Sake, pronounced ‘sah-keh,’ is derived from Japan and often enjoyed at sushi bars + hibachi grills, but in recent years, the light-colored drink has put down roots in the US craft beverage world, including Kentucky.
A decade ago, only 5 craft sake breweries existed in the US. Today, there are 20+ nationwide with 2 located right here in the Bluegrass State in Louisville and Lexington.
The Kentucky craft sake scene established itself with Lexington sake company, The Void Sake Co. establishing itself at the end of 2020 + Louisville sake company, River City Sake, announcing its plans to make the beverage in May 2021.
While often referred to as rice wine, because of the high alcohol content around 10%-20% ABV, sake is actually brewed like beer + contains only 4 ingredients — rice, water, yeast + Koji — which makes it possible for craft beer brewers to take up the art of making one of the world’s oldest beverages.
River City Sake — operating under the Against the Grain Brewery umbrella — sets up shop at Against the Grain Public House on Bardstown Road. Since May, they have been testing batches of classic sake styles like Junami, a full-bodied, pure rice sake, + Nigori, a cloudy, unfiltered style, each named after a different Louisville neighborhood.
Their program will officially launch sometime this fall at Public House with the release of Kouichi, a Nigori-style sake named after the Highlands, and will offer sake education + a Japanese-style menu.
The Void Sake Co. — which has ties to Ethereal Brewing — also specializes in classic styles, but experiments with flavors too like in their Echoes Horchata Nigori, a horchata flavored sake infused with vanilla bean + cinnamon. Their taproom in Lexington is open Friday-Sunday + offers tours and tastings, but you can try it in Louisville at Gold Bar or Chik’n & Mi.