Adam Blumenshein and Tim Klatt opened Strange Land Brewery in the Westlake area late last year — and not long after, they quickly started taking on a different sort of brewing.
After purchasing the Texas Saké Company when they realized it was about to go under, they’ve spent the past few months developing a new recipe and producing it on a commercial scale with toji (head brewer) Jeff Bell. The saké, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice, is now ready to debut with a big release party on Sunday at the brewery, followed by distribution around Austin at the end of next week.
“The process (for making saké) is a little more nuanced than making beer,” Klatt said. “It takes awhile to brew, and we had to learn all the aspects that go into it, from pressing rice to filtering it and blending it. We’re really pleased with our first few batches.”
On Sunday, you’ll be able to try their two versions of Texas saké, both of which use the same base recipe featuring rice grown right here in the state. One, junmai, is filtered, while the other, junmai nigori, is unfiltered and thus has a cloudiness from the kasu, small bits of rice particles that settle at the bottom. These particles contribute big differences in flavor and mouthfeel, Klatt said.
“Our junmai sake is very crisp and semi-dry with a great bouquet of honeysuckle and lilac and flavors of green apple and pear,” he said. “The nigori has the enhanced mouthfeel (from the kasu), and it’s got more of a flavor of oats, some creaminess and a warm licorice finish.”
These two varieties have already gotten good feedback from people who are lucky enough to be drinking at the Strange Land tasting room when Blumenshein or Klatt decide to open a bottle of saké from the initial batches. It’s these beer lovers, in particular, that Klatt hopes to attract with the revamping of Texas Saké Co.
“We’re hoping for some crossover from the craft beer world because we’re bringing some really good craft flavors back into the saké,” he said, comparing the Japanese beverage to craft beer as it was just a few decades ago, when there was just a fledgling following devoted to the range of flavors that few knew beer could have.
“Right now, there’s a lot of industrial, mass-produced, uninteresting sake out there,” Klatt said. “What we’re doing is taking a smaller approach. We’re breaking some rules but still keeping it traditional. That’s what gets me excited.”
In Japan, he said, saké brewers have to follow strict guidelines, such as using particular types of yeasts at certain temperatures. But being in Texas, he and Bell, who joined the company from Austin Homebrew Supply, don’t have the same restrictions. That opens them up to producing fun experimental saké, he said, such as peach saké or even hopped rice beer.
The goal is to brew 10 barrels a month — but that, of course, depends on how sales do, something he can’t anticipate right now. Texas Saké Co. is going to be locally and regionally distributed, he said, and bottles will be available in sushi bars, wine outlets and mom-and-pop stores. Plus, “Saké Sunday” might become a regular event at the brewery.
Saké Sunday at Texas Saké Co. 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. 5501 N. Lamar Blvd. www.txsake.com.