Thats right, sake is brewed. Not distilled. Not wine.
Sake brewing is an ancient tradition with seriously incredible fermentation science perfected over the centuries. Although there are many parallels between sake, beer, and wine, it is truly a unique brewing process. Sake is not a liquor and is not distilled and while it has a high ABV and complexity like wine, there are no natural sugars in rice. Learn more about the fascinating brewing process below.
The Brewing Process
Rice is steamed in a sake brewery almost every day and is the essential to unlocking the natural flavors of the rice. The goal of rice steaming is to get the grain soft and gelatinized so that during koji making and fermentation the rice starches can be broken down.
Koji making is at the heart of sake brewing. This specialized process malts the rice grains which converts the starch in the rice into sugar. Koji, a yeast-like fungi, is spread onto the grains and grown over a two day period in a specialized cedar room. This keeps the rice warm and moist during the process to ensure the perfect growth.
When koji making is complete, it is added into tanks with even more steamed rice, water, and yeast. The mash is fermented for anywhere between 20-60 days at a cold temperature to tease out the best flavor and aroma. During this process the koji continually breaks down the rice while the yeast converts sugars to alcohol, reaching 16-20% ABV!
Filtration and Bottling
When the mash is complete the rice must be separated from the finished sake. There are many methods to filter sake and the result can be a crystal clear sake or cloudy hazy sake. Both are delicious and ready to drink after they are bottled by hand with care.