I sampled my first saké in the summer of 1998, when I spent a month traveling in Japan. Since then I’ve enjoyed many an earthenware or porcelain cup of this wonderfully nuanced rice-based spirit. Brewed in Japan for centuries, a good saké can range from dry and crisp to sweet and creamy. So when I had the chance to tour the only saké brewing company in Oregon – SakéOne, located 27 miles west of Portland in city of Forest Grove – I leapt at the opportunity.
The kura (saké brewery) is an unassuming yet bright industrial space filled with stainless steel equipment and enormous one-ton bags of rice. While escorting us through the various sections of the brewery, our friendly and knowledgeable guide immerses us in the world of saké, regaling us with information on saké’s long history and tradition as well as sake classification, main styles and flavor profiles.
After seeing where the rice is milled, polished and steamed, we find ourselves peering into the heart of the kura: the Koji room. Koji – a mold spore that converts the rice’s starches to sugar – is essential to the saké making process. SakéOne’s Koji room is carefully constructed of high quality cedar, which naturally protects the rice and the Koji from unwanted bacteria. In fact, it’s the only one of its kind in America.
The koji rice is moved to tanks to ferment for several weeks with yeast imported from Japan. Once the saké has reached its optimal flavor and alcohol content, it’s pressed, pasteurized, aged and bottled.
Then it’s off to sample some premier craft sakés in the tasting room, located just steps away from the kura. Highlights for me include the medium body, clarity, tropical aromas and ripe melon notes of the Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo as well as the smooth and creamy texture and coconut, ginger, pear and anise notes of the Momokawa Organic Nigori.
When You Go:
820 Elm Street
Forest Grove, Oregon
Hours: 11am-5pm, every day
Note: Free public, guided tours are usually offered daily at 1pm, 2pm and 3 pm and run about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to call or check SakéOne’s website to confirm as special events do occur. Expect some stair climbing and walking on catwalks during the tour. Flat shoes are recommended.