Where to Find the Best Sake in the Bay Area
Wine and beer aren’t the only beverages you should be sipping in San Francisco. Japanese brewers have made sake for more than 1,500 years. Only recently have Americans brought the craft of making this fermented rice alcohol to the U.S.
Some may refer to sake as rice wine, but the process of turning rice into alcohol is more similar to brewing beer. Authentic sake contains only four ingredients — rice, water, koji and yeast. Koji, a white mold, converts the rice’s starch into sugar, while the yeast ferments the sugar, turning it to alcohol. Alcohol content generally ranges from 14% to 16%, and its taste is mild and balanced.
Because of this quality, sake can be paired with nearly any type of food. But locals recommend sipping this drink between bites of authentic Japanese food to get the full experience.
Begin your sake search with some of the best sake bars, breweries, and restaurants the Bay Area has to offer:
- True Sake: The first dedicated sake store outside of Japan, True Sake offers more than 250 different kinds of sake. Don’t know what you like? This is the perfect place to sample a wide spectrum of options and discover which ones are your favorite. And if True Sake doesn’t stock your favorite brew, they promise to special order it for you any time.
- Takara Sake: Half museum, half tasting room, Takara Sake is one of the best places to learn about the ancient tradition of brewing sake while tasting carefully crafted specialties. This Berkeley-based brewer crafts its Sho Chiku Bai sake with pure snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada and rice from California’s own Sacramento Valley.
- The Periodic Table: This new taproom and sake bar is located inside Public Market Emeryville. The Periodic Table features 12 rotating beer taps and an extensive selection of sake, shochu, and other Japanese distilled spirits. Order a sake flight for about $15 to sample a few varieties, or choose a glass or bottle to enjoy instead.
- Pabu: This restaurant offers delicious authentic Japanese cuisine, one-of-a-kind sushi, and sashimi, as well as sake, served both neat and in cocktails. Pabu boasts a collection of premium and super-premium sakes, which they serve chilled to enhance the flavor profile. In-house sake master Stuart Morris pairs items from the chef’s menu with sake and cocktails to create a unique experience that you won’t soon forget.
- High Treason: Relatively new but incredibly low-key, High Treason directs their focus to the drinks, not stiff ceremony. With more than 80 sakes by the glass, there’s something for every palate — as well as about 160 options by the bottle. This is another great place to sample sake pairings with international cuisine.
- Akiko’s Restaurant: Located in downtown San Francisco, Akiko’s Restaurant prides itself on its charming setting and welcoming atmosphere. Partake in delicious Japanese-inspired cuisine and sample Japanese beers or a highly curated selection of sake. Akiko’s adjusts its beverage program each season to highlight exciting flavors of the ever-changing menu.
- Rintaro: For a simple, casual izakaya experience, consider Rintaro. Their menu features everything from wild bigeye tuna sashimi to Japanese fried chicken wings. The restaurant also offers great sakes by the glass to wash down these delectable dishes.
- Sakae Sushi and Grill: When he first opened Sakae in 1995, Chef Endo’s wish was to offer the best-tasting authentic Japanese cuisine in the Bay Area. Many might say he’s succeeded. Sakae’s chefs serve the largest variety of the freshest fish in the world, including, most notably, Japan’s Tsukiji Market. They pair these dishes with premium sake to create an incredible experience for their guests.
Sip and See for Yourself
The next time you find yourself in San Francisco’s Bay Area, be sure to sample from more than just wine country. Take your taste buds on a trip to Japan and try something that has been made for more than 1,500 years. Enjoy the area’s rich culture and diversity through both sake and sushi as well as other traditional fares.
Rare pours, impeccable pairings, and unusual brews await you in the Bay Area. No matter which brewery, grill, restaurant or tasting room you visit, sake is sure to leave a lasting impression, especially with so many great options to choose from.