Episode 100 Show Notes

Episode 100. This week, we reach a very special milestone – 100 episodes of Sake Revolution! John and Timothy planned to celebrate with a quiet and heartfelt Kanpai together to reflect on the last two years, but – a few interruptions got in the way. Our phones were suddenly blowing up with previous guests of Sake Revolution checking in. You won’t believe some of the breaking sake news and updates we received! Did Timothy and John ever get their quiet Kanpai together? Listen in to find out! A special thank you to all our previous guests, Patrons and listeners who have all supported us over 100 fun and sake-filled episodes! We couldn’t have done it without you. Here’s to the next 100 episodes! Kanpai!


Skip to: 00:19 Hosts Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy

Skip to: 3:57 Guest 1: Jamie Graves

Jamie Graves, Sake Sommelier
Jamie Joined us to give an update on his sake story. He is a well known sake Sommelier and he is the Japanese Portfolio Manager at Skurnik Wines where he has developed a catalog of impressive and hard to find sakes. Today he tells us about Shishinosato brand sake, made by Matsuura Shuzo in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Jamie appeared back in Episode 59, which you can listen to here:

Skip to: 10:58 Guest 2: Akiko Katayama

Author and Host of Japan Eats Akiko Katayama
Akiko Katayama is a food writer and Forbes.com columnist based in New York City, and the host and producer of “JAPAN EATS!” , a weekly radio show and podcast on Heritage Radio Network, which introduces Japanese food culture to a global audience. http://heritageradionetwork.org/series/japan-eats/. She is a board member of Heritage Radio Network as the Host Representative. She is also a director of the non-profit organization The New York Japanese Culinary Academy, which promotes a deeper understanding of Japanese cuisine in the US.

Akiko has worked as culinary advisor to the Japanese government and consulted for companies in the food & beverage industry. She also has served as a culinary judge on Food Network’s Iron Chef America multiple times and on Netflix Original The Final Table.

She is the author of “A Complete Guide to Japanese Cuisine”.

Akiko appeared back in Episode 60, which you can listen to here:

Skip to: 17:57 Guest 3: Chizuko Niikawa, Brandon Doughan, Brian Polen

Brandon Doughan (l), Brian Polen (r), owners of Brooklyn Kura
We had a great time talking to our friends Brian Polen and Brandon Doughan of New York’s Brooklyn Kura.

Contact Brian and Brandon:

Shop Brooklyn Kura Sakes and their Kura Kin Subscription Service:

Rice Stomping to make Kimoto
Brian and Brandon appeared back in Episode 28, which you can listen to here:

Chizuko Niikawa Helton, CEO Sake Discoveries
Despite a successful career as a fashion designer in Tokyo, with a sake sommelier certification in hand, Chizuko Niikawa-Helton embarked upon a life in sake in New York City. In 2008, focused on developing independent sake events and sake sales techniques designed to make sake more fun, delicious and smart, she founded her own consulting company, Sake Discoveries, LLC. Focused on increasing sake fans nationwide, she consults with restaurants across the country to develop unique sake lists and staff training programs. She has served as a judge for the U.S. National Sake Appraisal and in 2012, was awarded the prestigious title of Sake Samurai by the Japan Sake Brewers Association.
Learn more about Chizuko here:
Follow Sake Discoveries here:

Chizuko appeared back in Episode 12, which you can listen to here:

Skip to: 29:08 Guest 4: Ben Bell

Ben Bell, Arkansas Sake Brewer
Ben Bell is a sake professional and Arkansas native who began his drinks career in 2004 working in wine & spirits retail and later moved into restaurant bar management. He holds the Advanced Sake Professional Certification from the Sake Education Council and is a certified sake educator with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust based in London. He has lived in Japan and trained at two sake breweries including two seasons at Nanbu Bijin in Ninohe, Iwate. Ben is currently working on opening Origami Sake, the 1st sake brewery in Arkansas.

Ben appeared back in Episode 6, which you can listen to here:

Skip to: 40:02 Guest 5: Byron Stithem

Byron Stithem of Proper sake Co.
Photo: © Proper Sake Co.

We were so happy to get a check in wihh Byron Stithem, the owner and toji at Proper Sake Co. out of Nashville, Tennessee. Byron has been producing excellent sake down south since 2017 and has a soft spot for yamahai style sakes, given their depth of flavor, acidity and ability to pair well with non-Japanese cuisine. With a true pioneer spirit, Proper Sake Co. is blazing a trail and is the first port of entry to the world of sake for many consumers in Tennessee and beyond. Bryon crafts a fabulous and flavorful Yamahai Junmai called “the Diplomat” that combines balance, flavor and just the right amount of tart acidity, and is winning fans and followers across the region. With a new taproom and expanded brewery opening up later this year in East Nashville and new online sales distribution coming soon, be sure to check out Proper Sake Co. any chance you get for a fantastic introduction to what American sake can be. Kanpai, Byron!

Byron appeared back in Episode 66, which you can listen to here:

Skip to: 47:54 Guest 6: Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson, the Sake Ninja
. Chris is a certified Saké Sommelier, certified WSET Level 3 Saké Educator and in 2013 earned the distinguished title of Saké Samurai. Chris Johnson fell in love with Saké – and the culture and history that surround it – during the three years he spent living and working in the Japanese countryside.

Chris appeared back in Episode 8, which you can listen to here:

Skip to: 1:01:11 Patreon Thank Yous

Thank you to our top tier Patrons!

Susan McCormac JapanCultureNYC
Jillian Watanabe
Fumitaro Masaki
Lisa Limb
Shun Yamamoto
David Timmerman
Byron Stithem
Mark Hunter
Mitchell Cooley
Jp Erb
Chris Wood
Nathan Kelly
Will Jarvis
Michael Luo
Namazake Paul

Skip to: 1:05:45 Show Closing

This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!

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Episode 100 Transcript

John Puma: 0:22
Hello, everybody. And welcome to a very special Sake Revolution. This is America’s first sake podcast. I am your host, John Puma, from the Sake Notes. Also the administrator over at the internet Sake Discord, a fun destination to chit chat about sake And on the show, I have the distinction of being the guy who’s not the Sake Samurai.

Timothy Sullivan: 0:46
And I am your host, Timothy Sullivan. I am the Sake Samurai. I’m also a sake educator, and also the founder of the Urban Sake website. And every week John and I will be here tasting and chatting about all things sake and doing our best to make it fun and easy to understand.

John Puma: 1:03
Oh right. Tim. Let’s just get right to it. I mentioned that this is a very special episode. Why is this a very special episode?

Timothy Sullivan: 1:10
Well, I can’t believe I’m even saying it, but this is our 100th episode. How, how about them apples? That’s amazing.

John Puma: 1:19
Yeah. ah, we’ve been doing this for awhile now, Tim. That’s kinda great. And, and, uh, you know, I gotta say, it’s been, it’s been a lot of fun. I think that’s been a great experience making this, uh, uh, the show every week, with you. And it’s also been great. All the guests that we’ve had on the show over the years. Oh my God. We could say years now.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:43
It’s hard to believe. Yeah, we started right when the pandemic started and it’s been just an amazing time and not only the guests and chatting with you every week, John, but also all the sakes we’ve got to try. I feel like I’ve broadened my palate and reconnected with a whole bunch of sakes that I hadn’t seen in a long time. And it’s just been a wonderful excuse to get down deep and back into the world of sake in a very special way. So all that tasting has been really great.

