The Joy of Sake: Sipping to Help Japan

Photo: Courtesy the Joy of Sake

The largest sake event outside of Japan returns Sept. 9, this time at the Sheraton Waikiki Ballroom, after a two-year sellout run at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. A bigger, open space means more sake and more people—which is good news for Japan. This year, the Joy of Sake is donating funds to sake brewery families devastated by last March’s earthquake.

“I visited the Tohoku region last month and saw the destruction first hand,” says Joy of Sake coordinator Chris Pearce. "Twelve breweries in Japan were destroyed by either the earthquake or the tsunami. We used a GPS to locate the site of the Suisen brewery in Iwate Prefecture. When we got there, not one brick was left standing. We found one of the brewing vats a mile away at the back of the valley. Nonetheless, Suisen and the other breweries are determined to rebuild."

In case you didn’t know, the The Joy of Sake isn’t just a drinking and eating orgy—it is the public tasting event that follows the U.S. National Sake Appraisal, sponsored by the International Sake Association. All the sakes you can sample at Joy of Sake have been scrutinized by a team of ten judges from Japan and the U.S., evaluating aroma, taste, balance and overall harmony in each entry. Sakes with the highest scores receive gold and silver awards, and all 316 entries will be available for tasting at this year’s Joy of Sake. There’s always a tight scrum around the gold medalists.

It’s impossible to sample 316 sakes in two-and-a-half hours and live to tell the tale, so it’s helpful to have a game plan—what’s your favorite type? Daiginjo? Case the joint and hone in on those.

And, of course, so that you can walk out of the ballroom unaided, there is plenty of good food, such as seared scallops with XO sauce from Morimoto Waikiki and mentaiko pasta in kombucha cream sauce from Genius (this sounds like a winner). See the full menu here.

From Honolulu, Pearce takes his moveable feast to New York and Tokyo. Count yourself lucky that you live in the best of the three cities.

Joy of Sake, Sept. 9, 7 to 9:30 p.m.; Sheraton Waikiki Hotel; $80 per person. Buy tickets online.