Born in Japan, and Now Made in Brooklyn: Sake


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Step one was making sake at house, stated Mr. Polen, and “it was higher than we anticipated it to be,” particularly the sakes made by Mr. Doughan. He had each a rigorous science background and 20 years of home-brewing expertise, together with experimentation with soy sauce, which can be made with a sort of koji.

Mr. Doughan moved to Brooklyn in 2016, and final September they began outfitting their hovering house within the Trade Metropolis warehouse advanced in Sundown Park. (Kura refers to a warehouse the place merchandise like sake are historically made.) Their fellow tenants now share the roasted-chestnut-and-mushroom fragrance of Aspergillus oryzae, or koji, rising on steamed, polished rice.

Although it has the alcohol content material of wine, sake is brewed extra like a beer: Rice implanted with koji mould is slowly combined with yeast, water and extra steamed rice, then fermented for a number of weeks. It’s often pressed to take away most however not the entire solids, after which it may be aged or filtered additional.


It’s onerous to search out sake-brewing gear in the USA, so Mr. Doughan designed this custom-built rice steamer himself. The NASA emblem is a joke: Mr. Doughan was a scientist earlier than he grew to become a sake brewer.

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George Etheredge for The New York Instances

The guts of the monthlong course of is culturing the koji, Mr. Doughan stated. It’s a multiday, labor-intensive endeavor that begins when he shakes flakes of mould over mini-mountains of washed and steamed rice grown particularly for sake-making.

Mr. Doughan and Mr. Polen plan to begin with extra conventional sake kinds — nonetheless new to most Individuals — utilizing their taproom to spotlight how they’re made. There, they serve shiboritate, or freshly pressed sake, and orizake, a pre-pressed sake nonetheless cloudy and creamy with microscopic particles of rice. They even let clients purchase a clay mug of moromi, a thick, tart drink with still-discernible grains straight from the fermenting tank. (Mr. Doughan ultimately plans to additionally make extra experimental kinds, he stated, citing the dry-hopped sake made by Setting Solar Sake Brewing Co. in San Diego.)

John Gauntner, the Tokyo sake educator who is taken into account one of many foremost English-language specialists on the drink, appreciates their preliminary give attention to the fundamentals. Brooklyn Kura’s sake was “very, superb,” he wrote in an e-mail, however he was “most impressed that the brewer there needs to get his course of down first, reproducibility, after which work on tweaking it to make it higher.”


The completed product. The brewers are beginning with conventional sakes, however plan ultimately to make extra experimental ones.

Credit score
George Etheredge for The New York Instances

Although Mr. Polen attended Mr. Gauntner’s sommelier seminars, Mr. Doughan is especially self-taught, with beforehand unavailable assist from YouTube movies and WhatsApp discussions with Japanese brewers. He additionally served a weeklong internship at a standard brewery in Japan, and a brief stint on the 21-year-old SakeOne brewery in Oregon.

Different brewers across the nation have been following their very own paths, and Brooklyn Kura possible received’t be the only real sake maker right here for lengthy. An organization known as SakeBrooklyn is working to discover a house by the start of subsequent 12 months, and the Japanese producer Asahi Shuzo will quickly break floor on a large-scale brewery in Hyde Park, N.Y. close to the Culinary Institute of America, which can work with them to develop a sake training program.

It’s all proof of the drink’s rising presence in the USA, stated Timothy Sullivan, a sake educator and a founding father of the brand new American Sake Affiliation. The group will formally incorporate later this 12 months with the goal of linking brewers, patrons, sommeliers and others within the trade.

Stronger connections are excellent news for Mr. Doughan. “The very first thing I realized about sake brewing,” he stated, “is I’ll be studying about it for the remainder of my life.”

Brooklyn Kura, 68 34th Avenue (Third Avenue), Sundown Park, Brooklyn; 347-766-1601;

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