John Puma: 2:17
yeah. Yeah. It has been, it’s been, um, uh, been a lot of fun and it’s been a really good time, and to celebrate today, we’re gonna have, like a regular episode. We’re going to drink some stuff.

Timothy Sullivan: 2:29

John Puma: 2:30
We’re gonna do something a little different. We’re actually gonna Kanpai a little bit earlier in the show.

Timothy Sullivan: 2:35
Yes. Well, John, you know, in Japanese culture, doing a kanpai together is very important. We do a kanapi at the end of every episode, but since it’s episode 100, I think you and I together just the two of us, we really have to do a special kanpai today. Don’t you think?

John Puma: 2:53
That’s right. I think that’s definitely the right thing to

Timothy Sullivan: 2:56

John Puma: 2:57
but first we should probably talk about what we’re going to be drinking. Oh, that’s a great idea. Why don’t you go first?

Timothy Sullivan: 3:03
All right. Well, I went back deep into the archives and I looked back at what we did for episode 25 and we had celebrated 25 episodes and I had a special sparkling sake back then. It’s the Hawkeye song, our clear sparkling. And I brought that out again. I thought what better way to celebrate a hundred episodes than something bubbly and delicious. So I have the Hakkaisan AWA.

John Puma: 3:30
Very nice. Um, I don’t have anything bubbly today, but I did have a special bottle in my fridge that I. I felt this would be a good enough occasion for, and so I have the, the new, the Masumi, uh, Nanago Yamahai, Junmai Daiginjo and this is like a new version of it. So think of it as kind of the non-ego 2.0, in a way.

Timothy Sullivan: 3:57
Oh, John what’s that?

John Puma: 4:00
I think we have a call. Hold on, hold on. Let’s see.

Timothy Sullivan: 4:04
Let’s see. Who is here? Someone’s ringing in. Hold on.

John Puma: 4:08
Oh, hello?

Timothy Sullivan: 4:10
it’s Jamie Graves.

John Puma: 4:12
fancy meeting you here.

Jamie Graves: 4:13
I know I, how did you guys show up here?

Timothy Sullivan: 4:18
I just want to remind everyone that Jamie joined us for episode 59 and that was back in June of 2021. And Jamie, have you had any, uh, sake discoveries or any, uh, adventures in the world of sake since we talked to you back in June?

Jamie Graves: 4:35
yes. I mean, I think surprisingly, you know, since we, we obviously it’s, it’s been very difficult to go to Japan. Um, I knew I have some friends who’ve been able to, to go, but obviously it’s quite a process you have to quarantine. Um, and then with, you know, so the end of last year, things got more difficult, but, have, had a chance to try some really interesting things. Some new things we’ll have, uh, here in the U S I’m really excited. Hannah Kershner who you guys know who worked at, uh, Matsuura Shuzo out in Ishikawa, uh, she brought back some samples of the sake, uh, that she helped, make some of the, the Shishinosato samples. And I was a little bit nervous cause I know that she, you know, she was very excited. Obviously she knows them, and was very excited about making it, but I didn’t know, like how good is the sake going to be? What kind of style it’s going to be? Um, and it’s, it was just beautiful. had four examples, from them. They are kind of extremely well-made sake and an extremely unflashy manner. everything is kind of bright, clean, not super fruity, not super, um, nutty or anything. Just really tight and well-defined structure and one of the best sparkling sakes I’ve ever had, which is not a category I really get excited about. it’s kinda all over the place. I think a lot of sparkling sake, this is my maybe unpopular opinion. It’s sort of putting the cart before the horse. It’s like looking at things like champagne and being like, we should do something like that as opposed to kind of a natural evolution of it. Um, but the story of the Shishinosato Sen sparkling sake was apparently a happy accident that he bottled something a little bit early and it sort of naturally, you know, developed the bubbles. and then he thought, wow, this is pretty exciting. but that was really, it’s really nice cause it’s not, I think some sparkling sake just tries to be really sort of sweet and expensive and some tries to really be as close to like champagne or sparkling wine as possible. And this was like legitimately a sake. It tasted like rice, it had this kind of light sweetness to it, but, um, was really just really appealing bubbles, really soft bubbles to it. really, really cool.

Timothy Sullivan: 6:35
is that something you’re going to be bringing in or, or is it just something you tasted?

Jamie Graves: 6:39
we’re working on it now. Yes. Um, I’m currently working with matsuura-san,. He’s a very small artisinal brewery that apparently it’s like, you can get it locally in Ishikawa. And there’s like two or three restaurants in Tokyo and that’s about it. Um, so it’s kind of a minor miracle. We’ll be able to, um, to bring that here.

Timothy Sullivan: 6:56
Let, let me extend the invitation now that when you do get it, we’re going to have you back on the show. Maybe episode 562, but I don’t know when that’ll happen.

John Puma: 7:07
Yeah. Um, so, uh, Jamie had a really quick question, um, regarding that process of bringing sake in, how has the last two years kind of impacted that for you? Has it made it any more difficult? has it made some of the breweries more eager to get their stuff out? Uh, we all know that there’s like all sorts of shipping problems, but outside of that, just a general, like from an interest standpoint, are you seeing like kind of more or less?

Jamie Graves: 7:31
I’m seeing a ton of interest from, uh, makers in Japan to see about getting their stuff in the U S so I think that’s just a matter of, as I’m sure you guys are, many of our listeners know I’m a lot of the way that Japan dealt with, COVID-19 was by restricting sales of alcohol in restaurants, under the idea that, you know, if people are getting kind of, you know, the more they drink they’ll get careless and maybe they’ll, won’t be as diligent about mask wearing. I think that was kind of the idea, but I know on the making side, they saw a significant hit, uh, because of that. also, sake, even in Japan as much more of a restaurant thing than, than it’s an at-home thing. So I think less people going out, has really impacted that. So I, I spoke to a lot of makers over the past two years who maybe they would have never considered the U.S. before, but now it’s kind of, um, you know, it’s hedging their bets. It’s basically being like, oh, let’s see if we’ll have a little bit interested in the U S so if you know, there’s difficulties in Japan, at least we have that. So I think a whopping, yeah, I mean, that was actually the, what started this whole, Shishinosato conversation. He’s so tiny, he sells, normally sells out of everything. but he’d made a lot of this sparking sake for the Olympics, which never fully happened in the way that I, you know, everybody was just painting it, being this big tourism, economic boom thing. So that was kind of what started the conversation as he had sort of extra of this sparkling sake. and then just sort of went from there and then spoke to a bunch of different people. but then the actual logistical processes have gotten harder. I mean, just things like that. The government is moving slower to register things. as you guys heard actually shipping from Japan has gotten astronomically expensive compared to what it was. so it’s a little bit of both, but it’s exciting to see, so many great breweries in Japan who would normally say like, oh, we don’t, you know, we’re, we’re good. We’ve got all of our sake here in Japan. It’s a little bit more interest in, in selling, in other places now. Uh, so it’s exciting. I think maybe not just myself, but a lot of other companies we’ll hopefully see some new things here in the U.S. It’s, so it’s been at least lucky for us knowing that there’s there’s fans on this side of the, uh, the ocean, uh, that are thirsty and excited.

John Puma: 9:36
Tim you’re are you thirsty and excited?

Timothy Sullivan: 9:38
I was born thirsty and excited. Excellent.

