans but no room in the suitcase to bring drinks? Just mix some alcohol powder with water and you’ve got an instant drink!

Taste Test: Sankt Gallen Sakura cherry blossom beer

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RocketNews 24: (by Casey Baseel)

After three months of cold weather, I’m ready for spring. Coincidentally, after a long week of work, I’m ready for a beer.

Lucky me, these two desires have dovetailed perfectly in the form of Kanagawa Prefecture microbrewer Sankt Gallen’s newest offering, made with the petals of the harbinger of Japanese spring, cherry blossoms. So strap on your drinking caps, because it’s time for the sakura beer taste test!

While Sankt Gallen Sakura can be ordered here directly from the brewer, you can also find it in select grocers and liquor stores. The Tokyu Store at Hiyoshi Station on the Toyoko Line (which runs between Toyoko Line’s Shibuya and Yokohama) had the special beer in stock on February 24, the day of its release.

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At 464 yen (US $3.95) a bottle, the cherry blossom beer is a little more expensive than major brands like Asahi or Kirin, but perfectly in line with what you’ll usually pay for microbrew beers in Japan. Actually, in the eyes of the law, it’s not even a beer, buthapposhu. While that designation usually gets slapped on low-malt, low-quality alcoholic beverages in Japan, in the case of Sankt Gallen Sakura, the classification seems to be strictly a result of it being made with sakura petals and leaves. Since these aren’t standard beer ingredients, for legal purposes, the brew gets classified as happoshu instead of beer .

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While the brew’s happoshu status is listed in the fine print, you’ll find “Sweets Beer” writ large on the label. That’s because the true flavor inspiration for Sankt Gallen Sakura is the traditional Japanese confectionary called sakura mochi, a dollop of sweet red beans wrapped in a thin, sweet rice cake, which is in turn wrapped in an edible sakura leaf.

▼ Sakura mochi, in non-beer form

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▼ The cap is not a twist-off, by the way.

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Sankt Gallen Sakura pours up without much head, and if you prefer drinking beer to chewing foam you can pretty much eliminate it from your glass entirely. The color is unique, in that it’s golden without being particularly yellow. As a matter of fact, it almost looks like some varieties of green tea, which is appropriate considering the Japanese inspiration for its flavor.

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One common element between the three Sankt Gallen brews I’d tried before the cherry blossom beer is a heavy bitterness. On its website, the brewer claims the sakura beer is less harsh that its usual offerings, and that’s definitely true, although there’s still more bitterness here than in, say, a bottle of Asahi Super Dry. Sadly, there’s no cherry blossom aroma to the beverage, and truth be told, initially the special ingredients don’t seem to affect the flavor very much either.

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After the liquid washes over your taste receptors, though, there’s a subtle but lingering sweet saltiness that spreads out from the center of your tongue. While it doesn’t, by any means, scream “Japanese dessert,” the sensation should be familiar to those who’ve eaten sakura mochi.

At the finish, there’s a crisp but not unpleasant bitterness that hits the back of your throat. Overall, there’s a lot of character to Sankt Gallen Sakura. One of its most intriguing characteristics is that, in contrast to the sharp sensations of bitterness that bookend its flavor profile, it’s got a very light mouth feel, something you’d generally associate with a less flavorful beer.

It’s usually been my experience that combining desserts with beer worsens them both, as though the universe is punishing you for asking for too much pleasure in one sitting. That’s not necessarily true with Sankt Gallen Sakura and sakura mochi, though. Maybe it’s because of its light mouth feel, it stays drinkable even when alternating sips of beer and bites of sweets, although doing so dulls the beverage’s more unique flavor components a bit.

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When all is said and done, how does the drinking experience compare to that of last year’s Mint Chocolate Stout? Well, remember that post-tasting snapshot above? Here’s the one for Sankt Gallen Sakura.

Sort of like a cherry blossom viewing party, Sankt Gallen Sakura isn’t necessarily something you’d want to experience every day. But as a unique change of pace for a special occasion once or twice a year?

Definitely.

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New antioxidant drink supposedly cures ‘Asian Glow’

Before-Elixir

FoodBeast:

It doesn’t take much for Alcohol Flush Reaction, better known as the infamous “Asian Glow,” to kick in. Usually, one or two drinks is all that’s necessary for one to become bright red and heated. Sure, popping a Pepcid might make things easier, but the risks are kind of unavoidable.

Apparently, there’s an elixir going around that can solve this. They’re calling it Before Elixir.

Asian Glow is said to affect 15 percent of all drinkers and about 70 percent of Asian drinkers. These folks have a variant of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, causing them to process it up to 100 times faster than the average drinker. Because of this, a buildup of toxins is created leading to flushing, increased heart rate, headaches and other discomfort.

Asian-Elixer

Before Elixir claims to slow down the metabolism of alcohol and toxin production in the liver that causes the flush reaction. The elixir is made with ingredients like mangosteen, raspberries, pomegranate, milk thistle and B vitamins.

Antacids, such as Pepcid AC, are commonly used to help reduce these symptoms. However, they can cause blood alcohol levels to quickly rise and increase the chance of alcohol poisoning.

While the beverage is currently looking for funding, a few pre-produced bottles can be purchased at the official site.

 

ZOZOTOWN collaborates with Japanese sake distillery Ohmine Shuzou with 10th Anniversary “Ohmine Junmai” Pack

Matcha (green tea) beer is a thing in Japan

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RocketNews 24:

The history of beer – man’s most delicious way of getting inebriated – is long and winding, with many fad flavors and failed attempts at new brewing methods. We’ve seen beer infused with marijuana (failure), blueberry beer (failure), wheat beer (resounding success), even chocolate beer (success by virtue of having chocolate in it).

Until now though, we’d never heard of the surprisingly intuitive combination of beer and matcha. Looking back, it makes so much sense: two complementary bitter flavors, combined to create an appealing, marbled green-colored beverage that St. Patrick would have loved if he hadn’t, in reality, been a total prude.

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The matcha even fluffs up the beer foam for a beverage with a rich, velvety head that borders on physically impossible to stop drinking.

While this ingenious beer does come pre-bottled, it’s also deceptively simple to make at home, provided you have access to some decent matcha powder: All it takes is about a half teaspoon of matcha powder dissolved in a half-glass of warm water. Fill the glass the rest of the way with a non-faux beer of your choice and, if you’re not totally inept at even the simplest of recipes, you should end up with a richly marbled matcha beer cocktail.

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The drink is catching on at bars and restaurants in Japan, especially in the Kyoto area, where it’s proving popular with women for its lower alcohol content and less bitter taste compared to draft beer.

Some Japanese Twitter users are already uploading pics of their home-made matcha beer creations, some of which have a mildly disturbing dark, brownish-green hue, indicating conservative use of matcha powder is key to this cocktail.

▼ Twitter user gracenaho’s slightly off-putting home-made version.

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Why not give this one a try and let us know how it goes in the comments? We’ll just play it safe and buy the bottled stuff, thank you.

▼ A six-pack of matcha beer from Nagoya brewery, Kinshachi

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