Vegan and Vegetarian Ultimate Drink: Japanese Sake!

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I’m persuaded many vegans and vegetarians all over the World like their drinks!
The fact is that they may some reservations as whether their drink qualify as far as their culinary priorities prevail.
For example, do you know that many wines (don’t misunderstand me, I love me my wine!) are still filtered in the traditional way with egg whites?

On the other hand, (good/unfortunately there is not so good, too…) Japanese sake is exclusively made with rice, pure water and vegetal yeast. That is all! Sometimes, brewers will use lactic acid to help with preservation, but it is also of vegetal origin.
Some brewers (not many, only 13 of them in the whole of Japan) like Aoshima Brewery in Fujieda City, Shizuoka Prefecture will go as far as making organic sake with rice grown organically!

The (simplified) process of making sake is as follows:

-Rice millage/polishing: the rice will be milled down carefully as the starches are concentrated in the middle of the grain contrarily to edible rice. The more the rice is polished, the higher quality of the sake.
-Washing and soaking: the rice is washed and then soaked in pure water.
-Steaming: the rice is then steamed and left to cool on large pieces of absolutely clean cloth.
-Production of koji/malted rice: some rice is malted with Aspergillus oryzae mold
-Yeast starter: malted rice, regular steamed rice and pure water are mixed in a vat to which is added a culture of pure yeast cells. The latter is one the main ingredients which will differentiate all sake in taste, aroma and other characteristics. The wole is called “moto” or “origin/root” of the sake.
-Moromi and sandan shikomi: moromi is is the “moto” transferred to a larger vat where rice, malted rice and pure water are added. This is done in three steps, “sandan shikomi”, for a gradual and even process.
This is left to ferment for eighteen to thirty-two days.This step will also define the characteristics of the sake.
-Pressing: it is done in many ways, depending on the quality of the sake
-Filtering: The brewer will choose to filter it or not through various processes.
-Pasteurization: Most sake is pasteurized as “nama”/unpasteurized sake has to be kept at low temperature, making it very difficult to export. A pity, as this is “true sake”!
-At this time, pure water may be added to the “genshu” (unaltered sake) to lower the alcohol content, and also pure rice acohol for a different type of sake.

(Simplified) List of Sake types:

-Futsushu/”normal sake”: made with rice milled/polished down to 80% (that is, 20% will be polished off). Can be rotgut or incredibly good sake depending on millage, equipment and ingredients.
-Junmai/”pure rice”: made with rice milled to 70% or lower. No alcohol was added.
-Junmai Ginjo: made with rice milled down to 60% or lower. No alcohol wa added.
-Junmai Daiginjo: made from rice milled down to 50% or lower. No alcohol was added.
-Honjozo: made with rice milled to 70% or lower. Alcohol was added.
-Ginjo: made with rice milled to 60% or lower. Alcohol was added.
-Daiginjo: made with rice milled to 50% or lower. Alcohol was added.

In the case of Shizuoka Prefecture, futsushu is usually made from rice milled down to 70~65%, junmai and honjozo, 60 t0 50%, junami Ginjo and ginjo, 50~40%, junmai daiginjo and daiginjo, 40~…%.

Tere are other intermediary “appelations” such as Tokubetsu (special) Junmai and Tokubetsu Honjozo, Yamahai, etc…

“Nama” means “unpasteurized, “genshu”, unaltered sake, “muroka”, unfiltered, as for most commonly used added indications.

Incidentally, sake powder resulting from polishing will be used for Japanese-style cakes or animal feed depending on quality. “Sake kasu”/white lees which are left after pressing and filtering are used to make “amazake”, “Sake kasu nabe”, pickles and so on!

For a thorough study of Japanese sake, read John Gautner’s website or buy his books. John is the universally recognized non-japanese authority on Sake!

Must-see sake blogs:
-If you live in the Us, and particularly New York, visit Timothy Sullivan’s blog!
-If you live in Tokyo or Japan visit Melinda Joe and Etsuko Nakamura‘s blogs!
-If you want to know ALL about one region’s sake and sake breweries, visit Shizuoka Sake!

Cheers, Kampai!

8 thoughts on “Vegan and Vegetarian Ultimate Drink: Japanese Sake!”

  1. Hi! Sorry to come to this posting so late but I found you when looking up vegan sake. I had heard that some companies use gelatin in the filtration, do you know if this is true?
    Many thanks


  2. This has been so helpful! Thank you! I’m a vegan and I love sake. So, this site has helped me to be better informed and more comfortable about what I drink.


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