In 1992, SakéOne (note not SakeOne) began as a saké importer. Eventually in 1997, the company expanded its operation and began brewing saké. Today the brewery produces four lines of saké ranging from the innovative Moonstone to the traditional Momokawa. Note that both sake and saké are appropriate spellings of the Japanese liquor made from fermented rice.
Visiting the brewery
On the southern edge of Forest Grove, SakéOne is about 25 miles from downtown Portland. It is a 30-minute drive in ideal traffic conditions. The brewery is in an industrial area of this Portland suburb with ample parking.
The tasting room has plenty of space for small or large gatherings. Additionally, SakéOne has a large patio that is ideal for Oregon summers.
Currently SakéOne has four lines: Yomi, g saké, Moonstone, and Momokawa. Yomi was the first canned sake (in 250 mL/8 oz. can) available in the United States. Yomi is junmai ginjo sake, which has a lower acidity with a medium body. It is 13% ABV. G saké is genshu, undiluted sake. There are two varieties of g saké, g fifty Genshu and g joy Genshu, which have different taste profiles. Both are 18% ABV.
Moonstone is SakéOne’s premium junmai ginjo sake with a twist. In order to appeal to the American palate, the company infused its premium sake with a unique combination of flavors. For example, you can sample cucumber mint, Asian pear, plum, and coconut lemongrass. The lineup is ideal for making cocktails. The tasting room regularly offers saketinis using the Moonstone line.
People who regularly drink sake will enjoy the Momokawa line. The junmai ginjo sake is about 14% ABV, but the tastes vary depending upon the brand. Momokawa Silver is dry and crisp while Momokawa Organic Nigori is lush, smooth, fruity, and floral. The Momokawa line is typically bottled, but Craft Momokawa is available in a 250 mL can. Regardless of an individual’s preferences, the line offers something for everyone. You can read more about sake from the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association (click here).
Additionally, people can join one of three beverage clubs. The club membership allows people, whether new or seasoned sake drinkers, to sample exclusive sake from the brewery and its Japanese import partners. Due to local regulations, SakéOne cannot ship to all states nor are all three clubs available in each state.
Touring the brewery
Tours originate in the tasting room, but quickly move to the production building that sits just a few feet away. As an homage to traditional sake brewing practices, the production building has four murals depicting sake production from the Edo period (roughly between 1603 and 1868).
Once inside the brewery, visitors start the tour with a diagram explaining the sake brewing process.
The rice mill is the first stop on the tour, as polishing the rice is the key difference between the different types of sake.
The next stop on the tour is the rice conveyor, which was built specifically for the brewery.
The next stop is the kōji room. Kōji, which is also known as Aspergillus oryzae, is a mold that turns rice into sugars. It is very sensitive to temperature and humidity, so it is stored in a cedar room where employees must wear protective gear so they do not introduce any unintended chemicals that may damage or kill the A. oryzae.
Following the brewing process, the sake is stored in large fermentation tanks.
The last two stops on the tour bring visitors to the Yabuta machine and the packaging line. The Yabuta machine is on the first floor, so visitors get the best view while walking to the aging tanks. The Yabuta machine is an automatic sake pressing machine that “squeezes” out fresh sake. The brewery uses a packaging line that is near the entrance to the production floor of the brewery. The packaging line is capable of bottling and canning sake.
A sacred space
In Japan, sake is closely connected to Shinto (an indigenous religion to Japan that emphasizes balance within nature). Sake is offered at Shinto shrines to the kami (gods and goddesses and other deified individuals). Shinto couples seal their wedding vows with sake. Shinto priests often perform a groundbreaking ceremony before a large construction project begins. Many Shinto practitioners keep a small shrine at home known as a kamidana. Due to the close relationship between sake and Shinto, SakéOne has a kamidana on the second floor.
Additionally, each year the company has a Shinto priest from Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America perform a purification ceremony before the traditional start of sake brewing in early October. The event was open to the public (read more here), but gained such popularity among SakéOne customers that only employees are allowed to attend.
Getting to the brewery
SakéOne is about a mile south of downtown Forest Grove, which is about a 25-minute walk or a 5-minute drive. It is not accessible via public transportation, as TriMet buses only travel east-west through Forest Grove. Rideshare companies operate in the area, but wait times can range from ten to twenty minutes.
Address: 820 Elm Street, Forest Grove, OR 97116
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tours are Fridays to Sundays at 1, 2, and 3 p.m.
Note: The global pandemic may affect hours and services. Check the brewery’s social media accounts for the most up-to-date information.
Accessibility: There are no steps in the tasting room. There are multiple steps in the production facility, but there is an elevator that allows visitors to reach the second floor.