John Puma: 9:44
Yeah. so Jamie, thank you for, uh, for calling and, uh, for spending a couple of minutes with us, we really appreciate it. we’d like to send you out with a little kanpai if that’s all right.

Jamie Graves: 9:57

Timothy Sullivan: 9:57
Jamie, thank you so much for joining us, checking in on us for our episode. 100. Great to see you again. And we can’t wait to have you back sometime before episode 200, for sure.

Jamie Graves: 10:10
Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. And this is exciting. I can’t believe we’re already at episode 100. That’s a big accomplishment.

Timothy Sullivan: 10:16
Thank you so

John Puma: 10:16
Yeah, it’s weird.

Timothy Sullivan: 10:17
Yeah. All right, Jamie. Well, here’s to you and, uh, thanks again so much for coming. Good to see you.

Jamie Graves: 10:24
Okay. Thanks

Timothy Sullivan: 10:25
Come Kanpai.

Jamie Graves: 10:26

John Puma: 10:26
kanpai. Oh, well, it’s really nice of Jamie to stop by.

Timothy Sullivan: 10:31
That was so sweet.

John Puma: 10:32

Timothy Sullivan: 10:33
What a great guy.

John Puma: 10:34
where, where were we before we were interrupted? Uh,

Timothy Sullivan: 10:38
it’s been a while now, but we’ve you and I have been wanting to do our own kanpai and celebrate these 100 episodes together. And, I have a few things to say to you, John, and some very sincere thank you. So I’d like to get to, but, uh, What’s it. I think that’s another

John Puma: 10:58
Uh, I think this is going to be a thing. I think it’s going to be a thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. One second, one second.

Timothy Sullivan: 11:07
it’s a Kiko Katayama Akiko. Thank you for joining us. How are you?

Akiko Katayama: 11:12
Very good! Very honored to join in such a special episode

Timothy Sullivan: 11:17
Yes, just to remind our listeners. We had you on episode 60, which was back in June of 2021.

John Puma: 11:25
and for a bonus, uh, we were actually guests on Akiko as podcast. Uh, Japan eats, uh, back in. Oh, when was that?

Akiko Katayama: 11:36
was, um, the October, 2021. Yeah. And, uh, that was, um, you discover like sake now, what? That was

Timothy Sullivan: 11:49
what? Yes.

Akiko Katayama: 11:51
Educational episodes.

Timothy Sullivan: 11:53
Yes. So what have you been up to, Akiko? What’s what’s your sake life been like since, uh, back in June 21.

Akiko Katayama: 12:01
Um, I had a mini interesting sake guest on my show, Japan Eats. And so I looked up and I had mark Chris and Mark Isbell, of Isbell farms in Arkansas where they grow lots of interesting sake rice. And, um, there’s no sake, but shochu you so that, that Amano of American shochu company in Maryland. And, um, this was an interesting one so much you of Nami Sake in Mexico. That’s the first sake brewery Mexico. And, uh, and also week Johnson of wines and spirits in Georgia who makes American rice koji spirits, which not, they don’t call it shochu, but they intentionally call it American rice koji spirits because it’s like they use very heirloom, local rice from the American south. So they use a co Koji. So it’s American products and Japanese tradition.

Timothy Sullivan: 13:03
Wow. Yeah. Well, we will link to all of those episodes in our show notes. So if anyone wants to check out any of the shows that Akiko just mentioned from her podcast, Japan eats, check out our show notes and we’ll link you right there. That’s fantastic. Well, you’re putting us to shame with all that awesome sake content.

Akiko Katayama: 13:25

John Puma: 13:25
yeah, we have to step it up.

Timothy Sullivan: 13:30
Now we we’ve we’re. This is our hundredth episode. Akiko. How many episodes have you done on Japan Eats?

Akiko Katayama: 13:37
Um, I’ve done just over 250.

Timothy Sullivan: 13:40
Whoa. That’s amazing.

John Puma: 13:43
some catching up to do

Timothy Sullivan: 13:45
Again, putting us to shame.

Akiko Katayama: 13:49
No, it goes fast and there’s so many interesting people interview and just learn from that’s very exciting. Now you have so many people to interview, so good luck.

Timothy Sullivan: 14:00
Yeah. Do you have any advice for us for the next hundred and 50 episodes?

Akiko Katayama: 14:05
No, keep going. I really learn a lot from, uh, each episode. I’ve never missed any single episode of Sake Revolution and, uh, yeah. And I really enjoy like the latest extreme series. That’s fun. And, uh, I’m looking forward to next, you know, the Sake Rice, we, uh, kind of nerdy beginning to the details. I really learned a lot. from you guys, so

Timothy Sullivan: 14:31
if you’re looking for nerdy, you’re definitely on the right podcast. I think.

John Puma: 14:35
yes, I think so. Yeah. I love that we have series like that. It’s always a lot of fun to, uh, come up with, like, you know, oh, we gotta do an episode on this kind of rice, or we have to do an episode about this brand or something like that. So that’s always been, that’s always been a highlight for me when, when making the show and planning it out is like, you know, you’re getting, getting to really explore these series. And we, I think we’re overdue for some wild rice, tim, we

Timothy Sullivan: 15:02
we got to keep those rice episodes coming

John Puma: 15:04

Akiko Katayama: 15:05
Yeah. And also the please do more prefecture series too.

John Puma: 15:11
Well, we recently did one of those. there are many more prefectures to go though. I think we have to, you have to definitely touch on them

Akiko Katayama: 15:18
Yeah. And I think, uh, you can start traveling to Japan too, so you can have live episode from Japan. I hope soon.

Timothy Sullivan: 15:27
You know, that was, that was the idea from the beginning, John and I were going to go regularly to Japan and do our podcast from there, but we haven’t really left our living rooms yet. So, Akiko, do you have any sake within reach?

Akiko Katayama: 15:41
Yes, of course. So, um, because it’s the, your podcast is America’s first, sake podcast. I thought I have to toast with the American sake. I got this, um, North American Sake Brewery and, uh, that’s from actually. My guest, um, he was on 219. So that’s then, uh, um, real magic, that’s Junmai, award-winning junmai sake. So this is my, uh, special designated toast, amazing podcast.

Timothy Sullivan: 16:19
Wonderful. Well, let’s get it in the glass and let’s do a kanpai.

John Puma: 16:24

Timothy Sullivan: 16:28

Akiko Katayama: 16:31

Timothy Sullivan: 16:32
Thank you so much. I could go. Yeah. You were a real inspiration to us and we appreciate all your support.

Akiko Katayama: 16:38
Yeah. Congratulations. I really enjoy, I look forward to new episodes every week, so yeah. Keep up

Timothy Sullivan: 16:45

Akiko Katayama: 16:45
the great work

Timothy Sullivan: 16:46
of you to say you have no idea what that means to us coming from you. That is so special and so nice of you to say.

John Puma: 16:56

Akiko Katayama: 16:57
Yeah. So

John Puma: 16:57

Timothy Sullivan: 16:58

Akiko Katayama: 16:58
hopefully we can toast somewhere in person sometime soon.

John Puma: 17:02
That’d be nice.

Timothy Sullivan: 17:04
look forward to that. And thanks. Thanks for joining us today. It was very special to have you, uh, and, uh, we really so nice to see you and we’ll, we’ll be in touch with you soon. Okay.

