Craft beer’s monumental shake-up of traditional food and drink combos has seen IPAs, pilsners and stouts appear on the menus of diners for which such a move would have been unthinkable just ten years ago. Where some form of wine was previously the only ‘recommended pairing’ for just about any dish in just about any restaurant, suddenly a good quality beer from the likes of Cloudwater, Verdant or The Kernel is just as acceptable, and arguably more accessible and affordable for many.
Sake is of course a way off this level of exposure. Whilst the adventurous may feel that washing down their sushi with a house nihonshu (served warm naturally!) adds a touch of authenticity to the experience, asking for the sake menu in a burger joint is unlikely to get you much more than a confused apology.
Proudly billing itself ‘the only sake brewery in Shodo-shima Island’ (a domestic tourist hotspot in the Inland Sea) Morikuni Brewery may just be the first to consciously tap into this potential opportunity. The limited edition junmai ginjo Sui Sui Sui has been created in collaboration with students of Sophia University (Tokyo) with rich-flavoured Italian cuisine in mind. Curious to find out if there was anything to this, I settled into a Saturday night at home with a nicely chilled bottle and a very large vegan sausage and chilli pizza!
Appearance: Whilst at a glance Sui Sui Sui looks to have the typical colourless appearance of most sake, a closer look reveals an intriguing yellow tint.
Nose: There is a sweet and floral ricey aroma with just a hint of soy and nut oil. No distinguishable fruit.
Palate: From the initial nip this is an extremely sweet sake; the thick, syrupy mouthfeel transforming into a beautifully complex and rich honey-like flavour with just a hint of tangy acidity. There is a very long-lingering fragrant finish, offset by the richness of the food.
Verdict: True to its word Sui Sui Sui makes a perfect pairing for Italian dishes. Pizza – wonderful! A hearty tomato pasta dish – better still! Yet there’s no reason that other Western cuisine, yoshoku or even certain rich, traditional Japanese meals wouldn’t work just as well. Most consumers will definitely want something to eat however; without food this is likely to be cloyingly oversweet for many palates.
Grade: Junmai ginjo
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Ratio: 55%
Rice: Hida Homare
Bio: Jordan Smithcroft is a Manchester-based healthcare worker with an interest in Japanese culture, including Studio Ghibli, Haruki Murakami and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Having travelled to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in 2019, he hopes to return to see more of Japan in the near future.
Jordan was shortlisted for the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Best Young Beer Writer in 2016 and has since expanded his interest into sake. He is currently undertaking the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) sake qualification in the hopes of becoming a judge and educator.