We are glad to reopen our Tasting Room & Sake Museum
Takara Sake Tasting Room
Takara Sake USA's high-quality, classic products are sure to make their mark on your palate and psyche, and what better way to do so than with an authentic sake tasting?
Sake tasting is a first-rate experience for connoisseurs — even more so when you have the perfect atmosphere to accompany it. We continually aim to demonstrate our position as the number one sake producer in the USA by offering unparalleled sake and memorable experiences. Join us at our tasting room in San Francisco area for a variety of flavorful and delicious drinks.
Treasure from the Rice Paddy
The Tasting Room, measuring 2,260 square feet, presents a light, airy ambiance. The architecture is a true work of art, constructed of Douglas Fir and granite-finished tile, infusing traditional Japanese beauty with a contemporary sense of space. The architect-designer Don Hisaka was exiled to an internment camp in World War II and rose to worldwide acclaim as an architect later in life.
Virtually all wood used inside the tasting room is reclaimed lumber, and the granite floor tiles contain glass recycled from sake, beer, whiskey and other bottles. The blue-glass tiled floor design is inspired by Japan's rice paddies and reflects the name Takara, which means "treasure from the rice paddy."
The kinetic sculpture that hangs from the high ceiling is another unique feature of the tasting room. This installation, named "Song of the Sky," was created by Susumu Shingu, a prolific kinetic sculpture artist whose striking works of geometric and abstract shapes often convey the power, beauty and balance of nature.
Don M Hisaka, FAIA (1927-2013) - Architect
Born on a farm on Bacon Island near Stockton, CA, Don rose to become one of America's most respected architects. As a teenager during WWII he was placed in a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas, where he met his future wife. He earned his B.A. in Architecture at the University of California Berkeley, then earned a Master's degree in Harvard University. He practiced architecture throughout the U.S. with offices in Cleveland, Ohiio, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Berkeley, California. He lectured and taught at many universities, including Harvard University and U.C. Berkeley, where he was appointed a Freidman Visiting Professor of Architecture. In addition to citations in 70 leading architectural publications, his work has been honored over the years with over 50 design awards. The works of Hisaka and Associates can be seen in the U.S., Japan, and Scotland. Some of the more notable commissions include Gun Hall, Harvard University, in Cambridge Massachusetts; the Bartholomew County Jail in Columbus, Indiana, under the sponsorship of the presitigious Cummins Foundation Architecture Program; and the well-known Ibaraki Golf Club House in Japan.
Susumu Shingu (1937 - ) - Sculptor
Born in Osaka, Japan in 1937. Shingu graduated from Tokyo University of Arts in 1960. He studied and lived in Rome until 1966. He was a visiting artist, of Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, at the Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1971 to 1972. He is known for site-specifice wind and water powered kinetic sculptures installed in countries all over the world. In addition to a monograph, Shingu: Message from Nature, was published by Abbeville Press Publishers, N.Y. in 1997, he also publish variety of picture books and childrens books as well.
The Sake Brewing Process
Sake comes in many different forms, though they're all made with the same foundational ingredients — rice, water, koji and yeast. The rice is polished through a careful and time-consuming process, then fermented with the koji mold spores to draw out the natural sugars, producing a deliciously sweet flavor. Subsequently, the yeast turns the sugar into alcohol.
Our sake features fermented Californian Calrose rice and pure snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Water quality matters as much as rice and koji quality, which is why we use soft water containing no iron. Calrose rice is a hybridization of Californian long-grain and Japanese short-grain. This combination of ingredients creates new and exciting flavor profiles that emphasize the qualities of good sake.
The meshing of these pure components creates unique flavors that differ depending on the rice polishing ratio and the presence or absence of distilled alcohol.
We consistently aim to brew high-quality Junmai — or "pure rice" — sake. All of our products are gluten-free, kosher-certified and sulfite-free. Our sake undergoes pasteurization twice to eliminate bacteria and halt fermentation, which leaves no use for sulfides. We also manufacture our products using a multiple parallel fermentation process — this process allows for the growth of stronger, more flavorful yeast, creating a final alcohol level of 15%.