Akiko Katayama: 17:15
Yeah, definitely. Thank you so much. I’m honored to be here.

John Puma: 17:18
Thank you again.

Timothy Sullivan: 17:20
All right.

John Puma: 17:21
all right. wow. That was really a nice of Akiko to give us a call. I thought that was really nice. And she always has such kind words for us. It’s really, really so encouraging, right? Yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 17:35
Yes. She is a great inspiration. Maybe one day John will make it to 250 episodes like she has.

John Puma: 17:42
God-willing uh, so, having said all of that, Tim it’s it’s time for you and I to have our early kanpai.

Timothy Sullivan: 17:54
And again, you know, this kanpai is special for us to celebrate this 100th episode

John Puma: 18:02
Uh, uh, you want, you want to get that?

Timothy Sullivan: 18:06
the phone is just ringing off the hook today. All right, hold on. Hold on. Let’s see who.

Brandon Doughan: 18:11

Timothy Sullivan: 18:13
Oh, my

John Puma: 18:14

Brandon Doughan: 18:15
What’s up.

Timothy Sullivan: 18:16
Okay. So, we have a very special group calling in for our 100 episode. We have the folks from Brooklyn Kura. We have Brian Polan and Brandon Doughan, and we also have Ms. Caliente herself. Chizuko Niikawa-Helton, Miss Hot Sake!.

Brandon Doughan: 18:37

Timothy Sullivan: 18:38
Hi everyone.

John Puma: 18:40
bye guys. And we were leading with that this time.

Brian Polen: 18:44
And this 10 minutes.

John Puma: 18:46
Yeah. So, you guys just completed your, Kimoto day event, tell the people at home what that was all about.

Brandon Doughan: 18:53
so we, we make a Greenwood Kimoto, once a year now, I guess it’s become a tradition. and, and so, you know, the kimoto shubo, it’s this lacto fermentation, multi organism thing that happens and, very old and, and the way that we kick it off is we have children stomp on the rice and the Koji and the water. Uh, and it’s, it seems to work very well. So, so if you come to Industry City where we’re located, uh, we opened up our rice washing area and we put out, um, our tubs, um, the rice and Koji and water, and we just invited, uh, kids and stuff. Big kid, adults,

Timothy Sullivan: 19:40
kids at

Brandon Doughan: 19:40
um and, uh, stomp on the rice. Uh, uh, so we’ll, we’re looking masserate that and for a few days and then get it into a tank and that’s going to be our shubo for this year is Greenwood kimoto.

Brian Polen: 19:53
Especially last year’s Greenwood Kimoto won, this, uh, best in class

Brandon Doughan: 19:59
for the San Francisco international wine comp, took like the sake field

Brian Polen: 20:05
and then there were children’s feet in that one. So I think that’s the secret sauce.

Brandon Doughan: 20:10
I’m I’m I particularly like that, like there’s child labor involved as production of alcohol is my favorite thing about it.

Timothy Sullivan: 20:19
wonderful. I want to remind our listeners that we had, uh, Brandon and Brian on in October, 2020 back in episode 28. Chizuzko, you joined us for episode 12 back in June of 2020. Yeah. So have you had any big sake adventure since June of 2020 or any sake story you want to tell

Chizuko Niikawa-Helton: 20:44
well, well, I guess so many kind of, you know, online seminars that we have done, you know, and then not only for the sake industry, people actually, so many kind of, you know, the, IT people that go farm, you know, the Bankers, you know, it’s completely different industry people. Weren’t getting more into sake and they want to learn, well, sake you know, more virtually. So it was kind of a big challenge it’s will on us, but it, it was a great opportunity to talk, teach, you know, sake to new new people. So that’s kinda, you know, it’s really, really good, right. things, you know, even pandemic was not great, but of course there’s something kind of positive, you know?

Timothy Sullivan: 21:30
Yeah. So you took lemons and you made a sparkling Yamahai or something like that. That’s awesome. Great. Well, do you think chizuko, do you think we’re going to be getting back to more in-person events like you’re doing today?

Chizuko Niikawa-Helton: 21:45
Actually next week, you know that I have my first, uh, the business trip. To DC. So in person, yes,

Brian Polen: 21:57
She’ll be carrying bottles of Brooklyn Kura with, I guess,

John Puma: 22:04
Just got to this, you got to smuggle it in your luggage without your knowing. She didn’t get to DC. Like where’d all this Brooklyn kura come from.

Timothy Sullivan: 22:13
And Brian, what about you? Do you have any exciting things that have happened since you were on in October, 2020?

Brian Polen: 22:19
I mean, ultimately we just continue to try and make the best document that we can, but we are expanding. You’re seeing us in more places you’re hearing about kind of the things we’re making, why we’re making them. And we, we partnered with a Japanese brewery called Hakkaisan, and that’s that, that investment has allowed us to really think through a larger scale facility so that we can kind of meet what we believe the demand to be, but also just have a larger impact on, on the industry, which we’re really excited about. And the role we play is pretty focused. It’s really about bringing more people into the sake sphere, getting them excited about the category and motivating them to drink other sakes. And so we think in this new facility and with this partnership, we can just continue to work on that front, which is really our primary.

Timothy Sullivan: 23:10
Well, I think that requires a kanpai. Don’t you John?

John Puma: 23:14
I, I believe you are correct, sir.

Timothy Sullivan: 23:17

John Puma: 23:18

Timothy Sullivan: 23:19
Thank you guys so much. Yeah, well, thank you for joining us for episode 100.

Brandon Doughan: 23:26

Chizuko Niikawa-Helton: 23:27
Congratulations on

Brandon Doughan: 23:28
your a hundred shows.

Timothy Sullivan: 23:31
Thank you guys so much.

John Puma: 23:32
it’s been a, it’s been a long road

Timothy Sullivan: 23:37
But we couldn’t have done it without your support. All three of you have been such great supporters of us and we just want to say a sincere thank you for helping us out behind the scenes in so many different ways.

Brandon Doughan: 23:47
yeah, both both are super supporters of us and Chizuko. So we appreciate that.

Timothy Sullivan: 23:52
And I can’t wait to get my hands on this, Kimoto stomped by, children’s rubber boots.

John Puma: 23:59
By the youngins.

Timothy Sullivan: 24:00
the Youngins. Yes. Fantastic. All right, well, thank you guys so much for checking in and we will see you out there on the sake trails. Can’t wait to drink with you and kanpai with you again in person real soon.

John Puma: 24:15

Timothy Sullivan: 24:18
Thank you guys. Bye. Bye. God, that was nice. Chizuko Brian and Brandon. They are such sweethearts and they were busy with their Kimoto event at Brooklyn Kura, but they took the time to give us a call and check in with us. That was really sweet.

John Puma: 24:36
Yeah. I mean, if I were stomping on rice, I don’t know if I’d be able to make it. So I’m really glad that they took a few minutes out of their day. Uh, it’s always good to hear from those guys and I’m kind of overdue for a visit to Brooklyn Kura. I need to see what’s new in the Taproom.

Timothy Sullivan: 24:52
Me too. And I want to get my hands on this Kimoto sake that they’re talking about.

John Puma: 24:57
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Timothy Sullivan: 25:00
they’re always making interesting stuff. They’re always, you know, they’re really innovating. Aren’t they, they’re trying lots of new unique things.

