How We Brew Saké in Oregon
Every bottle of our Oregon saké is carefully handcrafted using age-old techniques taught to us by our teachers and partners in Japan. Together they have more than 600 years of saké brewing expertise that provides a foundation for our efforts in Oregon.
Each batch starts in our rice mill where 40% of the grain is polished away leaving the cleaner starches found in the remaining 60% (Ginjo).
After a few weeks of cooling down from the polishing, the rice is washed to remove residual flour and then moved to a soak tank to begin water saturation in the grain. After a carefully defined soak time at an equally defined temperature the rice is moved to our steamer. Layering rice in the steamer is a careful process which is done six inches at a time to allow steam to find a natural path through the grains.
Each step is carefully managed by the senses. See the changes in the rice, feel them, smell the aromas and taste the change in flavor as the rice evolves into ideal food for the yeast. A physical connection is key to Oregon craft saké.
After a nice steam, Koji (aspergillus oryzae) mold spores are applied to each grain as it is moved into our cedar lined Koji room. Koji grows on and into the grain, digesting the starch and converting it to sugar. Different strains of Koji create different aromas and flavor elements, so our brewing team selects for the desired effect. After about twenty-four hours we have perfect food for the yeast.
Fresh yeast, propagated at our kura, is used in every batch of our saké. Like Koji, yeast strains offer a diverse set of elements in the form of aroma and flavor. Hand stirred into the moto (first) tank, yeast is blended with water, Koji rice and a little steamed rice to get the brewing started. After a few days the moto is moved to a large fermentation tank where it brews for another few weeks.
Once a batch reaches optimum flavor profile and alcohol content, we press out the sediment, pasteurize and begin aging.
After a defined aging period and a refinement process, our saké is pasteurized once more before bottling.
This is a simple explanation of a complicated process. You can see the steps in the video or visit our tasting room to take a tour of the brewery.