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Candela Prol, highly experienced certified wine educator and friend of the shop, is available for tastings and training for private and corporate events. For rates and other inquiries, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Offsite events are contracted to and coordinated by a 3rd party, and are in no way affiliated with Chambers Street Wines.
It's perfectly reasonable to be wary of bearded dudes in Brooklyn making sake. Japan's national beverage has a millenium old tradition, with many breweries being generation-old family businesses. Many producers trade quite intensely on that heritage to tell their story and sell their product. When I first heard about Brooklyn Kura I was pretty skeptical. It seemed like the sort of cultural appropriation that characterizes quite a bit of modern Brooklyn. Sake, and sake breweries in Japan have such a strong cultural identity, rooted in so much history, it is impossible to replicate that in New York City. And Brooklyn Kura isn't trying. After half a dozen visits to the brewery and tasting through a number of batches, I'm convinced. Rather than a gimmick, this project is a result of passion, hard work, and a will to build new identities around the things that one loves.
Brooklyn Kura opened towards the end of 2017 after a year long incubation process. Founded by Brian Polen (previously working in analytics for American Express) and Brandon Doughan (a biochemist and avid home brewer), they officially started selling their sake in January 2018. Since then they been on a constant quest for improvement, with every batch seeming even better than the last. They are sourcing Yamada Nishiki rice from Arkansas (which is used in the making of their koji, rice that has been inoculated with Aspergillus Oryzae mold which induces the saccharification process turning starch into fermentable sugars) and Calrose from California. Beyond that the entirety of the process is based in Brooklyn, down to the water used, which is New York City tap, with just iron and a few other minerals filtered out. The process is essentially almost exactly what you would see in Japan, just scaled down to a small room in Industry City, Brooklyn. For the moment, all the sake being made here is nama, or unpastuerized, and every batch is fresh and vibrant. This is sake to be consumed now.
In the past few months they have opened a beautiful tap room, right next to the brewery, making it extremely accessible for anyone looking to learn more about sake to see a working brewey up close without traveling to Japan. Here you can taste Brooklyn Kura sake in various stages of its development (the still fermenting moromi or fresh pressed shiboritate) as well as the more experimental batches (dry-hopped sake!) that Brandon and Brian are playing around with. We definitely recommend you check it out if you find yourself in Sunset Park.
We've also added a few of our favorite summer sake to this email. These are mostly characterized by their lightness, elegance, and drinkability. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Oskar Kostecki
A new batch of the Junmai Ginjo Nama, and one I am particularly excited about. Since tasting some of the first releases from Brooklyn Kura in the beginning of this year, this particular release shows more nuance and depth, and a desire for constant improvement. Brandon extended the fermentation times for this batch, going for a 40 day fermentation as opposed to the more common 30-35 days. He also forwent a sterile filtration this time, leading to a brighter, fresher expression. This sake is aromatically very complex, with cantaloupe, cantaloupe rind, banana, citrus, lemon rind, yellow flowers, yogurt, and a slightly green, grassy quality all present on the nose. The palate is bright, with higher acidity than earlier batches, but still has the mouth-coating quality I've come to associate with Brooklyn Kura sake. It is drier than previous versions, but still comes in at a Sake Meter Value (Nihonshudo) of -1, making it just a tiny touch off-dry, though this is balanced fantastically by the vibrant acidity. This sake is perfect as an aperitif, or with light summer fare, salads, crudo, or creamy cheeses. Oskar Kostecki
Brooklyn Kura's Junmai Nama is made with rice polished to 70% as opposed to the 60% polishing ratio of the Junmai Ginjo, though the koji rice (what is used to start the saccharification and fermentation process) is polished to 60% for both styles. The Junmai Nama shows notes of honeydew melon, lemon, grapefruit, green apple, cucumber peel, lemon curd, yellow flowers and steamed rice. It is slightly earthier than the Junmai Ginjo, with less intense aromatics and a slightly more savory profile. Oskar Kostecki
This honjozo (sake with brewer's alcohol added during the fermentation process, NOT after) is our ultimate summer session sake! Clean and refreshing, with a crisp aromatic profile, this is an everyday sipper of the highest caliber. Notes of melon, banana, cucumber water and white flowers drive the nose and the palate is bright, with good acidity and a graceful finish. Oskar Kostecki
Rihaku is located in the sparsely-populated Shimane Prefecture, north of Hiroshima. Made with 100% Yamadanishiki rice, this Junmai Ginjo is a classic of the style, aromatic but with depth and texture on the palate. Notes of banana, honeydew melon and meyer lemon are complimented by more savory undertones of steamed rice and a slight herbal quality, especially on the finish. Bright acidity adds to the framework of this sake, making this a wonderful pairing with a wide range of foods, both Japanese and occidental. Loved this sake with a crab cake roll and french fries. Oskar Kostecki
I met Niichiro Marumoto at a sake tasting hosted by Brooklyn Kura in June, and was immediately drawn to what he is doing at Marumoto Shuzo. Unlike about 99.9% of the industry, Niichiro-san farms all the rice that is used in the production of his sake. Since World War II, Japan has had a system where all rice production was controlled and distributed by the government. Only in the last few decades have sake producers been able to buy directly from rice farmers; but the rice market is still dominated by large regional co-ops with immense buying power. When Niichiro-san took over the family business at a young age, he quickly realized that a way for a small company like his to be not only sustainable going forward, but also to guarantee the best quality of raw material for their product was simply to grow everything himself. Thus far he has converted about 10% of his production to organic farming, and has a team at the brewery that does comparative analysis on each rice paddy to see how various agricultural practices have an impact on the finished product. I spent over 45 minutes chatting with Niichiro-san about rice farming, and feel like I left with more questions than I had at the start! This sake is wonderfully complex, effortlessly mixing the more fruit-forward elements of the classic Junmai Ginjo style with a savory undercurrent that resolves into a long and crisp finish. Notes of cucumber peel and melon rind, citrus, yellow flowers, acacia, nettles, and steamed rice dance across the palate, building in depth and intricacy. A sake I want to drink all the time. Oskar Kostecki
Full bodied and with great texture on the palate, this is a sake to build a meal around. Notes of steamed rice, green melon, lemon curd, pickled bamboo, lotus root, yogurt, black pepper, and a certain earthy, savory je ne sais quoi make this a very complex and engaging sake. It is bottled from a single tank, as the producer feels they want to preserve the individual qualities of each batch as opposed to blending for consistency. This sake is also bottled without charcoal filtration and undiluted, which adds to its richness and texture. Oskar Kostecki