🔖 6 min read

If you’re a fan of sake and live in London, chances are you’ve heard of Kanpai Sake, the UK’s first Sake Brewery, crafting British style Sake using traditional Japanese techniques from their taproom in Peckham.  If you haven’t, listen up…

Husband & wife team and Sake enthusiasts Tom and Lucy Wilson founded Kanpai Sake back in 2016. They spent years sampling, experimenting, and producing many different varieties of sake before launching Kanpai Sake. What started out as a home-brew hobby became a dream come true. Tom & Lucy were self-taught and then honed our skills at Sake brew-school in Japan.

Kanpai Sake are big fans of the craft beer and craft spirit movement, which is what sparked their interest in sake in the first place. At their flagship taproom, they provide a variety of seasonal batches on the fly, where they’ve tested and refined the ingredients and flavours – whether it’s the type of rice, koji, or yeast they utilise.

Kanpai Sake is London’s revolutionary Sake Bar & Brewery. Read on

The Birth of Kanpai Sake

Sake has been Tom and Lucy’s favourite beverage ever since a memorable trip to Kyoto, where they fell in love with the unique flavour profiles of Sake and the phrase for “cheers,” in Japanese, “Kanpai!”

‘KANPAI! (!)’ is what we say. Like the English expression “bottoms up,” it means “dry the glass” in its literal sense. In Japan, drinking etiquette and the usage of Kanpai go hand in hand. Making a toast is considered basic manners. You’ll be seen as disrespectful if you start drinking before saying “Kanpai.”

“Tom and Lucy spent years mastering intricate brewing methods in a bid to bring unique blends – with a distinct London edge – to the UK”

Once they’d found their feet, the pair got creative, crafting a one-of-a-kind sparkling ‘Fizu’ sake and sharing their produce at festivals, craft beer shops, and burger joints.

With success (just ask them about their awards) comes growth and the opportunity to expand. Having outgrown their current, well-loved nano-brewery in Peckham, Tom and Lucy set their eyes on a new space. As well as somewhere to produce sake, they had the vision to connect more with London’s sake-drinking community with the addition of a casual bar and opportunity for tastings.

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Crowdfunding their Sake Taproom

YouTube video

Kanpai Sake launched a Crowdfunder to build a taproom at Kanpai Sake Brewery that would act as a casual Sake bar where everyone could come and discover sake, in South London. They reached their goal on the 4th of September 2018 where they successfully raised £11,800 with 129 supporters in 35 days!

The Kanpai Taproom is located just a stone’s throw from Peckham Rye station. Allowing sake lovers or those simply intrigued by rice wine to sample and learn more about one of Japan’s most famous beverages.

What is Sake?

Sake Bottles
Image credit: Zaji Kanamajina on Unsplash

How much do you know about sake? It’s sophisticated, versatile, and extremely amazing. If you’re unfamiliar with this delectable Japanese beverage, don’t worry — we’ve got all the details. It’s really a one-of-a-kind beverage, brewed like a beer and enjoyed like a wine.

How much do you know about sake? It’s sophisticated, versatile, and extremely amazing. If you’re unfamiliar with this delectable Japanese beverage, don’t worry — we’ve got all the details. It’s really a one-of-a-kind beverage, brewed like a beer and enjoyed like a wine.

Sake is a fermented rice beverage that dates back more than 500 years in Japan. Sake is a smooth sipping alcohol that is simple to enjoy. It is not as powerful as a spirit because, since it is fermented, it has a relatively low alcohol content that is more akin to wine strength. Junmai Sake (which is what Kanpai Sake typically brew) is made with just four ingredients: rice, water, yeast, and koji – a magical mould that is also used to make soy and miso.

How is Sake Made?

Brewing Sake

Making sake can be complicated, and the kind of rice used as well as its milling rate can have a significant influence on the final product’s flavour and aroma. Sake flavours vary from delicate and flowery to bold and umami-rich. Rather than being a single flavour, scent, or texture, sake offers a unique multitude of ways to explore and enjoy.

Brewing a premium sake normally takes around three months, with a further two to six months for standard maturation durations, which are typical (and into years if not decades for aged styles). Polishing, washing, soaking, and steaming rice are the most important stages. An incubation period of many weeks is required once the steamed rice has been injected with millions of microscopic koji spores.

Sake fermentation process

Koji & Fermentation

As a result of incubation, the rice grain is transformed into sake by the growth of mould that produces the enzymes essential for the fermentation process. In a tank, the koji rice is blended with newly steamed rice, water, and a yeast starter culture, and the fermentation process starts.

The rice is broken down into simple sugars by these enzymes, which are then fermented by the yeast into alcohol; during this period in the tank, the sake also develops its multifaceted personality. To make sake, the rice-like liquid must first be pressed through a machine to eliminate any particulates. This clear liquid is what we call sake!

Sake Culture in London with Kanpai Sake

Kanpai Sake Taproom

Londoners can indulge in a drink with friends at Kanpai Sake’s taproom. They don’t take bookings; just arrive early, grab a table, and enjoy! The sake bar in the taproom is located on the mezzanine directly above the brewery and has plenty of tables outdoors. It provides fresh sake on tap (namazake), sake by the glass and bottle, as well as a changing roster of guest sake from our fellow brewers (Japanese and international).

There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, so you can enjoy your favourite drink regardless of the weather. Throughout the year, we also conduct events, tastings, and dinner clubs; join our mailing list for more information.

Kanpai Sake offers a number of alternatives for Londoners to experience Sake culture beyond the Taproom.

Sake Brewery Tour & Tasting

Join a weekly brewery tour with one of Kanpai Sake’s brewers and sample three of their premium sakes whilst learning more about the sake brewing & fermentation process.

Learn to Brew Sake

Sign up for an immersive full brew day workshop, which includes all the instructions and tools you’ll need to produce your own little batch of sake to take home with you.

Lunch and sake sampling included.

Group Sake Brewing

Invite your friends to join you for a fun day of sake-making using the core kit. When the finished product is ready, you’ll each get two bottles.

Lunch and sake sampling are included. On Fridays, brew days are held so that you may enjoy the taproom in the evening while having private usage of the space.

Shop Sake Online

UK residents can get fresh Sake delivered straight to their door directly from the Kanpai Sake Brewery.

Sora
SORA 'SKY' HONJOZO 375ML
'MOON' JUNMAI USU NIGORI KIJOSHU SAKE 750ML
"SIGNATURE SERIES" TRIO 3 X 375ML
SUMI 'CLEAR' JUNMAI 375ML
KUMO 'CLOUDY' NIGORI 375ML
FIZU - 'SPARKLING' SAKE 375ML
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About Emily Shaw

Emily is a Nakama writer based in London who enjoys writing about Japanese gardens, social issues and travelling to Japan.