Michael John from Omurasaki Sake Co. and Keita Tominaga of Hana restaurant join Harry Duke and Herlinda Heras on Brew Ha Ha. Keita was last on Brew Ha Ha on this July 2022 episode.
Michael John is VP of Development for Omurasaki sake brewery of Japan & California and chef Keita Tominaga is chef at Hana restaurant in Rohnert Park. Michael has just come off a plane and Keita is taking a quick break from the kitchen to be here.
Sake is brewed more like beer, even if sometimes people still refer to it as rice wine. Michael suggests that it’s made like a beer and drinks like a wine. Sake is actually now part of the curriculum for sommelier certification.
Keita Tominaga reports that Hana is thriving and so is Pabu, their partner restaurant in San Francisco.
Ross Koda’s family has had a farm since his grandfather immigrated from Fukushima, Japan in 1908. He wanted to send his California organic rice back to his family in Fukushima, to be brewed into sake. The sake is called Uka which means metamorphosis, emergence or transformation which the butterfly on the label represents.
How Sake is Made
Michael gives a summary of how sake is made. The process begins with a rice milling machine that mills off the brown exterior of the grain. The high-grade Sake production mills 50% of the grain off, they to further and mill off 60% for this Sake. There is a chart of sake production on the Omurasaki Sake website, on this page.
The Uka dry and black label are the same except they use different yeasts. Everything else being equal, the two yeasts give different flavors and aromas.
The Uka dry is shy, light, etherial, dry, crisp. The Uke black label has more body, is silkier, deeper, more floral, more profound, according to Herlinda.
Keita talks about trying to spend some more time behind the sushi bar at Hana, rather than being “stuck” in the kitchen. Hana is open Tuesday through Saturday 4:30pm to 9pm and 4pm-9pm Friday and Saturday. Reservations are preferred, especially Friday and Saturday, so call the restaurant or book on Open Table.
Michael mentions that sake uses the same yeast as beer. He started this job in 2003 and has visited Japan many times since then. In his first year they brought in 18 products from 11 breweries and the business is still going strong.
There is a sparkling sake too, with bubbles that are natural.