John Puma: 25:07
I like that. They are doing that. Yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 25:10
Now John, before we get to our Kanpai, you and I are special Kanpai together. Uh, do you have any takeaways from a hundred episodes? Anything that’s stuck with you or.

John Puma: 25:22
Um, well, I will say one thing it has been. Like doing this, doing this every week, you kind of like, you, you, it becomes like part of your life. You kind of know that like, okay, I’m going to be recording on this day. I’m going to be editing on this day. And it’s just kind of like becomes part of your flow part of your what you expect to do when you’ve been doing it for a hundred weeks. Um, and it’s something I really look forward to doing in a lot of cases. And, you know, I like planning for this. I like being able to execute on it. guys and gals at home, we sit down and have to figure out what we want to do because we have to coordinate a lot of cases. Um, our sake purchases, we have to see what’s available and where we can get it. And if we, both of us can get it, if it’s something that we can really only get one bottle of, we’ve got a range of meeting in real life to split the bottle and things like that. And they’re, you know, they’re just things that, they are a little behind the scenes stuff that people really don’t see, but they’re the, you know, things, little things like that too. I really look forward to doing, it’s just a lot of fun to work out these problems and solve them. Uh, and then, and then come up with what we hope every week is a, is a fun, entertaining episode for everybody at home.

Timothy Sullivan: 26:34

John Puma: 26:35
What about you?

Timothy Sullivan: 26:37
Hmm. I, I think for me, one of the most fun. Parts has been coming up with show ideas, like all the, all the series that we’ve concocted and kind of come up with ideas. I feel like it’s been a hundred episodes and I would have thought we would run out of ideas or things to talk about regarding sake, but the more we do it, the more interesting, fun ideas you and I both come up with. And for me, that’s been one of the most fun and exciting things is just playing around with show ideas, seeing how they pan out, uh, late breaking news, but we don’t knock it out of the park every single week, but, but some weeks we really have a lot of fun. And I think that comes across on the podcast. And, uh, it’s, there’s also something to be said for good or bad. Just going. You know, if you hit a speed bump or you don’t have the best episode ever get back up on the horse,

John Puma: 27:37
It just means, it just means next week’s episode. You just take that. If you take what you’ve learned and you move on. Uh, yeah, for me, it’s funny when I’m doing the initial editing run sometimes like when I’m listening, I’ll like laugh out loud at certain things, like when I’m doing them. And I’m like, when that happens to me, when I’m editing, I’m like, this is going to be a good episode. Like if it’s, if it’s getting me to crack up when I’m putting it together, like that’s, um, I, I got really confident. That’s going to be a fun one to do because.

Timothy Sullivan: 28:09
own dad joke.

John Puma: 28:10
When I, well, you’re, you’re the one with the dad jokes.

Timothy Sullivan: 28:15
Oh no, it’s true.

John Puma: 28:18
it’s true. It is very, very true to I’m sorry. It, no one has no one told you this. did we ever tell the, the, the,

Timothy Sullivan: 28:28

John Puma: 28:29
sake revolution, uh, extended family here that, um, got recognized once because of my laugh, like somebody, cause I was laughing at a, at a restaurant and somebody was a bar and somebody realized that I, that it was me and asked like the manager, uh, if that was, if I was, if this person was John Puma and then came over and said, hello, and that they were a big fan of the podcast.

Timothy Sullivan: 28:57
wow. You’re famous. Your laugh is famous.

John Puma: 29:00
Apparently. And I didn’t realize that.

Timothy Sullivan: 29:02
Your laugh is famous in sake bars across New York city only.

John Puma: 29:08
Oh boy. Uh, I want to take a moment I want to raise my glass, uh, and celebrate a hundred episodes with son of a,

Timothy Sullivan: 29:21
John. I think someone else wants to talk with us.

John Puma: 29:26
do we have to, can we do our Kanpai first and

Timothy Sullivan: 29:28
no, no, That would be rude. Alright. Okay. Here we go. Let’s see who it is.

Ben Bell: 29:32

Timothy Sullivan: 29:33
Oh my gosh. It is Mr. Ben Bell, who has joined us. Ben. You were our very first interview back in may of 2020 on the podcast. Thank you so much for checking in with us. How are you doing

Ben Bell: 29:48
Yes. Thank you. I’m I’m doing well. And of course it was, uh, wasn’t always will be, uh, a great honor that you actually made me your first guest. So,

Timothy Sullivan: 29:58
well? I have to, I have to confess, we had no idea what we were doing back then, but you were an awesome first guests and we’re, we’re glad the episode even came together. So, uh, but it’s an honor to have you back and, uh, we really have to know what have you been up to since May, 2020, uh, what’s going on in your sake life?

Ben Bell: 30:18
yeah, when I first came on, I had just moved to New York and started a great job, uh, up here in, uh, at Skurnik wines, Skurnik wines and spirits, uh, working on the, the Japan portfolio. And, you know, it’s, it’s been a great time. It’s been, you know, uh, uh, kind of a crazy time because the job has been so good, but also there was a global pandemic. So, you know, it’s, uh, things to love things to not love so much, but, uh, and I’ve learned a ton, but, uh, you know, my, my big update, my big news is I’m actually going to be leaving Skurnik and returning to my home state, Arkansas to start, start it start a new sake brewery.

Timothy Sullivan: 31:01
what, oh my gosh, this is breaking news. This is breaking news

Ben Bell: 31:06
Yes. I don’t know if your other returning guests will have like, you know, big breaking news, but I’ve got that’s that’s my breaking news.

Timothy Sullivan: 31:13
we’ll tell us everything.

John Puma: 31:15

Ben Bell: 31:16
I’m sure I mentioned this, you know, and on the first time I was there, uh, on your show, I’ve been working for so many years, uh, with the dream of opening my own sake brewery in Arkansas. Uh, and it was really kind of a deviation to come up to, you know, to, to New York. And I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to come back to this, but, I got, a great partner, a guy named Matt Bell uh, was gung ho about, uh, making sake happen in Arkansas. And he really sort of took up the mantle. Of course, the, uh, the Isbell family has been growing great sake rice in Arkansas and kind of putting the state on the map, uh, from the, from the growing side. And just a lot of things came together and made it look like something I could, I could return to. And, you know, we’ve got a good shot at making great, great sake. You know, of course, we’ve got the sake rice, Arkansas has great. Uh, my, my partner, Matt bell, his background is in green building. So we’re very much looking to be a carbon neutral operation, which I’m excited about. Uh, yeah. Uh, yeah, it’s great. It’s amazing to have a partner who knows a really good kind of lead certification, eco friendly build-out stuff like that. So, yeah. And then, uh, we’re going to be in the city of Hot Springs, uh, which in addition to being where I went to high school, uh, Hot Springs has a great sister city relationship with, uh, the city of Hanamaki in Iwate prefecture in Japan. And what remains to be one of the great coincidences. I feel like in sake, uh, Hanamaki is the home of the Nanbu Toji brewing Guild. So, uh, yeah, which is how I ended up getting, uh, my two years of training over at Nanbu Bijin brewery. Uh, so yeah, it’s all coming together. I feel like it’s, uh, all of the, all of the pieces coming together again.

John Puma: 33:12
That’s awesome. Yeah.

