Nøgne Ø – Sparkling Sake
Nøgne Ø – Sparkling Sake
Delicious, refreshing sake from Norway.
Seimaibuai: 68%, SMV n/a, Acidity n/a, Acohol: 12.5%
Prefecture Brewed in Norway!
Score – 9/10 grains
Nøgne Ø sparkling sake has a subtle nose of yogurt and pear, and well-pronounced, but smooth acidity. It is laced with impressions of fresh steamed rice, which creates silky and creamy texture underneath the prickly bubbles.
There is an interesting confusion happening as you drink it. It looks like sparkling wine in a champagne glass. It feels, at first, like sparkling wine. But on the palate, it is unmistakably sake. Fun!
Today, Nøgne Ø sparkling sake is not for sale in Australia. Some determined people from Phoenix Beers do bring Nøgne Ø beer to Australia all the way from Norway. Sometimes they bring sake. Let’s just hope they read this blog and get a shipment in.
About Nøgne Ø
Nøgne Ø is in Grimstad, on the rugged coast of Southern Norway. Nøgne Ø has a tag line of ”uncompromising brewery”. It started with a group of crazy people who, for several years, worked for free to brew something special. Now, Nøgne Ø is the Norway’s largest maker of craft beer and exports beer all over the world.
So, how does the beer brewer become a sake brewer? The transition is not as implausible as it seems. Sake is a grain-based brewed product, just like beer. The process begins with starch and ends with alcohol. For a perfectionist brewer, the process of making sake could have familiar attraction. It demands astounding dedication and precision. And a lot of playing around with yeast. In other words, fun.
A testament to the parallels between beer and sake brewing is Nøgne Ø Red Horizon beer. It is brewed with sake yeast. I was able to find the version brewed with yeast # 7 in Sydney. Rich and full of caramel and fruits – it was a surprising reincarnation of #7. In sake, it manifests in light fragrance and flavours.
Nøgne Ø sake journey began when a group of Westerners entered the apprenticeship program at Daimon Shuzō brewery in Osaka in 2009. One of them was Nøgne Ø co-founder Kjetil Jikiun, another the Canadian Brock Bennett. Kjetil, upon his return to Norway, set about setting up sake production. Soon, Brock joined him as the sake brewer.
Nøgne Ø’s approached brewing sake with the same spirit of being uncompromising. They chose to brew sake yamahai-style. Yamahai is a traditional fermentation method, in which the yeast starter is made with wild lactic acid bacteria. (Most brewers now add lactic acid to speed up fermentation and ensure consistency). At first, they shunned pasteurisation, too, but eventually relented. Unpasteurised sake is incredibly fragile and Western distribution networks are not equipped to deal with it. So the uncompromising brewery “compromised” by pasteurising sake (most sake in Japan is pasteurised). Nøgne Ø sake is sold across the globe, including Japan. It has a bold profile with strong aciditiy, and stands up well to European cuisines. Australia’s top sake publican and sake samurai Andre Bishop, lists it as his favourite.
Currently, Brock Bennett is the sole brewer of all the Nøgne Ø sake, but Kjetil still provides input as the toji.
Sparkling Sake is their latest offering. It is made from the same moromi as Yamahai Motoshibori. After fermenting and maturing, though, it undergoes different processing. It is diluted a touch more, and then carbonated. The sake is the collaborative effort between Kjetil and Brock – from the concept to the final blending. The result is fresh, festive, momentously drinkable sake.
What Nøgne Ø has to say about it
Sake Guide chatted to the men behind the Sparkling Sake, to understand what inspired the new release.
Sake Guide: How did the idea come about?
Kjetil: We think that a sparkling sake would be easier to understand than regular sake for ignorant Norwegians.
Brock: We felt that Yamahai Motoshibori was so full of rich acidity and umami, that it would be brilliant diluted down to 12.5 % and carbonated.
Sake Guide: Was there an inspiration for the sake? Perhaps, a sparkling sake you really enjoyed once?
Kjetil: No, there is no inspiration. Rather the contrary. Most sparkling sakes are sweet and cloying. Quite horrible. We thought that we could do it better.
Sake Guide: What kind of food would you pair your Sparkling Sake with?
Brock: I would suggest oysters or lightly salted crackers with creamy goat’s cheese.