Japanese Sake Brewery Finds Home in New York State

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by Karin Silitonga
President of the Culinary Institute of America toast leaders of Asahi Shuzo in celebration of the new partnership. (Image: Culinary Institute of America)

Japanese brewer Asahi Shuzo is planning to open a sake brewing facility in Hudson Valley, New York. The brewery, scheduled to open in April 2019, is a $28 million endeavor slated to create at least 32 local jobs. The 52,500 square foot facility will include a retail space, and will be accessible for public tours. At full capacity, the Japanese brewery is expected to produce 332,000 gallons of sake a year. Asahi Shuzo is also partnering with the Culinary Institute of America to develop educational programs to promote awareness of sake. The two will also collaborate in research and development efforts.

Sake is one of Japan’s most iconic alcoholic drinks, enjoyed by both domestic and international consumers, with tours to visit sake breweries available for visitors of Japan. Its popularity has a global reach, with sake exports reaching a market value of $140 million in 2016. One-third of that comes from US demand, making the United States the largest overseas market for Japanese sake exports.

By opening a location in New York State, Asahi Shuzo, most known for brewing the famous Dassai premium Junmai Daiginjo sake, will be joining a state with an ever-growing craft brew industry. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has demonstrated efforts to promote growth in the craft brew industry through various legislative reforms. As a result, the state is now home to 400 breweries, surpassing the previous record of 393 breweries set in 1876. Asashi Shuzo is the first Japanese sake producer to open a facility in the state.

Americans are also showing interest in the sake-making process, seen from the recent opening of an American-owned sake brewery, BrooklynKura, one of only fifteen sake breweries in the country. The Sake School of America in Los Angeles, California offers training opportunities to become a sake specialist, and recently American sake educator Timothy Sullivan began the American Sake Association.

Karunia "Karin" Silitonga is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of Baylor University.