Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Saké made in Texas you ask? That’s right. Japan might be the world’s most well-known producer of sake, but a little known start-up company in Austin called (what else) “Texas Saké Company” is out to change that fact. Suzanne and I made the trek to Austin just to lean about this unique business and see how saké is made in the great state of Texas. So put on your Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker and grab your magnifying glass while we investigate this new phenomenon called Texas Saké.
Our first task was to navigate the Austin traffic to find our destination. The directions given on their website were quite accurate, yet a little misleading. It is on 5501 N. Lamar Blvd. directly behind the Book Woman, but for clarity, it is on the backside of a large multi-business building. Our initial tour through the parking lot of this set of businesses did not yield a clue to the location of our destination, but with the eagle eyes of an experienced detective, I spotted what appeared to be an alleyway behind the main building. As luck would have it, the large words “Texas Saké Company” painted on the back of the metal building complex gave away the location like a bald man’s cheap toupee. We slipped our car into a nondescript parking spot, away from the building, and plotted our next move.
We were early. My watch indicated 5 pm and their website said they open for business at 5:30 pm. What should we do? Just stake out the place and wait for something to happen or barge right in and start asking questions. Suzanne and I decided to move in immediately and catch them off guard. As we approached the front of the building, we noticed the bright red front door was wide open, but no one was in sight.
Without hesitation, I took the lead and burst through the open door with my camera ready to find a friendly young lady preparing for the day’s opening. Surprised by our untimely entry, she quickly stopped her preparations and invited us to sit and enjoy some saké. While she spoke, I continued to scan our surroundings, taking in the ambiance and shooting pictures. Finally, in Sherlock Holmes fashion, I told her we would like to see the saké production for ourselves to make sure it is truly “Made In Texas”. With a huge smile, she welcomed my challenge.
Clues were everywhere. Three large fermenting tanks stood in the production area. Next to them were three finishing fermenters/clarifiers. Along the back wall was a bottling system for manual production. Deducing that this was the real deal, Suzanne and I started asking questions. How is saké made? Where do you get the rice? What percent of polishing is needed to make a quality product? How long does it take to make saké? What is the alcohol content? Our Toji host quickly explained the simple process in detail from start to finish.
After our Toji host answered all our questions, she offered some free samples of their saké. Suzanne and I agreed to the tasting. Heck, it was free! The first offering was a clear Junmai saké. It had a very clean, crisp flavor. The next offering was a Junmai Nagori, a cloudy drink with the same clean flavor, but with a little more sweetness. The cloudiness and sweetness comes from the tiny bits of rice in the unfiltered drink. We were impressed. You can drink it straight up, make into a cocktail drink, or use in cooking. Suzanne and I bought a bottle of each to try at home. We also got to taste their undiluted saké; which is the most flavorful and the highest alcoholic content of their drinks. They hope to get a Texas Distiller’s License soon so they can sell it by the bottle.
Our investigation was complete. You don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to know that The Texas Saké Company is on to something good and tasty. We left out all the answers to our questions on this blog so that you can be your own detective and investigate The Texas Saké Company for yourself. For those of you in the Austin area, Texas Saké will soon be available in local Whole Foods stores. Try something new! Suzanne and I wish them all the best of luck in their entrepreneur enterprise as we see Texas Thru My Back Door!