Ben Bell: 33:15
So yeah, it’s a, the building, the construction is, is already happening. I’m still up in New York. I’ll be returning in a few weeks, but I’m seeing photos and videos all the time of the progress. It’s really exciting. I have to say it’s kind of like a, it’s a. Kind of emotional feeling to be back on track, uh, doing this and kind of working, going my big, very ambitious dream of having a whole, you know, not just one sake brewery in Arkansas, but you know, having a whole brewing industry built off of are, you know, are already very good rice industry. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this to you before, but Arkansas is the number one grower of rice in the United States. Maybe I’ve maybe I’ve brought that up in a, in a conversation at some point. Uh, but yeah, of course I kid because I bring this up with everybody, uh, and view either the Delta in general is just like, it is the, the rice growing heart of the U S and of course, of course, California is a great rice growing region as well. Uh, but I feel like sake has a natural home in the Delta and you know, I’m from Arkansas. So, you know, I’m, I’m going to be working on the Arkansas side, but I really want to see that whole region, you know, sort of prosper and have this new, interesting thing, uh, to be a part of a thing that they’re already really good at.

John Puma: 34:32
Uh, I remember many years ago, you telling me, oh, there’s, there’s a, a guy in Arkansas, who’s going to start growing sake, rice. And I was like, well, we’ll see, we’ll see if that pans out, because like, it’s not like, you know, a lot of people have ideas and things don’t always work the way we, uh, we want them to, and now flash forward to where we are now. And, and there’s very much SAKE, rice being made in Arkansas. And you are, you are, you were ahead of the game when you, when you, uh, told me that. It’s kind of been, it’s kind of an awesome to see it happen. And a lot of people, uh, a lot of domestic breweries are getting their rice from there, from, from isbell farms. And it’s been really exciting to watch.

Ben Bell: 35:17
Yeah. It’s amazing to me. I feel like, credit to Chris Isbell and his son Mark who’s, uh, taking a lot over a lot of the operations now, but Chris and I had lunch out in the delta. I want to say back in 2007 or 2008, something like that. When we first, first kinda talking about, you know, making sake and he was already growing the growing some of the rice, mostly doing tests and, but really a credit credit to his family for just taking the chance to do that. And I, you know, still, still working hard to, uh, really grow that and make it a part of, you know, what’s being done out there. but there were amazing farmers, which by the way, I have to say, uh, Isbell family has the most amazing, uh, social media. If you ever want to see how, how a really great rice farm is, run, check them out on, uh, Instagram or Twitter. Just look for it. Search for Isbell farms. You’ll find it. That’s it’s amazing stuff. See the people you see the fields, how things are worked. Uh, it’s great insight that I think you don’t normally get to see.

Timothy Sullivan: 36:22
Yeah, they do. They do have a very funny Instagram, so I’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes. So uh, well, thank you so much for joining us for our 100th episode. It’s kind of hard to believe that, you know, after you were with us on episode six,

John Puma: 36:36

Timothy Sullivan: 36:37

Ben Bell: 36:39
Yes. And I, and I didn’t even say congratulations on your 100th episode, uh, like a real amazing accomplishment, of course, we’ve talked many times about how there’s no sake podcast and there needs to be a sake podcast and, I feel like things are really coming along for sake and y’all have been a big part of it. So kudos to you.

Timothy Sullivan: 36:59
well, you have as well. when can we expect sake to come from Arkansas?

Ben Bell: 37:06
So we are starting our test batches next month. And by all, I should tell you the name of the company. Uh, yeah, sure. It’s a Origami Sake Company. So, uh, be, be looking for this name soon. we’re going to start test batches in about a month and we’re hoping to get some commercial brewing going. By the end of the year. You never know how these things go, but this is, you know, that’s, that’s our, that’s our plan. Uh, but I mean, basically the gist of it is we are, we are moving. So it’s, uh, you’re going to see sake from us sooner rather than later.

John Puma: 37:43
Wow. Well, if you, if you needed any opinions on test batches, we’re here

Ben Bell: 37:46
Yes. I may, I may need some, some tasting help some evaluation, so yes,

Timothy Sullivan: 37:51
And I’m going to put in, I’m going to put in the request now to have you back on the podcast for origami episode coming in the future.

Ben Bell: 38:01

John Puma: 38:01
of our, part of our north American brewers

Ben Bell: 38:04
Oh yeah. Yeah. It’d be my pleasure for sure.

Timothy Sullivan: 38:08
Yeah. So be sure to pencil us in, on your social media calendar, in your new company.

Ben Bell: 38:12
yes, certainly.

John Puma: 38:16
Yeah. All right. Well, Ben, thank you very much for stopping by and, uh, and you know, giving us this, this breaking news, that’s kind of exciting, kind of awesome. So

Ben Bell: 38:26
Yeah. I think thank you so much for having me on. Yes.

Timothy Sullivan: 38:29
we can’t wait to learn more. And then you’ve been such a supporter and enthusiast for the sake industry. I am personally so happy to see this dream working out for you. I know it’s been a dream delayed. We are so psyched and stoked for you. We’re going to miss you here in New York, but, uh, all the more reason to check in on zoom and, uh, visit when we can. So we can’t wait to see more of you.

Ben Bell: 38:52
Thanks. Thank you so much. Yeah. You know, I’ll always be around and, uh, be back up with some sake soon enough.

Timothy Sullivan: 38:58
All right. as long as I’ve known Ben, he has been wanting to have a sake brewery in Arkansas and that dream is built right now.

John Puma: 39:08
Yeah. It’s it is very exciting. Uh, you know, I think it’s new York’s last though will

Timothy Sullivan: 39:14

John Puma: 39:15
sake industry’s gain.

Timothy Sullivan: 39:17
Yes. And I we’ve had sake from all over the country and I’m really excited to see what Arkansas water and terroir is going to bring to the table. So I’m super excited to try their sake when it’s ready.

John Puma: 39:31
That’d be a lot of fun.

Timothy Sullivan: 39:32
this is just turned out to be a very surprising episode, 100 lots of things happening I wasn’t expecting, but John, getting back to that kanpai for you and me, you know, I have a few things I want to say and, um, very heartfelt and for me it’s important to, um, let you know a few things about,

John Puma: 40:02

Timothy Sullivan: 40:02
okay, John, you better get this one.

John Puma: 40:04
All right. All right, I’ll get it. I’ll get it.

Timothy Sullivan: 40:07

John Puma: 40:08
Hello. It is, uh, it is Byron Stitham from Proper Sake. people at home, may remember, Byron was a guest on episode 66 of our show when we had a very rare, uh, opportunity to, to sit down in person and sip sake together. The three of us, it was a good time.

Byron Stithem: 40:31
Yeah. So I think where we left off, we were in the process of building out our new facility and, uh, I believe our first batch got underway back in October and we press that, in late December. And so I actually just pressed the second batch in the space this week, um, at a small fiasco with the Fune. A but otherwise things are going pretty well. I’m sitting in our new taproom that I’ve been building out over the last few weeks as well. And trying to get these doors open, hopefully by probably June for our bar here.

Timothy Sullivan: 41:09
Wow. That is breaking news for the sake world.

Chris Johnson: 41:14
Yeah. So yeah,

Byron Stithem: 41:15
you have it here first. Um, I think we’re going to open probably June 15th or 16th. Um, and we’re going to call the bar rice vice. So it’ll be rice, vice proper sake bar.

John Puma: 41:29
I like it. I like it a

Timothy Sullivan: 41:30
uh, that is going to be in Nashville, Tennessee. Correct.

