Happy Aloha Friday, sake lovers! And congratulations to KEVIN IKEDA, the randomly picked winner who correctly answered yesterday’s trivia question: Who is the first and only non-Japanese to earn the title of toji?
The answer, as all who played correctly answered, is Philip Harper of England, master sake brewer at Kinoshita Brewery in Kyoto, creator of this lovely Tamagawa daiginjo and … drumroll, please … one of the judges at this year’s U.S. National Sake Appraisal. Which means that if you’re coming to the Joy of Sake in Honolulu and you have any questions at all about sake, the different styles and brewing methods, the life of a toji — anything at all — Philip Harper is your man.
Kevin, we’ll be in touch about your Joy of Sake T-shirt prize. And remember, if you’re coming to the Honolulu Joy on July 20, we’ll round out that prize with a Joy of Sake cup and our beautiful lady fan, so let us know!
Today’s trivia challenge comes to you with only a few minutes of Aloha Friday left because of all the sake goings-on with only 14 days left in our countdown. And besides … the bon dance drums of summer in Honolulu were calling so loudly we couldn’t resist! Gomennasai!
COUNTDOWN TO THE HONOLULU JOY
July 3. 17 days out: Sake arrive in Honolulu. Bottled and shipped from Japan in June, they will be only six weeks old and in peak condition when we get to taste them — all 360 of them — at the Joy.
July 6. 14 days out: Sake clear customs.
July 13. 7 days out: Sorting day. Dozens of volunteers descend on the Hawaii Convention Center to unpack, sort and repack nearly 3,500 bottles for different destinations: the U.S. National Sake Appraisal, Joy of Sake Honolulu, Joy of Sake New York on Sept. 20. The sorting takes up an entire ballroom and most of the day.
Can’t picture it? Here’s a time-lapse from last year:
July 17 & 18. 3-2 days out: 2012 U.S. National Sake Appraisal. Ten sake professionals from Japan and the U.S. blind-taste all 360 sake entries over two days, judging each on aroma, taste, balance and overall impression.
At the end of the first day, sake ranked in the top 50 percent move on to another blind tasting the next day. Those with the highest final scores win gold or silver stars; most win none.
Note: Judges taste the sake at room temperature — because it’s the best temperature to look for flaws.
July 20. Joy: Afternoon. Refrigerated trucks deliver the sake to Pier 2 Cruise Terminal at Honolulu Harbor. Joy of Sake marks the public debut of the giant hall, normally open only to cruise ship passengers. Chefs arrive. Fifteen top restaurants set up stations and begin prepping and cooking a wide array of sake-friendly appetizers.
Late afternoon. Armies of volunteers arrive for final briefings. They arrange the sake by category: Daiginjo A, light, complex and aromatic, brewed to competition ideals. Daiginjo B, created to showcase a brewery’s strengths and tastes. Ginjo, rich with the aromas of daiginjo. Junmai, full and ricey. And yamahai, a class of its own, sweet with a hint of funk.
Three-hundred-sixty eyedroppers are laid out, ready for tasters to help themselves. Volunteers and runners take up their posts.
6:30 p.m. Doors open. The beat of taiko drums thunders through the hall. The ceremonial giant sake cask is broken open. And for 1,000-plus sake fans new and old, the 12th Joy of Sake tasting celebration is under way.
Which brings us to today’s question: Most sake produced in Japan is futsuu-shu, similar to table wine, but the U.S. National Sake Appraisal and Joy of Sake bring in only premium brews. At the Joy of Sake you’ll be sampling the top what percent of all sake produced in Japan?
This one’s a toughie. If you have no idea, and no idea where to look, it’ll be like the jellybeans-in-a-jar game. The answer is a close estimation, so we’ll count anything within a plus or minus 5 percent range as correct.
Hint: The answer’s impressive. OK, that was no hint. But this question is such a toughie, the winner will receive the complete package of a Joy of Sake T-shirt, logo sake cup and our beautiful lady fan. And this question will stay up all weekend because, come on, we’ve got our bon dancing slippers on!