'People of Sake' - Sachiko Miyagi
Sachiko Miyagi works at Cedar River Brewery in Seattle – I met her whilst she was doing her advanced sake professional course in Japan and recently got in touch to have a chat about what she does in the wonderful world of sake.
Sachiko, what do you do at Cedar River Brewery?
I help Jeff with marketing so he can concentrate on making delicious sake!
Tell us about your background and how you got into the world of sake.
I worked as a server for a long time in Seattle - but never thought of myself more than a dedicated consumer. It's when I moved to Boston that I realized I was surrounded by consumers and industry professionals who wanted to know more about sake. All they needed was an opportunity to try them and someone to talk about the amazing culture that produces it. It breaks my heart every time I hear of another sake brewery closing down... and the more that I learned, the more urgency I felt to spread the love of sake. Talking about sake was something I was already doing as a sake lover, so it came naturally for me to want to learn and do more.
What is your most memorable Sake experience?
Right after I took Sake Education Council's Level I course by John Gauntner, I visited Dovetail Sake in Massachusetts. They were still testing their batches and my colleague and I had some Shiboritate – freshly pressed sake. We literally rang the doorbell as they were pressing, so it was super fresh. It was so delicious it filled my heart. I was so happy to encounter delicious sake being made in Massachusetts, where you still see cooking sake on the shelves of some liquor stores.
As a Native Japanese – do you think it is a bit strange that people are making Sake in America?
I think it's amazing that there are many passionate sake brewers overseas. When I walked in to Cedar River Brewing Company for the first time – I felt like I had discovered a hidden Japanese tea hut! Jeff is so humble, and the sake was delicious. I am so grateful I get to learn about respect, humility, and hard work, witnessing it through sake making. Maybe it sounds funny that I learn about these Japanese values from Jeff who is American. But loving sake to me is about who you are inside – and there's no denying something that you appreciate and enjoy. So no, I don't find it strange, I find it delightful, and we are extremely lucky to have Jeff making delicious sake locally!
Cedar River also celebrates the beautiful Northwest – it uses prized local water, local artist for the labels, uses Northwest Red Cedar for our Taru. I love that it honors regionality, just like sake made in Japan. You'll just have to come and visit to experience for yourself what I mean.
Sake making is a labor of love – you really can't make it without loving it. I have so much respect for all the brewers overseas and want to visit each and every one of them someday!
In your opinion are people in America starting to become more interested in Sake and why do (or don’t) you think so?
Sake really is the hidden gem that majority of people in the U.S. have yet to discover. Personally, I find that everyone I talk to is interested in knowing more. It's just a matter of trying it. Sake's subtle umami-based flavor profile can handle anything from appetizer to dessert, and can stand up to a low-key special intimate moment to a high-class sophisticated meal. There are so many variations in enjoying it, from temperatures to serving vessels and is so incredibly versatile. Japanese sake is made with traditional and very high standards while incorporating ingenious innovation. The only barrier for consumers is in the mystery – what does the label say, why the price, how should it be consumed? ..but with a little prodding, I find that everyone is curious and interested, and loves the experience of trying it.
Do you have any sake at home in your fridge right now? If so what do you have?
I have Cedar River's limited release Nama Nigori Shiboritate (you can't have this without a brewery near by!), and a pasturized Nigori, and Cedar River sake kasu at home. At the brewery we have several Taru from different Japanese brands left over from our research and some mini bottles I got from my recent trip to Japan for Sake Education Council's Advanced level 2 course.
Sachiko you rock. Thanks so much for this interview and keep up the great work you are doing sharing the sake love!
You are very welcome –please come and visit us sometime at Cedar River Brewery in Seattle – there is sake waiting!
We are already scheduling a trip !
You can find more info on Cedar River Brewing Company by visiting their listing.