Sake or nihonshu is everywhere in Akita. Akita is very proud of the quality of rice and pureness of the water. And of course, great rice + great water = great sake. Akita is self-proclaimed the "land of sake." As is, most nihonshu you'll find from Akita is pretty good.
Nihonshu can come in different grades of polished percentages. The more polished down the rice from proteins and minerals, generally the more expensive the sake (though other factors can contribute to the price). If you can read the Japanese labels, they can also tell you the characteristics of the sake (including ABV, acidity, polish %, production date, etc).
Types of sake
The most common polish grades are:
- Junmai (純米) - Polished 70% or over. Generally more acidic, can be sweet and/or dry. These bottles are generally the cheapest.
- Honjozo (本醸) - Polished 60%-70%. Though not as common, these are meant to be paired with food to enhance flavors with distilled alcohol added.
- Tokubetsu Junmai (特別純米) - No polishing requirements. This has a special production method depending on the company, thus you may get unexpected flavors and notes. Tokubetsu Honjozo (特別本醸造) is similar to the Honjozo.
- Junmai Ginjo (純米吟醸)/Ginjo (吟醸) - Polished 60% or less. The prices jump a little on these and sometimes called premium grade. A good balance between Daiginjo/Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai. Ginjo sometimes adds distilled alcohol, but can be lower in acidity, giving a lighter taste.
- Junmai Daiginjo (純米大吟醸)/Daiginjo (大吟醸) - Polished 50% or less. Considered the super premium grade but also usually the more expensive of the bunch. Daiginjo is similar to the Ginjo, just polished down more.
Some breweries offer tastings or tours. Akita has a large number of nihonshu, here's several of note.
- Takashimizu (秋田醸造)〒010-0934 秋田県秋田市川元むつみ町4−12 (location)
Arguably the most well known and widely available sake from Akita, you can find them anywhere within the prefecture. Outside of Japan they are sold as "Shimizu No Mai."
- Saiya Shuzoten (齋彌酒造店) 〒015-0011 秋田県由利本荘市石脇石脇53 (location)
Famous for their Yuki No Bosha (雪の茅舎), one of the more popular nihonshu out of Akita.
- Aramasa Shuzo (新政酒造) 〒010-0921 秋田県秋田市大町 6丁目2−35 (location)
Their sake are generally difficult to find and pricey. However they're usually worth hunting down, especially their famous Aramasa 6.
- Akita Jozo (秋田醸造) 〒010-0021 秋田県秋田市楢山登町 5−2 (location)
Particularly known for their Yuki No Bijin (ゆきの美人), though not to be confused with Yuki No Bosha.
- Kodama Jozo Corporation (小玉醸造) 〒018-1504 秋田県潟上市飯田川飯塚飯塚 34-1 (location)
Known for their Taiheizan (太平山) lineup, this brewery does offer free 30 minute tours twice a day.
- Hokushika (北鹿) 〒017-0043 秋田県大館市有浦 2丁目2−3 (location)
Also a very common sake you will find around Akita, you may see their Secchuuchozou (雪中貯蔵) or more commonly their Kita Akita sake (not to be confused with Kitaakita City, as the brewery is located in Odate).
- Ginrin (銀鱗) 〒011-0946 秋田県秋田市土崎港中央 1丁目16−41 (location)
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