CAMBRIDGE, MA – Last Friday, Cambridge Brewing Company released a true sake-beer hybrid, using house made sake to ferment a unique barley-rice wort mixture. The result, Banryu Ichi, comes in at approximately 14% alcohol by volume and is an incredibly complex brew with flavors of sweet rice, fresh apples & grapes, earthy hints of mushroom and subtle notes of fennel, herbs and spices. The sake-beer hybrid is being served in a 5oz glass inside a traditional cedar masu (a square wooden box used for drinking sake) and is expected to be available on tap through May 2012.
The brewing of Banryu Ichi was a collaborative effort between Cambridge Brewing Company Brewmaster Will Meyers and local sake home-brewer, Todd Bellomy, founder of BostonSake.com. The two have been working together on the project for over three years. The brewing process began in January by brewing 100 gallons of traditional sake, a fermented rice beverage gaining popularity in theU.S. Next, they created a custom wort using both pale barley malt and rice. The sticky, thick result was transferred to a fermenting tank and the sake was added to start the fermentation process.
Brewmaster Will Meyers has been enjoying and exploring the world of sake for several years, and this was his second experience brewing it. “Todd really opened my eyes to the incredible tradition of sake brewing, and the complexities of this beverage. The process was time-consuming and labor-intensive,” explained Meyers, “but the end result was amazing and well worth it!” The two spent many days in the cold and wind on the CBC patio, steaming polished rice with very small-scale equipment. Named for a traditional Japanese expression, “There are 10,000 ways to make sake”, Banryu Ichi means 10,001 ways. This is an intentional allusion to the fact that something truly new had been added to the tradition of sake brewing.
Sake is brewed using a somewhat different process than beer, called multiple parallel fermentation: polished rice is converted to sugar by a fungus called koji; sake yeast is used for fermentation. Banryu Ichi was creating using this exact method. While the sake was fermenting, the entire batch including koji, yeast and rice slurry was added to the wort to start the beer’s fermentation process. The beer was then fermented at 50*F for 6 weeks, followed by cold conditioning until it reached an impressive 14% ABV.
“What makes this beverage truly unique,” says Bellomy, “is that many beer brewers have incorporated aspects of sake production but mostly have just fermented traditional beer with sake yeast. This collaboration has taken the time and effort to actually brew sake and use it as a base for the hybridization of two distinct fermented beverages. Using an ingredient in a beer does not make it a hybrid; you have to explore and use the best attributes from both systems to create a beverage that is greater than the sum of its parts – we have done that here.”
The resulting hybrid beverage is a clear copper color, full bodied with a dry finish. Presented without carbonation it abounds with flavors of brown rice, apples and grape, along with bright alcohol notes, earthy mushroom tones and also herbal, fennel like qualities. The well balanced and complex beverage is meant for sipping and savoring.
Founded in 1989, the Cambridge Brewing Company is the oldest brewery-restaurant in the Boston area and one of the nation’s first. As pioneers of new American beer styles, they offer a wide array of hand crafted original beers as well as interpretations of classic world styles and experimental beers. Brewpubs such as The CBC have a unique culinary opportunity to continually pair new and interesting beer styles with innovative menu ideas. CBC’s in-house artisan ales are paired with fresh and local ingredients on the menu, providing choices not found anywhere else in the local dining arena.
BostonSake.com was founded in 2011 by Todd Bellomy, local sake home-brewer, enthusiast, and expert. His love affair with sake began while living in Japan as an apprentice sword-maker and has continued through the reading of Japanese brewing texts, repeated travels, and study at Japanese sake breweries (kura). By day Todd is responsible for consumer relations at the Boston Beer Company; using his knowledge of beer and brewing to bring answers to the amazing community of Samuel Adams drinkers.