Is this blog The Sake Legend?
No, but I’m heavily considering opening a Sake Vertical. If you’re unfamiliar, a “vertical” is what people used to call a “Segment” before assholes replaced every word with unintelligible jargon.
I visited the Hakatsuru brewery in Japan. The new Dassai brewery in the Hudson Valley. Takara Sake sponsored our 2023 New York City Sushi Guide. And now we have a visit to Brooklyn Kura, New York City’s first Sake Brewery.
I wanted to write about it because its very existence is fascinating. So let’s chat.
There aren’t many Nihonshu breweries in the United States
Unlike it’s distant cousin – that’d be wine from grapes –Nihonshu production is limited in the United States. (Ps: Nihonshu is the actual word for what most of us know as Sake. In Japan, the word Sake actually refers to general alcoholic drinks). That’s why when Dassai, a renowned Japanese producer, opened an $80m brewery in the Hudson Valley, it made headlines/the front page of a niche sushi blog called The Sushi Legend (perhaps you’ve heard of it).
Brooklyn Kura takes it a step further; they’re the first manufacturer in New York City. The brewery is a little off the beaten path in Industry City, but that’s for obvious space-related reasons: there’s literally an operational brewery inside. In fact, the current location is expanded off the original. It’s also closer to 2nd ave, which I would have loved to have known before we spent 20 minutes walking around Industry City. There are signs everywhere and they are expertly designed to send you in loops for hours. Ignore them completely.
The expansion includes a wonderful table and bar area
Hence the reason for this mini-review. To me, the best date nights are those that include a new experience. And by that measure, Brooklyn Kura succeeds.
The bar is literally next to the brewery, so I wasn’t going to order a Moscow Mule (though Kura does offer them). Instead, we both did the Sake flight – three light pours of different Sake options for $20. That follows my longstanding rule of “always order a flight when it’s offered”.
The Nihonshu we received
The bartender – a lovely chap (been meaning to use that word) whose name I forget but picture is below – poured us two versions of these three (6 total glasses) Nihonshu:
- Blue Door (Junmai)
- Number Fourteen (Junmai Ginjo)
- Catskills (Junmai Daiginjo)
As a refresh, Junmai usually means a rice poilishing ratio of 60-70 (meaning 70% of the rice remains). Junmai Ginjo is 60 (meaning at least 60% of the rice remains), and Junmai Daiginjo is 50 (meaning 50% remains). The more rice polished, usually the better the taste.
The two versions of the three Nihonshu were standard and Shiboritate. Shiboritate comes from a special process (called Shibori – to squeeze) that happens in colder months – as Sake Talk puts it:
In essence, the mushy liquid starch is divided into the clear liquid (sake) and solid (lees). This procedure is called “shibori” meaning “to squeeze”. The sake that is created from this shibori is called, as you can guess, shiboritate. It basically means that it is freshly made.
Being able to taste multiple and seasonal varieties is part of what makes a visit to a Sake Brewery like Brooklyn Kura so interesting to me. And yes, we enjoyed all six glasses (which were healthy pours), but if you’re expecting things like “tasting notes”, please remember I can barely taste Diet Coke (thanks Covid). For what it’s worth, Mrs. TSL was a fan of them all, in particular the “Catskills”, though that may just be her summer camp nostalgia talking.
The Food does what it needs to
At a place like Brooklyn Kura, food isn’t the point, but there’s enough on the menu for a variety of tastebuds. For instance, I’m adventurous/insane, and so I jumped at the Beef Tongue. Good time to remind whatever illuminati control New York City menus that we need more tongue.
Mrs. TSL loves Foccacia. She’d become one if society didn’t frown on human to bread conversions. So when our bartender and server – also incredibly nice – said the two tone foccacia with furikake was “life changing”, we had to relent.
We enjoyed our date night, but talking to their squad, there’s a few recent developments that caught my attention.
First, they’ve opened The Sake Studies Center at Brookyln Kura for anyone looking to learn more about the craft. Certification, classes, the works.
Second, they have an ongoing partnership with Hakkaisan, a Japanese Sake brewer, that is being expanded with joint training, product releases and a tenfold increase in production. To me, this is a massive show of faith by a legendary Japanese brewer in a fledgling American operation. I’m not Nostradamus, but I’m guessing this will make a visit to Brooklyn Kura’s facilities even more appealing.
But in case you’re one of those that doesn’t like trekking to Brooklyn – you know who you are – they have an upcoming collaboration with Hirohisa in Manhattan.
Brooklyn Kura is a very simple premise. We wanted a date night that involved good alcohol, something new, and a more relaxed atmosphere, and they delivered on all three. Just need to figure out the sign thing.