Bottoms Up: World-renowned Sake Expert John Gauntner Exposes the Brewing Process at Annual Sake Lecture & Tasting

Amazing Leverage: The Final Steps of Sake-Brewing

Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 6:30 pm at Japan Society


New York, NY – Rice, water, fermentation and the skills of the brew master are touted as the most important elements in sake brewing. However, there are several important steps at the end of the process, including filtration, pasteurization, bottling and maturation, which together have profound influence on the final flavor. In Amazing Leverage: The Final Steps of Sake-Brewing, international sake expert John Gauntner explains how these simple-sounding yet vital processes affect the distinctive flavors of sake. Co-sponsored by the Sake Export Association, the lecture takes place Wednesday, May 19, at 6:30 pm, and is followed by a tasting.

The annual Sake Lecture & Tasting is one of the most popular events at Japan Society. Whether participants prefer their sake junmai daiginjo pure or namazake unpasteurized, the event mixes an intoxicating selection of hand crafted sakes from the most prestigious breweries in Japan with a unique and unusual discussion. Past topics have included types of sake, ingredients, the history of sake, and inventive pairings.

For the past three years, Japan Society's Sake Tasting & Lecture has featured John Gauntner, widely considered the world's leading sake educator. A founding member of the Sake Export Association, Gauntner is the author of The Sake Handbook (Charles E. Tuttle, 1998), The Sake Companion (Running Press, 2000), and the co-author of Sake, Pure & Simple (Stone Bridge press, 1999), as well as Nihonjin Mo Shiranai Nihonshu No Hanashi [The Story of Sake Even the Japanese Don’t Know] (Shogakkan, 2003). He has written columns for The Japan Times as well as The Yomiuri Shimbun and has been the subject of many news articles. Often referred to as the "sake dendoushi," or sake evangelist in Japan, he has elevated global sake palates through his writings and seminars.

Gautner explains the sake brewing process in detail at his website "Five crucial elements are involved in brewing sake -- water, rice, technical skill, yeast, and land/weather. More than anything else, sake is a result of a brewing process that uses rice and lots of water. In fact, water comprises as much as 80% of the final product, so fine water and fine rice are natural prerequisites if one hopes to brew great sake. But beyond that, the technical skill needed to pull this all off lies with the toji (head brewers), the type of yeast they use, and the limitations entailed by local land and weather conditions. Rice is washed and steam-cooked. This is then mixed with yeast and koji (rice cultivated with a mold known technically as aspergillus oryzae). The whole mix is then allowed to ferment, with more rice, koji, and water added in three batches over four days. This fermentation, which occurs in a large tank, is called shikomi. The quality of the rice, the degree to which the koji mold has propagated, temperature variations, and other factors are different for each shikomi. This mash is allowed to sit from 18 to 32 days, after which it is pressed, filtered and blended."

Established in 1907, Japan Society has evolved into North America's major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Language, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia. For a full list of upcoming current and events, visit:

Amazing Leverage: The Final Steps of Sake-Brewing takes place Wednesday, May 19, at 6:30 pm. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) Tickets are $35/$30 Japan Society members, seniors & students For reservations visit or call the box office at 212-715-1258. For further information call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

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Media Contacts:

Shannon Jowett
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1205
F: 212-715-1262

Kuniko Shiobara
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1249
F: 212-715-1262

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