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Inside America's one and only sake museumby Ariel Min
Food

WATCH| The story behind how sake has evolved over thousands of years is one that is seldom told in the United States, where the drink became popular following World War II.

So, in 1997, Takara Sake brewery in California opened the first sake museum in the U.S. 

Takara Sake in Berkeley, CA is one of the largest sake producers in the U.S., with 15 different sake and plum wine offerings. Inside, the brewery, you can find a spacious and tranquil tasting room and the sake museum. 

The 35-year-old company is hardly America's first sake brewery - it is rumored that the first one opened in Honolulu in the early 1900s - but its parent company in Japan has been brewing sake since 1842. 

The sake museum displays more than 100 tools used in 19th century Japan to brew sake. It was a lot more labor intensive back then, and almost every step required an impeccable attention to detail.  

Machines and modern tools have replaced many traditional ones to make sake brewing a lot more efficient, but the practice of milling, soaking and steaming the rice then putting koji - also known as mold - to start fermentation, has stayed the same. 


Back in the 19th century, the only type of sake they largely produced was the junmaitype sake, which is the classic warm sake most people are probably familiar with.

Today, there are 5-6 major categories of sake that don’t follow the exact steps of traditional sake brewing.

Ginjois an invention of the 21st century - a polished and fruity sake that’s usually served cold. 

Namais unpasteurized sake, which means it’s in its rawest or the purest form. It’s more refreshing, flavorful and typically served cold. 


Nigoriis unfiltered sake, so it has a cloudy or milky white appearance. It's recommended to pair with spicy food.

Genshu is raw, undiluted sake that probably has a higher alcohol content of 20-22%.

Kimoto andYamahai sakes are brewed without the lactic acid added to the fermentation process for cultivating yeast - which is typical in the brewing process for pretty much all the other types of sake - resulting in a higher alcohol content and a distinct flavor of rice.