What I love about sake tastings, especially in small family-run breweries in Japan, is that you have an opportunity to connect with the owner while you sip their prized creations. They often will chat with you and share interesting stories about their life and tell you the history of their brewery. I’ve been to breweries that have been in the same family for over 14 generations!
Another thing that I love is their tasting cups. The sake is usually served in a ceramic or lacquered wooden cup that are carefully chosen. The cups are selected in front of your eyes in an almost ritualistic manor, with careful attention paid to using the cup that will best compliment the specific qualities of the sake being served. The cups will sometimes even be rinsed using the same natural spring water that was made to use the sake to make sure the flavor of the sake is not adulterated.
At large corporate sake breweries, tasting are generally done with plastic cups that are economical and efficient since they have hundreds of tasting customers every day. I totally understand that. But I find tastings far more enjoyable when the experience is more intimate, with the owner thoughtfully selecting sakes and sharing stories along the way. Sake just doesn’t taste as good when I drink it from a thin plastic cup like the ones used to serve cough syrup in the US. I’m grateful to all the many breweries for spending so much time with me and sharing your delicious creations!