Aside

there’s a party going on.

Monsoon Valley Wine Party

a toast to all the nagas

Meet Monsoon’s winemaker Katherine Puff who will talk you through a 5 meal course at Bed Supperclub on Sukhumvit Soi 11.

If you’re not in Bangkok right now, you can always go to a Thai restaurant and pretend.

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Siamese Twin Ale for spicy foods…

The new Thai-inspired eatery Kin Shop is on fire! Here’s a shout out to Siamese Twin Ale by the manager, Julia Travis’s picks on what to pair with spicy foods in today’s Time Out NY.

Kin Shop drinks

to pair with spicy foods...

The infusion of kafir lime and lemongrass in Uncommon Brewers’ Siamese Twin Ale gives the drink a distinctly Southeast Asian nose, and its creamy texture softens the sizzle of tropical cuisine. The beer’s lively aromatics and gentle acidity match particularly well with the roasted chili and sweet seafood flavors of Kin Shop’s panfried crab noodles.
Read the full review here.
Uncommon Brewer’s Siamese Twin Ale is available for purchase at the Whole Foods Beer Room on Houston St., NYC.

Monsoon Valley in the Village Voice

Thanks to the newly opened Kin Shop by Top Chef Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle, Monsoon Valley Wines got a nice mention in today’s review of the 2-month old, high-end Thai inspired restaurant in the Village Voice.

drinking Monsoon Red at the Kin Shop

From the review:

The wine list is mercifully priced, and the most interesting bottle comes from Thailand: a Monsoon Valley red ($29) blended from Shiraz and the indigenous Pokdum grape. The color is pale and the taste is brittle and slightly sour—and the bouquet will surely change your mind when it comes to matching Thai food and beverages. Spicy food eaters: You can now throw away your whites!

DRY Soda comes to NYC

We’re proud to announce DRY Soda is now available in the NYC metro! Available for delivery starting now.

all 7 flavors

We just got all 7 flavors of this awesome soda in from Seattle this week. If you’re not familiar with DRY Soda, it’s just as sounds- an adult gourmet soda without all that sweet sticky gunk.

It’s a low calorie, low sugar, all natural, soda coming in seven genuinely unique flavors: Lavender, Lemongrass, Blood Orange, Rhubarb, Juniper Berry, Vanilla Bean and Cucumber.

ever drink a cucumber before?

These home-grown soda makers are keeping the count down low…each 12oz. bottle has just 45 – 70 calories and 11 – 19 grams of cane sugar! The result…less sweet and more fruit, flower and herbal flavors!

The packaging is nice too, isn’t it?

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Check out a recent interview with DRY Soda’s creator, Sharelle Klaus and the DRY Soda site for more deets.

Which one will you try first?

Call us for an order today!

The Sake Story tour 2010

November is the start of sake brewing season in Japan, and thanks to Mr. Toshi Kojima of Sake Story, we were lucky enough to get a guided tour by brew masters and proprietors of five breweries spanning from Iwate prefecture in the north down to Shikoku island in the south.

Each bottle of sake we carry came alive as faces and personalities painted a third dimension to the one-dimensional view of each brewery and its environment our palates delineated. It’s like seeing a movie after reading the book, but actually fulfilling and even enlightening. Actually, it’s probably more like reading the book after watching the half-assed movie adaptation…you get the idea.

Between the sake-induced nights and hazy Shinkansen dreams, there will probably be a few random posts about lost meals and missed trains, but here are quick links to the core of the trip- the sake breweries:

Hakuyou Brewery, Fukushima prefecture
Senkoma Brewery, Fukushima prefecture
Tsukinowa Brewery, Iwate prefecture
Nakagawa Brewery, Tottori prefecture
Housui Brewery, Tokushima prefecture

The brewing process is structurally similar throughout the breweries visited, but they all differentiate from one another in style and artistry. Half the joy is talking to them about it, and the other half is drinking their craft. Pick up a bottle and enjoy!

Sake Story tour 2010: Tsukinowa Brewery

Tsukinowa Brewery
Iwate Prefecture
http://www.tsukinowa-iwate.com

Vitals:
incorporated: 1886, 5th generation brewer
annual production: 100k L
varietals: ~ 9
employees: 7
distribution: 50% in Iwate, 25% Hokkaido, 20% Tokyo
breweries in same prefecture: 27

“Hurry up and finish your beer, it’s a promise you’ll be drinking sake from here on in,” says President Mr. Daizo Yokosawa. And did we ever. Toshi-san of Sake Story, myself along with Mr President Daizo and his daughter Hiroko-san (current head brew master), went out after the brewery tour to chit chat over some home-style sushi and drinks. Here’s what I learned: o-ki-na-wa-ri means one more please in a way that’s polite to the merchant. I’m not sure how polite it is, but the merchant was definitely smiling and friendly after the ten rounds of sake we ordered.

Mr. President Yokosawa Daizo during his ball days

Mr. President Daizo-san says sake is now centered on flavors whereas before it was just about high and low rankings hence their mainstay classic honjozo Tsukinowa Kinen (Blue Hue) and daiginjo Yoi-no-tsuki (Midnight Moon), of which he passed on the brewing techniques to Hiroko-san.

In sake brewing, the koji mold that initially breaks down starches of the rice into fermentable sugars is crucial. Brewers train the koji by fluctuating temperatures so that the koji starts and stops constantly building up their strength and numbers for when they’re dumped in the mash. The standard amount of time it takes to cultivate koji is about 2-3 days, but at Tsukinowa the process takes about 16 days. Hiroko-san says from being in a constant struggling motion for a longer period of time is what gives her sakes the layers and complexity they seek.

