Brooklyn Kura and New Summer Sake

7/16/18 -

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.

Koji being made at Brooklyn Kura

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.

Fermentation tanks at Brooklyn Kura

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

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