It’s an exciting time for the sake industry in the UK. A steady surge in popularity has led to consumers seeking more information about Japan’s national alcohol and one of the best places to start your journey into the realm of nihonshu is in the UK’s first sake brewery, Kanpai. Located in Peckham, Kanpai Brewery is the definition of a hidden gem.
Revolutionising sake in the UK
Founded by Tom and Lucy Wilson, Kanpai takes the best characteristics of a craft beer bar and marries it with the exceptional craftmanship of nihonshu production. From sake making workshops to regular tasting sessions, the brewery is at the forefront of a sake revolution in the UK and it was great to visit the brewery to see what was on offer.
What immediately stood out about Kanpai is that it offers sake on tap in a way that appeals to sake novices and devotees alike. Start with the signature sake flight (£12), which features Kanpai Sumi Junmai, Kumo nigori and Fizu sparkling sake. This flight is a wonderful introductory collection of sake, with a mixture of flavours that dovetail from fruity to fizzy. Of the three, I found the Sumi to be the most enjoyable because of the smoky and floral textures.
Next, go for the premium sake flight that features the Kanpai ‘No Evil’ collection of Kiku, Miru and Nomu. This selection is all junmai daiginjo, with robust, fruity flavours that sweep through the mouth and leave behind memorable aftertastes.
Experimental and exceptional
What I like about Kanpai as well is their willingness to experiment and push boundaries. I sampled the koji apple kimoto (£7) and found it tasted like cider, with notes of caramel and pear. The taru (barrel-aged) nihonshu (£7) appealed to my sweet tooth, with a moreish plum taste that reminded me of Akashi-TaI Shiraume Umeshu.
If you’re feeling as adventurous as I was, I’d recommend sampling the brewery’s shochu and awamori too. The awamori they offer, Harasume Kari, (£9) is exceptionally rare, and comes bottled at 30%. It has a savoury, nutty taste that builds into a bonfire of flavour reminiscent of peaty Scotch whisky.
An eclectic list of cocktails brings together western and eastern influences, like the Hot Sake Toddy (£9), a mixture of creamy cloudy sake, yuzu and ginger. The Tokyo Vs Manhattan (£10) is a potent concoction of whisky, vermouth and black vinegar, while the Umeshu Ginger Fizz (£8) contains umeshu, sake, orange and ginger for a fruity extravaganza.
So, whether you’re curious to try sake for the first time or have been drinking it for years, Kanpai caters to all tastes. Tom and Lucy have created something special and that sense of magic will stay with you from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.
Address: Unit 2A, 2 133 Copeland Rd, Peckham, London SE15 3SN
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday – Closed
Thursday – Closed
Friday – 5PM – 10:30PM
Saturday – 12PM – 10:30PM
Sunday – Closed
To learn more about the story behind Kanpai, be sure to check out Yamato Magazine’s interview with Lucy Wilson. She talks about how the brewery got started, what it was like making sake for the first time and what it takes to create an award-winning drink.