Responding to the changing landscape of sake, Hiroko-san created Mochiko (Rice Baby), Tsukinowa (Moon Ring) and other varietals to the brewery portfolio honing in on the complexities and various nuances sake can carry.

Hiroko-san getting ready to pour the Mochiko (Rice Baby) and Yoi-no-Tsuki (Midnight Moon)

Mochiko (Rice Baby) is very unconventional in that mochi rice (aka sticky rice) is used to make the sake. Mochi is typically pounded to make rice cakes as it is a stickier, plumper rice grain, but when brewed for sake it imparts a buttery, viscous mouthfeel that’s just slightly sweet.

Another response to the outgoing trends of traditional sake brewing is what they do with the leftover rice lees (known as kasu) after the fermented rice mash has been pressed for sake. Hiroko-san says less people are buying kasu, traditionally used in rice cakes or soup broths, so she’s found another use for them- she’s using it to distill shochu.

It took Hiroko-san 3 years of experimentation before releasing small batches of the breweries first shochu.

the small still imparting big flavors

Pictured here is a still used at Tsukinowa to distill their small batch shochu. As Hiroko-san experimented, the size of the still was not enough to withstand her use, and the still started to get burnt, which turned out to be a pleasant accident.

Flavors of heavy dark chocolate were a direct result of the stills over usage, blending with the strong dry finish of the shochu very nicely. Clocking in at 35% abv, this shochu packs quite a punch while also retaining a dark toasty flavor relieving it from the need to mix. Back to the basics, drink it simply on the rocks.

Aside from making actual shochu, Hiroko-san also brought back the practice of using it in place of distillers alcohol to bring out aromas in sakes that call for it. And there’s no stop in her calling she discovered 13 years ago.

Hiroko-san lived in Tokyo for a while surrounded by advancements of metropolis and felt culture and tradition fading into irrelevancy. During university she was only exposed to mass sake which she didn’t like very much, but was at a bar one night when the bartender suggested a “good” sake which happened to be the Yo-noi-tsuki her father brews. The epiphany hit and she moved back to learn the tradition in 1997.

The Tsukinowa team recently featured in a magazine

Today, she’s got a young team of about 7 people helping her brew, all averaging the age of 25. A very young team compared to most breweries across Japan, but she feels that sake needs a younger perspective to bring out innovations of the sake brewing tradition.

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Tsukinowa Brewery sakes: Yoi-no-tsuki (Midnight Moon), Tsukinowa Kinen (Blue Hue), and Mochiko (Rice Baby) are all available for purchase at Bowery and Vine in NYC and select restaurants.

Distributed in New York City by Craft Division at Paleewong Trading Co.

Sake Story tour 2010: Housui Brewery

Housui Brewery
Tokushima Prefecture
http://www.housui.com

Vitals:
incorporated: 1913, 4th generation brewer
annual production: 145k L
varietals: ~20
employees: 15
distribution: 85% in Tokushima and neighboring Kagawa, 15% rest of Japan and elsewhere
breweries in same prefecture: 10 actively brewing

Located on the island of Shikoku off the southern coast of Japan, owner and proprietor of Housui Brewery, Mr. Yasuo Baba, introduces us to some uncommon foods and great sake, “most Japanese don’t even get to visit Shikoku,” he says.

We ducked in a little izakaya near the Awa Ikeda station off the JR Line and our conversation started over a customary glass of beer, a bowl of cockles and some downright hearty honjozo.

cockles and nama

a delicious snack, perfect with beer

Mr. Yasuo Baba, 51, listens to a lot of Sara Brightman nowadays, though is a punk rocker at heart. Some of his music favorites include the Stranglers, Yes (the early prog years), David Bowie, Elvis Costello, and like his taste for progressive rock bands Mr. Baba-san set to create an edge in his sakes, preferring even the softer styles to be hearty and full of character.

Only having had the tokubetsu junmai previously, the underlying characteristics of Housui sakes become apparent after sipping the warmed honjozo in front of us.

There’s a distinct taste that runs through his 20 or so sake varietals, which Baba-san says is much attributed to the water he uses. Spring water running down from the mountains surrounding the island meets the hard water from the adjacent Japan Sea creating a naturally balanced water base rich in minerality.

a view from behind the brewery

Mr. Baba-san is continually worried about water contamination as development encroaches the island. “Even the slightest advancements like hospitals and factories create the possibility,” he says, “but thankfully nothing noticeable has changed in the water so far.”

Apart from the water, Mr Baba-san says the integrity of his sakes also comes from the brew master’s focus and attention. “My job is to create the environment for a brew master to fully concentrate on his work,” says Baba-san.
As an employee who started on the bottling line, Mr. Yasuharu Takeuchi worked at the brewery for 4 years before delving into the brewing process. Now almost 20 years later Takeuchi-san is the head brew master at Housi making sure the koji gets cultivated and the yeast become able.

Takeuchi-san explaining the fermentation schedule

Takeuchi-san explains that since they want that heartier sake the yeast and koji need to be stronger and they do so by temperature control making the yeast work and struggle, building their muscles so to say for when they’re needed in the “moto” (rice mash) to start the fermentation process with that commanding edge throughout. Progressive and hard hitting, like the music he savors.

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Housui Brewery’s Tokubetsu Junmai is currently available for purchase at Sakaya in New York City.

Distributed in NYC by Craft Division at Paleewong Trading Co.