On a wine tasting tour of the Forest Grove area just west of Portland, Oregon we took a detour into the land of Saké. Not being familiar with the Japanese beverage, I was eager to learn and try out their offerings. SakéOne is one of six saké brewing facilities in America and the only saké brewery in Oregon.
Premium Saké is Different
SakéOne provided us with a unique opportunity to visit a beautiful tasting room, ducking out of the Oregon rain, and tour the facility. SakéOne offers premium saké both from Oregon, from their brewery, and select Japanese imports. Their sakés range from classics, to bolder more contemporary profiles, and even fruit infused. But wait a minute… we’re talking brewery here. And, before visiting, I thought Saké was a rice WINE.
Before touring, we learned a bit about Saké. Saké is an ancient beverage dating back nearly 3,000 years. It began its refinement about 1,000 years ago. Today’s premium styles of Saké are only about 45 years old. In the United States premium Saké is trending.
Saké in the U.S. began as the cheaper, roughly made version we are most familiar with. It is called Futsu, the Saké served warm in little cups.
What I learned in that beautiful Japanese-style tasting room was that the premium Saké, such as brewed at SakéOne, pairs well with every kind of cuisine, is ideal when slightly chilled, and is good as a mixer. In fact, premium Saké is served in a wine glass. You don’t need those cute little cups to drink Saké.
Touring the Saké Kura
As we walked over to the brewery (Kura in Japanese) we stopped to look at the murals depicting the Saké making process in historic Japan. The processing techniques at SakéOne came with the partnership with a Japanese company.
SakéOne started as a joint venture between Momokawa Brewing Inc. of Japan and an Oregon distributor to promote high quality Japanese Saké in the U.S. market. The founders of SakéOne came to the Pacific Northwest for the water. Mineral content and purity is important. Rice is carefully selected but doesn’t need to be local. What is needed to make Saké is rice, water, yeast and Koji-kin, a mold that creates enzymes that convert rice starch into sugars.
Touring the Kura was similar to touring a brewery except that there were piles of bagged rice in storage and a distinctly Japanese culture. There were kettles and stairs and catwalks so you could easily see the process. And, the process looked much like that which was depicted in the murals. The only difference? The brewery workers at SakéOne were fully clothed!
The beautiful tasting room provides a relaxing, serene atmosphere for tasting.
The finished premium beverage you will taste is a bit like grape wine and can have some similar tastes. Saké will run from dry to sweet. It is served in stemware or glass shot type glasses. Be sure and select a flight to taste so you get a range of experiences.
As you sip, walk around the tasting room and look at the different types of Saké available for sale. Some are even sold in cans, ideal for a picnic lunch.
When we visited, we were hosted for a special dinner by the chefs of Bamboo Sushi the world’s first certified sustainable sushi restaurant. They have multiple locations in Portland. It was a way to deepen the tasting process and learn about pairings with everything from soup to dessert.
When You Go
The Forest Grove tasting room is open seven days a week and offers three different flight options and a tasting tray for additional purchase. Brewery tours are available at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3p.m. every day. On the third Saturday of each month, they offer Sakétini Saturday, an exploration of saké and mixing cocktails.
Be sure and check their website for events and closures before going.
This experience was part of a tour hosted by Travel Portland, Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory and the Washington County Visitors Association – Tualatin Valley. While this has not influenced this content, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.