There are 3 key indicators to describe the taste of sake, SMV, Amino acid rate, Acidity. It’s getting common that use SMV to describe the dryness and sweetness of sake. Amino acid rate tells us the quantity of amino acid. This is unique indicator dedicated to sake. The higher the number is, the richer taste the sake has.
But, why is acidity included in 3 key indicators even though rice itself mostly has no acid? In the same time, you may have tried some sake you can feel sourness in aftertaste.
Simply saying, acid influences not only sourness but also the taste of sake from several perspectives in sake world.
I would like to explain about acid in sake world, and introduce 2 breweries focus on acid of sake.
Where does acid come from?
As I mentioned in the 1st paragraph, there are mostly no acid in rice itself. Acid contains in sake is mostly produced by yeast in the fermentation process. Yeast used for brewing sake normally produces 4 types of acid which are lactic acid, succinic acid, citric acid and malic acid.
Each prefecture and brewery keep developing new yeast, so that there are various kind of yeast used for brewing. Each yeast has own speciality and the quantity of 4 acid they produce is different from the type of yeast.
Role of acid
The reason why they keep developing new yeast is that yeast gives a large effect to the taste of sake. Rice and water is the basement of brewing. Any skilled brew master can’t produce delicious sake without hi-quality water and rice.
What brewers think after carefully processing all the hi-quality materials is about yeast to differentiate their sake to the others. Yeast will effect to not only taste but also aroma, however, I would like to touch upon only about taste here.
Sake usually contains lactic acid the most, because it is necessary to keep the shubo acid and protect sake yeast from the other wild yeast. Sake yeast is rare microbe can survive in acid environment.
Taste of sake contains lactic acid a lot becomes more creamy like cheese or milk.
Succinic acid makes the taste of sake richer and its sourness is mild.
As you may know, fruits such as apple and lemon contains lots of citric acid and malic acid.
Taste of sake with more citric acid and malic acid is very crispy and refreshing. It’s better to drink in chilled with wine glasses.
Some famous brewers say, “acid in sake draws the outline of its taste”.
Unique richness of sake called “umami” comes from amino acid is the one and only feature of sake. You can’t enjoy this flavor with the other alcohol including wine.
However, sake just focusing on “umami” tastes blurred and flabby and it’s very easy to get tired of drinking. I’m sure one of the key criteria of good sake is if the acid is deeply considered and well-controlled.
Thus, acidity of sake gives large effect to not only sourness but also entire taste from several angles. That is critical concern for brewers to control the acid to make their ideal taste happen.
To talk about the effect of acid to sake, I must touch upon “Kimoto（生酛） Brewing Method”. It is an ancient way to proceed shubo. Currently, most of breweries add artificial yeast and lactic acid to produce shubo. This method was invented around 1900, and became common and stable way to keep producing the same quality of sake.
Before this invention, breweries hadn’t added any yeast and lactic acid. But how does the fermentation happen? It’s unbelievable but they made fermentation happen with taking wild yeast and lactic acid living in brewery.
In this classic method, shubo production is divided by 2 steps. 1st phase is to grow lactic acid and 2nd phase is grow yeast.
This is the nearly original form of sake brewing and takes over doubled time to compare with current common method. Since this method is too relying on nature, it is very difficult to keep the quality and lots of breweries has shifted to current way.
It’s very sad, because sake made with this method has super unique feature.
That is creaminess comes from the lactic acid. As I explained the detail of this classic method as above, much higher quantity of lactic acid is generated in the barrel.
The taste is far apart from the sake brewed by current method and it is perfect for warm sake. Please imagine hot milk… Its fresh sourness gets milder and the original creaminess is brought out. Please warm up our sake for July “DAINA KIMOTO（生酛）” until a temperature reaches 40℃ and discover brand-new sake world.
This ancient method shows us another possibility of food pairing.
Besides, thanks to the improvement of tools and technology, the number of brewery resumes “Kimoto（生酛） Brewing Method” is gradually increasing.
When you find the 生酛 mark, you should try it!
Actually, I would like to write another article about “Kimoto（生酛） Brewing Method”, since it’s super deep world. I shall have much more topics to talk about.
2 breweries persistent to acidity
It is located in the foot of Katsuragi Mountain（葛城山） between Osaka and Nara prefecture. This mountain gives us a heaps of natural benefit to them.
They basically utilize only local ingredients to brew. By continuing this commitment, they are trying to reflect the feature of local nature to taste of sake.
“Drink a glass of our sake, can’t stop thinking to take a bite some foods”. This is their ideal sake. They believe sake has to serve as a foil of foods. Currently, very aromatic white-wine like sake is having a high profile. However, it obviously doesn’t pair with foods. Their motto is to produce the best partner of foods by using only local ingredients and essence.
It is located in prolific land 3 beautiful rivers flow. There are quite a lot of places fresh underground water springs. With making use of hi-quality water, people living here have been growing rice since ancient times.
They believe sake is the face of my local culture. The policy is to produce sake which their local friends can be proud of.
Sake they have been pursuing is “Ultimate partner of food”. Comfortable sourness wraps the umami influenced by rice and sharp aftertaste is their ideal taste to pair sake with foods.
They keep trying to make this happen with only using local materials. People in home town have been making a living by growing rice. To contribute to the local, their sake quality has to be excellent.