Marukai's shochu and sake club
From left: Yoko Suganuma and Masaki Hirano from the Nanbu Bijin brewery, Hachiuemon Hashimoto from Hachinohe Shurui, Marukai's Yoshi Homma.
Joy of Sake is coming up, but if you can't wait for the event, consider joining Marukai's sake club. Much like bacon-of-the-month clubs, you get a bottle of sake once a month—a new or seasonal sake that's not on Marukai's shelves yet. Given that Marukai's sake selection is the largest in Hawaii, with 200 different sakes, the monthly bottle is likely to be unique; last month, the featured bottle was the Tsukasabotan Senchuhassaku Reika namasake, a light, refreshing sake perfect for the summer. The six-month sake club starts at $250, but Marukai recently introduced a six-month sake and shochu club for $180, for people easing into the sake and shochu world.
The sake club membership also includes an invitation to monthly sake dinners, which based on a recent dinner at Yoshiya featuring Nanbu Bijin and Hachitsuru breweries, is one of the best perks, if only for the camaraderie that develops after six or more generous sake pours. But, beyond the conviviality, it's a chance to sample new sakes and meet the brewers, as well as experience different sake pairings. Past dinners at Izakaya Tairyo and Gazen as well as The Mandalay and Japanese-owned Vietnamese restaurant Green Papaya stretch notions that sake only complements Japanese food.
August's sake club dinner returns to Yoshiya with three breweries and seven sakes, including Okuizumo Shuzo Amazake, a non-alcoholic (!) brew.
Six-month sake club memberships $180, $250 and $410 (higher levels translate to pricier monthly bottles). August's sake tasting will be August 30, $45 for members. Marukai locations at Ward and Dillingham, marukaihawaii.com
(P.S. It's too early to tell whether Don Quijote buying Marukai will affect the sake club.)