Islander Sake Is Making Hawai‘i’s First Sake in Three Decades
Here's a look at the brand new Kakaako brewery and its junmai ginjo, nigori and amazake.
The opening of Islander Sake Brewery in mid-March and the subsequent release of its first batch made history: This is Hawai‘i’s first locally brewed sake in over 30 years. The last bottle of local sake came from Honolulu Sake & Ice Company in Pauoa, which closed in the late 1980s before I was born. As a fan of sake, I sought out Islander’s delicious amazake smoothie drinks at the Kaka‘ako farmers market and made plans to visit the brand new tasting room. But in a stroke of terrible luck, it opened on the day all bars in Honolulu were ordered to close.
The cozy tasting room remains closed, but now we can finally pick up chilled bottles of Islander’s bold and juicy junmai ginjo ($20) and creamy and effervescent nigori ($23) sakes. Islander also sells non-alcoholic amazake ($10) drinks, plain or pineapple-flavored, as well as culinary sake lees, a byproduct of the brewing process. Each batch is crafted using rice from various parts of Japan with our famously pure local water that’s been further reverse-osmosis-filtered. The results will vary among batches, making it worth your while to try each one.
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Four years ago, Islander Sake Brewery was just a twinkle in the eyes of Chiaki Takahashi. A sake scientist and brewing consultant, she was inspired first by the record-setting turnout of Honolulu’s annual Joy of Sake, which imports hundreds of high-end sakes from Japan for tasting by 1,600 fans; it ranks as the world’s largest sake festival outside Japan. And 2018 marked Gannenmono, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese in Hawai‘i, further inspiring Takahashi to reintroduce craft sake-brewing to the islands. Today, Islander Sake bridges her desire to strengthen Hawai‘i’s ties with Japan and share new methods of brewing sake in our tropical climate.