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Try the UK’s first sake at Norwich’s Sushi and Sake Festival next weekend

PUBLISHED: 15:57 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:16 15 August 2018

Tom and Lucy at Kanpai Brewery  Pictures: Kanpai Brewery

Tom and Lucy at Kanpai Brewery Pictures: Kanpai Brewery

Archant

Former Norfolk resident showcasing the very first UK-made sake at Norwich’s Sushi and Sake Festival.

Sake is a curious drink. A boozy, naturally fermented product of rice, yeast, water and koji (a type of mould used to make miso and soy sauce) it’s certainly different.

Never tried it? Well now’s your chance as Norwich’s first ever Sushi and Sake Festival is coming to Norwich on the bank holiday weekend (August 25 and 26), bringing a delicious slice of Japanese culture to the city.

Work your way through Japanese beers, cocktails, desserts, whisky, sushi and, of course sake, while the beats of live music and DJ sets echo through the venue – Open.

A must-try at the festival is a glass of Japanese wine from the UK’s first sake brewery – Kanpai London Craft Sake, who’ll be out in force showing off their first three products – Sumi (clear sake), Kumo (a cloudy version), and Fizu (a sparkling hopped junmai sake).

You might think the drinks have been conjured up a Japanese ex-pat but you’d be wrong. Kanpai is the baby of science communications expert Lucy Wilson and her hubby Tom.

Originally from Brundall in Norfolk, Lucy says she’s really excited to showcase the drink in her home county. “We’ve never done a specific sake festival and I think Norwich is ahead of the curve here,” Lucy smiled. “It’s really cool to come back for this event.”

In a land where gin flows like water through bars, restaurants and homes, why sake? What made the couple take a punt on such an unusual drink? According to Lucy, it all started with a holiday to Japan.

“We wanted to soak up the culture so while we were there we visited sake breweries, just like if we went to Tuscany we’d go to vineyards. But we really got the taste for it and started seeking it out back home in London. But you couldn’t really get hold of it unless you went to a restaurant so we thought we’d try making it!

“It’s really hard because you need a specific rice, and there’s lots of processes but very few text in English so there was a lot of trial and error and watching videos. We went to the US where they have lots of micro breweries which really inspired us. And then we started hosting sake suppers at home and it just grew and grew.”

Little did Lucy know just how big sake could be. Not long after posting about their drinks on social media, Selfridges were on the line asking to launch them. That was last June, and now Kanpai can be found at 45 outlets in the UK, with hopes to start supplying East Anglia soon.

Key to expansion is the building of a new brewery “you can’t swing a cat in the space we’re in at the moment”. Crowdfunding is underway to help build the bigger premises and if you help out (crowdfunder.co.uk/kanpaibrewery) you’ll get sake delivered straight to your door.

Sake is not a spirit, contrary to common belief. Putting it succinctly Lucy said it’s “brewed like a beer but should be enjoyed like a wine”.

“Because it’s quite an umami, savoury drink it enhances lots of foods so you don’t need to worry about pairing it with different things. It will pretty much go with anything you eat. Although it’s best with very light, Japanese style food. Our London-style sake is more dry and full bodied than some others because people tend to drink dry gin or dry white wine. And it’s so versatile. It’s being used in cocktails for an interesting element, and you can heat it up in winter, and drink it warm – that makes it really velvety.

“My favourite way to drink it is chilled in a wine glass, but when it’s been super-hot I’ve been making it up as a long drink, with a 50ml measure, lots of ice and topped up with tonic!”

Be one of the first people in the east to sample the drink at the Sushi and Sake Festival. Book tickets via opennorwich.org.uk

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