John Puma: 41:35
Hmm. All right. Cool. So, um, I believe one of the things that we talked about when you were last on was, uh, that you’re, you’re one of the only. Domestic brewers that really likes to dig into those really funky styles of sake. yamahai, you were, you told us that you were messing around with, what other types of Moto like, kimoto, and I think you even had a bodaimoto in the works at the time. Uh, have you continued to like journey down that road?

Byron Stithem: 42:07
I’m always, you know, in perpetual pursuit of, of different things from the past that can perhaps be modernized or just reacquainted, with the future. so yeah, uh, somewhat, I also have been pretty bogged down just trying to keep our main, distribution lines up and running. So the big to-do over the last several months. Seeing how much production of our flagship items I can get up and running and finally fulfill some orders. Um, we also, uh, won a double gold medal at a New York international sake competition, which was the same sake that I brought to you guys back in July, that same varietals. So that’s also been selling really well and trying to figure out how to make enough to, uh, appease the masses.

Timothy Sullivan: 42:55
Yeah. Congratulations. That’s really exciting. So do you already have the lineup for your new taproom? As far as which sakes you’ll be pouring in the new taproom?

Byron Stithem: 43:05
well, definitely those flagship items, of course. Um, and then over the next couple months, really trying to dig into some smaller batch ferments and some more experimental or. Pre-modern styles that either I’ve done before and need to make some more of, or different styles that I’d like to experiment with some more. but the other cool thing that we’re working on is getting in a lot of Japanese sakes. I think that really highlight my journey to get here and hopefully highlight, um, just how beautiful, kind of the origin story is as far as some of these more obscure in Japan.

John Puma: 43:40
Hmm. So when you’re, when you’re delving into those old, those old styles have you encountered any surprises?

Byron Stithem: 43:47
uh, all the time.

John Puma: 43:50

Byron Stithem: 43:50
Um, I was talking to Brandon at Brooklyn Kura about this a couple months ago, we were talking about there’s this specific, around day six or day seven on a lot of pre-modern styles where it’s like, well, this thing is spoiled. This is a there’s no, no salvaging this one. Uh, and then, uh, you know, if you’re patient and you, you follow your temp curves, eventually you’ll get back to a place where the, the microbiome of the sake has sorted itself out. and that’s where you end up with a lot of those interesting flavors. but yeah, I certainly have. Have cast aside some batches in the past before I realized that things were actually doing, doing good work.

John Puma: 44:32
Hmm. That’s

Timothy Sullivan: 44:33
Well, sake brewing is so stressful. It will drive you to drink if you haven’t learned that yet.

Byron Stithem: 44:38
I tell you, I had that, that this weekend I went a little too fast with the pressure on the fune and exploded some bags. Um, so needless to say, I spent the last 48 hours cleaning up the ceiling and the walls and, um, this is a new press. So I’m still getting, uh, getting my bearings there.

John Puma: 44:59

Timothy Sullivan: 45:00
and moroni is sticky. It is really super hard to clean up.

Byron Stithem: 45:06
Truly. It turns to glue the second it hits a surface. Really?

John Puma: 45:12
And now you’ve got to send it off the ceiling.

Byron Stithem: 45:17

Timothy Sullivan: 45:18
John and I were just talking how much we enjoyed your episode when you appeared with us last July, it was one of our few. In-person episodes that we’ve done over our hundred episode run. So it was really special for us. And we got to meet you in person taste, your sake, John and I both for the first time in front of you, which was a lot of pressure. But John and I were just reminiscing recently that how much we enjoyed your sake. So we’re really excited to hear that the taproom is reopening and we can’t wait to come down. I’m going to go ahead and invite myself. And, uh, we can’t wait to come down and maybe do another episode with you in the future at your taproom.

Byron Stithem: 45:59
that would be incredible. I mean, I would be honored to host you guys, so anytime you want to come truly, um, whether we’ve opened or not, um, that, and likewise, uh, last July was such a special occasion, you know, because I hadn’t really been able to travel due to the pandemic for so long. New York is very dear to me and to be able to meet some heroes and legends like yourselves, um, while also getting back into, uh, the New York sake scene, it was just such a great trip.

John Puma: 46:27
Sounds good. yeah, cannot wait to get down there and, and really thanks for giving us a call and, and updating us on, uh, on what you’ve been up to down there. It sounds exciting.

Byron Stithem: 46:39
Yeah. it has been, I’m ready to get to the fun stuff, which is drinking sake with pals and, you know, learning and talking.

Timothy Sullivan: 46:48
Yeah. Well, we’ll make it our goal before episode 200 to get back down there.

Byron Stithem: 46:54
I’m gonna hold you to that

Timothy Sullivan: 46:55
All Well, thank you so much for checking in with us for our 100th episode. It’s really special and fun for us to talk with you and, uh, congratulations on the upcoming opening of your new taproom. We’re super excited to celebrate with you when the time comes, but until then, we just want to wish you all the best.

Byron Stithem: 47:14
Thank you so much. It was really great to see you guys as well. And, uh, let’s do this again since

Timothy Sullivan: 47:20
Fantastic. All right, Byron. Thank you so much.

Byron Stithem: 47:24
you guys.

John Puma: 47:25
Well, that was nice. Um, tim we’re where were we?

Timothy Sullivan: 47:28
well, w I’ve been trying to, uh, say a few words to you, John, as my trusted podcast buddy. And, uh, you know, I think it’s important for us to do a kanpai together. Just the two of us and celebrate these 100 episodes that we’ve done together

John Puma: 47:49
Um, I, I you’re speaking my language to him. You’re speaking my language. I’ve got my glasses.

Timothy Sullivan: 47:54
All right. Well, uh, all I can say is

John Puma: 48:01
Uh, huh. All right.

Timothy Sullivan: 48:06
wonder who this is.

Chris Johnson: 48:08

John Puma: 48:09
Oh, my it’s it’s the ninja. It’s

Timothy Sullivan: 48:12
watch out. Watchout behind you!

Chris Johnson: 48:13
Coming, coming live to you from a hotel room.

Timothy Sullivan: 48:17
On the line with us, we have a VIP guest, Chris Johnson, AKA the Sake Ninja. Uh, Chris, you joined us way back in episode eight, which was May, 2020.

Chris Johnson: 48:31
Wow. That’s a that’s a little while ago.

Timothy Sullivan: 48:34

Chris Johnson: 48:35
I think I’ve had COVID. twice since then.

John Puma: 48:40
Oh, man. Yeah, it really was that long ago.

Chris Johnson: 48:43
Time flies when you’re having fun. Right.

John Puma: 48:46

Timothy Sullivan: 48:47

Chris Johnson: 48:47
Hundred episodes, guys, this is crazy. So amazing.

Timothy Sullivan: 48:51
Thank you.

John Puma: 48:52
I’ll take it.

Timothy Sullivan: 48:54
Don’t know how

Chris Johnson: 48:54
they’re all fantastic. I mean, I remember being a part of the first one and you guys had said, oh, we’re just figuring out. They’ll get mad at us. And now I listened to them every week and hear the amazing production and stories and information you provide. It’s super fantastic.

John Puma: 49:10
Well, thank you. a humbling,

Chris Johnson: 49:14
really talking about Tim

John Puma: 49:15

Timothy Sullivan: 49:19
Oh, Chris, that is so nice of you to say thank you, John. And I were reminiscing earlier about, how, at the very beginning, we, we literally had no idea what we were doing, how to record separate tracks or anything. So we have come a long way, but we also admitted to ourselves that we don’t hit it out of the park every week, but

John Puma: 49:38
Well, we try,

Timothy Sullivan: 49:40
we try our

John Puma: 49:40
close as we can.

