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Vietnam's Hottest Craft Brewer Arrives In Singapore – But We're Talking About Sake, Not Beer!

 

A rising star in more ways than one, Mùa Sake is Vietnam’s very first sake brand that has for the last couple of years become a prominent name in the beer-loving country's craft brewing scene. That’s what I found myself experiencing at the recent Mùa Sake launch event here in Singapore as they have recently appointed Wet Goods Distribution and The Sake Company as their distributors in Singapore.

Mùa Saké is the brainchild of Canadian-Vietnamese entrepreneur Kang Na Dai but borne out of a partnership between Vietnam’s leading craft brewer East West Brewing, and acclaimed Japanese sake brewer Heiwa Shuzo.

 

 

One of the more fascinating aspects of Mùa Saké is their commitment to using locally cultivated Vietnamese long-grained indica rice. This choice of rice presents a unique challenge in sake brewing. An essential step in making conventional sake involves polishing off layers of protein off every grain of sake rice to access their starchy cores. Long grain rice, however, have a different structure and cannot be polished. Mùa Saké overcame this hurdle by developing a method to brew with entirely unpolished long grain rice, allowing them to brew sakes with a unique earthy richness and lively acidity.

 

Vietnam is one of the world's largest exporters of rice.

 

Mùa Saké is also regarded as a pioneer of unpasteurised sake (namazake) in Southeast Asia – the brand operates a popular taproom in Ho Chi Minh city where it serves up refreshing unpasteurised sake from the tap.

Its core selection includes the Mùa Classic which comes closest to traditional sake, the Mùa Passionfruit Cubeb which is enhanced by an intense passionfruit aroma and citrusy noes of cubeb pepper and the funkiest Mùa Pineapple Chili which has a flavour that reminds me of spicy Thai pineapple and mango salad than a sake.

It seems that the brand draws a number of inspiration from the dynamic craft beer movement.

Founder Na Dai was there at the launch party and I had the pleasure to speak with him at length about the experimentation that went on at Mùa to create their ideal sake. His enthusiasm for sake and rice agriculture was infectious. I also had the pleasure of tasting a couple of seasonal releases from Mùa Saké, and learn a bit more about Mùa Saké from the founder himself.

 

 

 

I began my journey with their flagship sake, the Mùa Classic . It was surprisingly light and clean for a completely unpolished sake. The nose is clean but the palate opens with a refreshing burst of kiwi and unripe guava. But don’t be fooled by its initial delicacy – this sake had quite a bit of backbone. It’s got this earthy notes from the rice, a somewhat robust acidity and a subtle lactic quality that added a lot of character and depth. It was definitely a step up from the overly refined sakes I’ve had in the past. Its cleanness was particularly impressive, especially considering it was crafted from completely unpolished rice.

Next up was the Vanilla Lime, a seasonal offering available only on tap at selected Mùa Saké locations. This one was all about the aroma – lemongrass, vanilla, and a hint of citrus practically jumped out of the glass. The taste was a bit more subdued, not as bold as the nose suggested, but still a pleasant and interesting experience. It definitely didn’t taste like your typical sake.

 

 

Finally, I tried the Mùa Sparkling Mulberry Sake, another seasonal special off the tap only intended to showcase the versatility of Vietnamese ingredients. It arrived in a deep cranberry red hue with a festive fizz. The aroma was a mix of sweet mulberries and cranberries, with a touch of lemongrass. On the palate, tons of red fruit sweetness balanced by a tartness, along with a distinct bitter orange (chinotto) note that reminded me of a Negroni. The finish was dry and spicy, lingering on the back of the throat. This was definitely the most complex of the bunch. This was a sake that truly pushed the boundaries of what one might expect considering its thick body and really complex flavour profile that reminded me of Campari. It’s closer to a cocktail than a traditional sake.

 

 

Also gracing the Singapore launch was the talented Chef Tru Lang, the culinary maestro behind Mùa Sake’s Hoi An restaurant. The Chef had prepared a spread of canapés to be paired with the sakes.

 

 

There’s Beef Tendon Tacos, Salmon Tartare, Medium-Rare Beef Tataki on Sushi Rice and even a Bone Marrow & Betel Leaf Sando. The dishes seemed to share a common thread - lots of umami notes.

 

 

The Mùa Classic, with its robust earthiness and subtle acidity, proved to be a surprisingly versatile companion sake to pair with such a wide range of Vietnamese and Japanese inspired dishes. I especially enjoyed the pairing of the Mùa Classic with the beef tataki sushi. The sake's clean, refreshing notes of kiwi and unripe guava cut through the richness of the beef, while the underlying earthiness compliments wonderfully with the umami of the meat.

Final Thoughts

This may sound a bit clichéd, but Mùa Saké isn’t just “Vietnamese sake”. It’s the innovative spirit of Vietnam’s craft beer culture applied to sakes. It's playful, it's inventive, and it’s one of the most promising players in the burgeoning craft sake scene led by young brewers and founders in their twenties to thirties. Something of a revolution is needed to make sakes that appeal to the younger crowd when stuffy traditional brewers are beginning to lose their audience in Japan.

 

 

The Mùa Classic is a solid offering that demonstrates the young brewery’s expertise. And while not every other sake I sampled would be a home run with every drinker (especially any funkier ones that include chili), each one told a pretty compelling story of its own and was very memorable in its own right.

If you're intrigued by the idea of unpolished rice sake, passionfruit infusions, or sparkling mulberry concoctions, keep an eye out for Mùa Saké at your favorite bars and restaurants in Singapore. You can also purchase a range of Mùa Saké from The Sake Company's online store! 

For those in the trade who are interested in carrying this exciting new brand, reach out to Wet Goods Distribution and The Sake Company for more information.

Kanpai!

88 Bamboo Editorial Team