Kanpai Sake: Peckham on the outside, a taste of Japan inside!
Kanpai Sake prepares for the Rugby World Cup
Kanpai London Craft Sake has launched a special edition just ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which runs from 20th September to 2nd November. MIRU, which means ‘to see’ in Japanese, is an ultra-premium, Junmai Ginjo Sake. Only 660 bottles have been made with an RRP of £44.95.
Tom Wilson, Co-Founder and Head Brewer said: “MIRU is supposed to be a perfect all-rounder, a crowd pleaser. It’s not too extreme one way or the other – not too sweet, dry, floral, estery nor overly savoury. It has very gentle acidity. This is a sessionable sake and can also pair with a huge array of food.”
Junmai Ginjo Sake
Junmai ginjo is a style of sake in which the rice has had a minimum of 40% of its outer level polished off and no alcohol has been added.
In order to make MIRU, Kanpai incorporates high quality ingredients:-
- Yamada Nishiki rice, a short-grain Japanese rice often used in premium sake due to its large kernels that make polishing easier.
- Foamless 901 Japanese sake yeast.
- A selected traditional Japanese koji (cooked rice inoculated with a fermentation culture that helps break down carbohydrates into sugars).
This is a fruity, smooth, elegant, junmai ginjo sake that manages to combine both intensity and delicate, nuanced stone fruit-like flavours. MIRU will pair particularly well with charcuterie, strong cheeses and shellfish. Serve it either cold or at 40-45°C.
Birth of sake love
Tom and Lucy have quickly established Kanpai as one of London’s most innovative alcohol brands. Tom’s journey began with the discovery of Japanese food and sake while visiting New York as a young man. Moving back to London in his early 20s, he found a huge void in what was available at the time. Having begun home-brewing, Tom and Lucy went to Japan on holiday and visited several small sake brewers. Returning to the UK, they started experimenting and brewing sake for three to four years.
Success comes quickly
They then set up as a commercial business in Peckham in 2017. Through word of mouth and social media, the quality of their sake became known and attracted the Sake Sommelier at Selfridges. So a short time later the UK’s pioneer sake brewery launched their first product in this prestigious London store. Success continued and so the brewery moved to larger premises down the road last August, before launching the taproom bar in December. “The response from people so far has been overwhelmingly positive“, says Tom. “We have many supporters from the Japanese community in the UK and Europe. People from Italy and Germany even go to London for the weekend, specifically to visit Kanpai!!”
Kanpai is one of only five sake breweries outside of Japan, recognised by the Japanese Government. Therefore, they have access to the government’s sake yeast bank, sourcing pure strains of traditional sake yeast. With several accolades, Kanpai is the first non-Japanese sake brewery to win a medal in the International Wine Challenge (IWC) Sake Division, gaining a Bronze for its sparkling FIZU in 2019.
A ‘craft’ approach
Tom and Lucy have taken their inspiration from craft beer and spirits, so are keen to experiment with their styles. With a core range, they also produce limited one-off sakes, varying the ingredients each time. Strict laws in Japan govern what is allowed to be called sake, but Kanpai is all about experimentation and using innovative ingredients. This means they can create a sparkling sake dry-hopped with Mosaic hops or infuse a junmai with watermelon. “We’re in a unique position“, explains Tom. “All of our techniques and processes are based on very traditional methods of making sake and traditional styles. However, we can put a contemporary twist on this and draw from other influences around us.”
For Tom and Lucy, experimentation is crucial to their philosophy. “First and foremost we are an experimental brewery“, adds Tom. “We were born out of the back of experiments. So we like to keep that continuing throughout what we do. We have our core range sakes, we have our limited runs, but for anything to get to that point, they’ve been through at least six rounds of experiments! So for us it’s important to be continually flushing the brewery with new ideas, drawing on other influences from around the world and the alcohol industry.”
Sake’s umami character makes it incredibly versatile with food, not just Japanese cuisine. This is something Tom and Lucy are keen to express throughout their range of sakes. So, they produce fuller bodied flavours to match different types of food, including Sunday roasts and spicy food. “We’re trying to change the hearts and minds of people to maybe trade that bottle of wine for a bottle of sake…It’s meant to be with food!”
Unlike craft beer, which typically takes 7-10 days for the primary ferment, Kanpai’s sake takes 45 days or longer at a low temperature. The process begins in a mini stainless steel tank. Tom builds a starter batch of sake, Moto, from all the yeast mixed with small amounts of freshly steamed rice, koji and water. This typically takes about 14 days and is then pitched into the main fermentation tank. Then small amounts of the remaining ingredients are gradually added in stages over a four-day period to propagate the yeast colony. It takes around 10-15 days for the Koji to break down the sugars and start to build alcohol.
Following fermentation, the sake is pressed out in a Fune and typically bottled straight after filtration. Once it’s been sealed and pasteurised, the sake matures in bottle for over three months, before it’s ready for release.
Low intervention styles
All Kanpai sakes are natural, low intervention styles that use traditional Japanese Sake yeast, not hybrid varieties. They are filtered through cotton, not charcoal, to remove sediment, are sulphite-free and vegan, while no fortified spirit is added.
Kanpai’s core range comprises the classic Junmai SUMI, the cloudy Nigori KUMO and the dry-hopped sparkling sake FIZU. These are available through Amathus Drinks, as well as at the brewery, online and in selected restaurants, bars and retail outlets. MIRU will also be distributed by Amathus.
Ryebeck are experts at sourcing fermentation, maturation and storage vessels for all your brewing needs. If you have a question, just give the team a call on +44 (0)800 689 3216 or contact them using the online form.
Author: Robin Goldsmith of The Write Taste.