Monthly Archives: February 2019

EP 10 – Brooklyn Kura with Brian Polen

What does it take to realize a dream of American craft sake? And even more specifically, Brooklyn craft sake?


This week Chris Hughes and Justin Potts catch up with Brian Polen, co-founder and president of Brooklyn Kura, New York’s first sake brewery, on his (relatively) recent trip to the sake island in the pacific.


Having officially opened to the public in 2018, the trail being blazed by Brian, along with co-founder and brewmaster, Brandon Doughan, is one that is already informing a future of international, locally-made craft sake as new breweries spring to life across the globe.


We dig into the origin story, as well as explore the excitement and challenges that go along with trying to, not only create and run a sake brewery, but communicate the infinite potential of sake to a world still largely unacquainted with the magical rice beverage.


We’re happy to finally get this interview out into the world, as we’ve actually been sitting on this one since the SOA early days. This week’s flow may be a bit more rough around the edges compared to our more recent offerings (we were still very much getting our feet wet at this point), but the stories and nuggets of insight that Brian shares are fascinating, and going to be relevant to sake lovers, the sake-curious, and those that may be looking to make new professional forays into the world of sake for years to come.


If in the area, be sure to pop into the tap room for a visit! Brooklyn Kura is located inside Industry City, at 68 34th Street, Brooklyn, NY.



*We’ll be back at Aoyama Sake Flea at the Farmer’s Market at United Nations University in Aoyama (Tokyo) on March 30-31st. If anyone plans to be in the area, be sure to pop in and say hello! We’ll be doing several recordings both days and have some more exciting guests lined up for the Spring rendition of the bi-annual sake celebration!

*You may notice a string of new episodes trickling out with more regularity than usual in the coming weeks. We actually have some content stocked up that we want to get out, and we’re working on some new developments, as well (details coming soon!) As we transition a bit you may notice a few more interviews or mini-episodes pop up here and there. We look forward to sharing more details on our new developments soon, but until then, enjoy!


As always, you can follow us on all of your preferred social media sources via @sakeonair. Please send your comments and feedback to


The more reviews we get, the more we can spread the sake love! Please do take a moment to share your thoughts, if you’re so inclined.


Until next week, Kampai!


Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and is a joint production between Potts.K Productions and Export Japan.

EP 9 – Sake 101: Unraveling the Basics

We’ve got a new twist on an old formula this week.


In the interest of fairness, after having done a Shochu 101 episode, we thought it only made sense to give Sake the same treatment.


However, unlike Shochu, the “basics” of sake have been well-treaded in many forms across books, videos, blogs, lectures and other media. It didn’t make sense for us to just rehash the same material that’s already readily available just about everywhere. While we want to provide our listeners with a solid foundation of the core principles surrounding Sake and Shochu, digging deeper in order to provide context and stimulate dialogue is why this show exists. So, we thought we’d mix it up a little.


John has been on the road a great deal as of late (as of always?) and we wanted to get him on air. When we talked about doing a Sake 101, it was something that he really wanted to be a part of. When he offered to provide a monologue outlining the fundamentals, we naturally said, Yoroshiku! This is a master in his wheelhouse – what more could we ask for?


With that, this week you get the core basics outlined by the best in the business. You want to scout out a tasty bottle of sake that you’ll be happy with today? We’ve got you covered.


But we wanted to do something for our listeners who already feel comfortable with the “basics”, providing a bit more food-for-thought. So, what we’ve done this week is break John’s brilliant monologue into segments, with the Sake On Air team jumping in at regular intervals to flesh out the details, ask deeper questions, and provide further context for why the various points that John has laid out are significant.


In addition to John Gauntner’s pre-recorded presence, three core members of the SOA crew, Chris Hughes, Sebastien Lemoine, and Justin Potts, are very lucky to be joined this week by Sarasa Suzuki, who is a WSET Sake Educator, as well as wine and spirits specialist here in Japan, also serving as the Japan brand manager for CAMUS Cognac. She was kind enough to put up with our shenanigans this week as she brings her experience and insight to the important topics that we delve into for this week’s show. Lucky us, and lucky you! (She’ll be making an appearance in a future episode to be released soon, as well!)


Our listeners may have a few thoughts and opinions about the content of this week’s episode. Great! Send those to us at


You can stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the show by following along on InstagramTwitter (@sakeonair) and Facebook, as well.


If you can find a moment in your busy schedule,  a quick review on your favorite listening service would really mean a lot.


Thanks to Frank Walter for the time he put into making this one shine. It wasn’t an easy task.


Sake On Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and is a joint production between Potts.K Productions and Export Japan.


Until our next outing, Kampai!


Show Notes:

6:07 What is Sake?

9:02 Sake and the Family of Brewed Beverages

10:30 Brewing Beer vs. Brewing Sake; Clarifying “Koji”

10:46 The History of Sake

22:02 What’s the fuss about Ginjo?

22:50 Good Sake and Better Sake

31:57 Relationship Between Price and Quality: Sake Rice

38:33 Relationship Between Price and Quality: Rice Milling & Special Designation Sake

45:13 The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Sake Brewing and the Tenuous Hierarchy System

48:02 Sake Service Temperature

51:52 Storing Sake and Aging Sake

56:18 Drinking Vessels

61:50 Sake and Food

65:25 John Gauntner’s “Basics for Enjoying Sake Today” (uncut from start to finish)