We offer various types of sake, all with a unique charm, flavor and appearance:
Junmai: Junmai presents a rich umami flavor and pairs well with savory foods such as salmon, steamed dumpling and sashimi. This sake contains only the base ingredients of water, rice, koji and yeast — no brewer's alcohol included. It consists of rice with a 70% polishing ratio, which makes for a more intense taste.
Tokubetsu Junmai: Tokubetsu Junmai is characterized by its special nature. It consists of rice polished at 60%, which is often grown specifically for sake brewing. It also features other unique production methods in addition to its specialty rice. This sake has a soft texture and gentle taste and serves well either chilled or warmed.
Junmai Ginjo: This sake has a fruity flavor with floral notes. It uses rice with a 60% polishing ratio and contains special yeast that produces its delicate flavor. This rice is fermented at a lower temperature, giving it a unique taste. Takara Sake USA offers types of Ginjo sake made with brewer's alcohol, although these options don't contain "Junmai" in their names.
Nigori: Nigori sake is unfiltered, meaning it contains some rice grains after bottling. It has a cloudy white color with a bold, sweet taste and serves best when chilled. This sake goes well with richly seasoned dishes and desserts.
We make plum wine in addition to sake, which you can enjoy through a wine tasting session with your choice of drink. Choose our Kinsen Plum wine for a burst of maraschino cherries and sweet pears, or go with the Takara Plum for notes of cherry blossoms and cherry sweet-tarts.
How Sake Tasting Works
During a sake tasting, you'll drink from a tasting cup called a kiki-choko. The inside of the kiki-choko features blue and white lines, allowing you to gauge the sake's clarity and color. Follow these steps to make the most of your tasting experience:
Observe the appearance: Study the look of your sake by using the lines of your cup. Sake is usually clear, amber or golden-colored, while some varieties — such as Nigori — are cloudy and white.
Smell the aroma: Bring the cup close to your face to experience the aroma. Try to pick out the base fragrance.
Taste it: Take a small sip of sake. Swirl it around in your mouth and hold it there to absorb the flavor properly. Look for notes of bitter, acidic, sweet or dry. Take a deep breath in so that the aroma reaches your nose — this process makes for a more comprehensive flavor experience. After you've satisfied your taste buds, swallow the sake to gauge its aftertaste.
Traditionally, people drink sake from a small ceramic cup called an ochoko, though any glass cup or wine glass works well. You'll receive your sake chilled or warmed, though the temperature will depend on what kind you indulge in. Junmai works well with a variety of temperatures — from cold to hot — while Ginjo and Daiginjo varieties taste best chilled.
Pairing your sake with various foods will enhance the richness of the experience — and auditory elements add their own distinctive pleasure. Enjoy a night of sake tasting at our San Francisco brewery while listening to the soothing notes of a jazz performance. We host a Music and Sake session four times a year in our tasting room, where talented musicians come and display their musicality to enthralled guests. Musical genres and styles change at each event, allowing for fresh entertainment every time.
Taste a sake you can't find anywhere else with our Nama Nama tasting event. This sake is raw and unpasteurized, meaning the yeast cultures are still active within it. It's usually unavailable outside of the brewery, but we offer this rare experience four times a year. Nama Nama has a rich, refreshing taste and a dynamism you can only get from this particular brewing stage.
Our Sake Museum
After enjoying our premium sake, head over to our adjoining museum to get an in-depth look at the brewing process. Learn the intricacies of 17th- to 19th-century sake brewing, and see the tools real Toji — or brewing masters — once used. Preserving tradition while incorporating modernity is always the goal at Takara Sake USA, and we continue to uphold these principles through our carefully curated museum.
Explore the history of sake breweries in the USA through a self-guided tour. Go at your own pace and watch how the brewery world opens up in vivid detail. View the authentic wooden barrels that 19th-century brewery workers used to produce sake, and see real mixing tools such as the motokai and bokai.
Our museum is the only one of its kind within the USA, making for a rare and valuable event. Appreciate the art of sake by stepping into the past and seeing how brewery workers once developed it.
Visit Us for Premium Sake
Located in Berkeley, CA, our American-based sake brewery provides one of the best things to do in San Francisco Bay Area — savor indulgent flavors from a culture you've never experienced. As the number one sake company in the USA, we strive to provide unforgettable tastes that will enrich your culinary life. Call us for more information, or make a reservation for our next tasting session.