LA’s JFC Sake Expo 2014

JFC_SakeExpo2014_KBarnes_02Letter from the Editor (who also happens to be the author of this post)

We’ve been focusing tremendous attention on Los Angeles Ale Works, our private fundraising, and seeking out interested investors that want to help us take the brewery plans to the next level.  (If you’re interested in getting your investment feet wet in the beer industry we have something really special here, and this is probably the only time you’ll be able to trade moola for equity for this success bound local brewery.)  That being said, with all the focus on business and commercial brewing, we’ve been unable to home brew at a regular interval.  This website started out as a home brew blog and quickly evolved into a focus on the emerging LA Craft Beer scene.  In honor of LAAW rediscovering our roots, I’m going to be focusing a little more on the brewing starting out with a focus on Nihon-shu, also known as Japanese Sake.  Sake is one of my favorites, an untapped industry, and one that we hope to tap.  Our concept black rice sake Mugen Kurozake is destined for greatness and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you.  

Before we dive deep into brewing, let’s talk about Sake in LA and more specifically JFC’s LA Sake Expo.

JFC_SakeExpo2014_KBarnes_04R and D

I recently attended the JFC Sake Expo at the Westin Hotel near LAX.  Not really knowing what to expect, I signed up for a media pass and prepared myself for sake! It was an action packed weekend already, having done the Nakazoe addition earlier in the morning and the Smog City’s first year anniversary right before – HAPPY BIRTHDAY SMOG CITY! I honestly love those guys, not a bad beer, ever.  When I arrived at the hotel I checked in at the lobby and went to the first seminar titled, The Professional Ramen.  The speakers,  Takae Tokumura, soup expert of Japanese food producer Rikken Vitamin, and Airi Kudo, noodle expert of Japanese noodle company Myojo, introduced themselves and began to talk about making the best ramen using their products.  It was a sales pitch.

JFC_SakeExpo2014_KBarnes_03It’s important to note, and this is something I didn’t quite grasp until later, that this was a Japanese food and drink showcase for international Japanese distributor JFC.  Expo attendees included alcohol distributors, restaurant owners, and other food merchants.  Vendors were all part of JFC’s portfolio.  The main goal here was to expose JFC’s massive portfolio of Japanese companies to new retailers, of which I’m not.  However, I enjoyed visiting with the vendors, talking, tasting sake, and taking photos.  I could definitely see how an expo like this would be valuable for me if I was looking to bolster the Nihon-shu Japanese Sake offering in my bar, or if I was looking to buy a new sushi rice roller for my restaurant.  There were a few food vendors, particularly a fishing company based out of Canada, that were serving some pretty amazing stuff.  Sadly, the only way to walk home with any of these products was to have a JFC account.  Again, this is more fault of my own not doing enough research.  The site did say it was intended for companies only, whoops.


So what did I take away from JFC’s Sake Expo? A lot actually. The Japanese take great pride in their products, and each one was served carefully and with ample description.  One style I fell in love with is Taruzake, that is, Nihon-shu aged in cedar barrels for a short time.  The cedar barrel is a very traditional and ancient method to storing sake.   Barrel aging in cedar adds a very intense pine character to whatever beverage is in it, so Japanese sakes are aged at very short intervals mostly 3-10 days.  You’ll also recognize these barrels if you ever go to a Japanese wedding, celebration, or business opening.  These centerpieces are used to perform a sort of ribbon cutting ceremony complete with hammering the lid open, serving with a wooden ladle, and drinking out of cedar masu sake cups.  Kompai!


JFC_SakeExpo2014_KBarnes_01I had a Tarusake called Yoshino from Hakushika sake brewery and another, Yoshinosugi, from the Choryo brewery.  It looks like Yoshino may be one of the origins of this style of sake and strangely enough Yoshino-yama, a quaint little mountain town famous for its cherry blossom and Momiji viewing, is one place I visited frequently when I lived in the Kansai area of Japan.  It’s crazy to learn you were so close to something so awesome, without knowing it was there.  I guess I know what I’ll need to try next time I visit.


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