Chris Johnson: 49:42
trying as an important part. Keeping share, keeps sharing that information to all the people out there, as we say, sake of the people keep

John Puma: 49:48

Timothy Sullivan: 49:49
what powers the revolution.

Chris Johnson: 49:51

Timothy Sullivan: 49:52
So what besides getting COVID twice? What sake things have you been up to since may 2020 what’s what’s been on your radar there?

Chris Johnson: 50:02
Well during obviously there was a whole lockdown thing. Um, and so we, uh, as the method of communication we’re using right now, this little thing called zoom became a huge part of all of our lives. Uh, and one of the things we did as part of the American sake association, we did a tour of a bunch of breweries for a little while. And then I expanded that off of that concept and worked with, uh, all of the breweries in the world sake imports portfolio to do, uh, tours and tastings with the brewmasters. And those were super fun and kept me busy a lot. During those times, there was quite a lot of, uh, I think John’s favorite word on-nomi, uh, were happening quite a bit, uh, for a while during, during that time. And luckily recently I’ve been able to start traveling again to, uh, continue that revolution and get sake to the people, uh, in the last couple of months.

John Puma: 51:02
nice. those tours that, that really happened, I want to say in all the cases, because of the pandemic and because people really weren’t able to, to get out and about, I think regular people getting that kind of access to these breweries was, a real positive thing that came out of an otherwise, obviously a terrible time for a lot of people. Uh, so, but, but having that happen, having that, that change in, in the stance of these breweries and having them reach out and make themselves available, I think it was, uh, it was a boom was a lot of fun for the industry. A lot of it’s easy to get people deeper into sake when they have that kind of access.

Chris Johnson: 51:42
And it was, it was fun. And I anticipated doing them. And I, there was a lot of, as you know, when you’re preparing for anything, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that happens and Japanese brewers that might not speak English and practice runs and, and all sorts of wonderful things. But there’s a, there was an opportunity to travel through our computers and we weren’t able to travel then, but many people in the number of breweries that we saw. Not only including the world sake imports, breweries, but all the other breweries and all the other tours and tastings that that happened, uh, throughout the pandemic, you are able to travel the more breweries and most of us would ever be able to travel to and in our regular lives, right, let alone, you know, uh, getting to Japan, getting to 25 breweries in a year, right. Is pretty, pretty hard to come by and to be able to pull off. And we were able to do, I’m sure I did at least 45 tours between ones I through and then the ones other people through. Right. So it’s kind of a, it’s turned in as, as John, as you said, an amazing opportunity to visit places without actually visiting places. And if you are lucky enough to have the sake with you, you get to take, take a trip, right. And experience, especially when you get to talk to the people who make it so much fun. So that was truly a highlight of my, of my past year was doing, doing those things. Uh, and, and now the highlight is to get back out there and sip sake and, and share and talk and have new items coming to, to America from Japan. Like we, we can’t get sake here, but luckily we were able to get two new items over the last two years. So those are exciting to talk about and to taste and experience. So there’s some, there’s some fun things on the horizon and we’re, we’re getting there. And, uh, sake revolution definitely helped me through, uh, the slower times, the last couple of years,

John Puma: 53:37
I’m glad we can help.

Timothy Sullivan: 53:38
Yeah. Yeah. I remember. I’m I’m a jaded oyaji right now. But I think back to when I was first drinking sake in 2005, if I had had the number of zoom brewery tours, I think my head would have exploded. I was so hungry for information back then. And so excited about meeting a brewer at a sake event in passing exchanging two or three words with them. You know, if I went to a tasting, that was a big thrill for me. And to have these zoom events, it really, as John said, it’s such a silver lining of this bad situation we’ve gone through, but I’m really happy for all the newbies out there that are getting into sake. Now, under these circumstances, with this amount of information out there, that really makes me happy.

Chris Johnson: 54:25
There was a moment where there was just a few, too many things. There was a club. I was doing a clubhouse, a discord, and a, uh, another on-nomi. And then the tour is all like, and I said, okay, I need a break. I want to step away for a little while. But it really, it really was amazing. And I can see how the people, like you’re saying to me that want it are clamoring for it. You know, kind of like call the newbies that can’t wait to meet the sake samurai, Timothy Sullivan in person when they’re wandering around step into decibel night. Oh my God.

Timothy Sullivan: 54:58
no. no. What really happens is they come up to me and like, are you the sake samurai? Yes I am. And they’re like, oh Chris, it’s so nice to meet you. And I’m like, drats not again mistaken for Chris Johnson.

Chris Johnson: 55:13
So what have you two been up to besides making this podcast over the last, uh, 99 episodes?

John Puma: 55:20
Uh, this has taken a lot of, a lot of the spare time, I want to say. But yeah, I do have the discord that really did, uh, really did pick up a lot of steam over the past two years. I had started a little bit before the pandemic started, so it wasn’t like something I did because of the pandemic, but developing it out into a place where people can like get together on, on camera, you know, on zoom or in Lynn later on actually in the discord, live chat and just, you know, sip sake together and talk about it. It’s been a lot of fun for me and, uh, you know, it’s been nice to be able to cultivate a place where people can get together and, and chat about that sort of thing. independent of my efforts, some of the people in that community, went ahead and you’ve got my permission to, within our discord, start-up, a brewing channel as well. And they have a lot of home brewers, a lot of commercial brewers that get together and they have their own meeting once a week as well. And, uh, so it’s really become kind of a nice little internet destination for, for enthusiasts, which is, uh, w a lot of what I was hoping for. So it’s been, it’s been fun to see that.

Chris Johnson: 56:23
That’s awesome. Are any of those brewers, sakes

John Puma: 56:31
Probably I need to, I need to, I need to check to see if, uh, if Byron’s ever visited that, particular chat.

Chris Johnson: 56:40
that’d be good to know, you know, just because the X games are coming around soon and

John Puma: 56:47

Chris Johnson: 56:48
I keep it real. So I know you asked me to bring a today.

Timothy Sullivan: 56:53
sure did.

Chris Johnson: 56:56
Do you, do you have sake as well today? Or are you just listening to us?

John Puma: 57:00
I don’t know. We have, we have sake.

Chris Johnson: 57:01
in your glass. So

John Puma: 57:02
Yeah. In fact, in fact, it’s kind of interesting. Uh, why don’t you tell everybody what you’ve got.

Chris Johnson: 57:08
So I was able to get for the first time, and I haven’t tasted this sake since before the pandemic, when we were first introduced to it, uh, Asaka from Miyazaki brewery called Masumi sparkling, sake, Origarami or as they like to refer to it, it’s a pet, not because it’s made in the same Peloton natural method where the secondary fermentation all happens in the bottle, no added sugars or anything. And so I’m really excited to try it. Cause this is obviously a newer version than the, than the version I had. And so I packed that in my bag and brought it out to Colorado because it’s not available out here yet. Uh, I snuck into the office last week and grabbed it, grabbed a bottle for this special occasion. Cause I figured why not sparkling with a hundred hundred episode anniversary type situation.

John Puma: 57:59
nice. Well, that Chris that’s really interesting because, uh, Tim has a sparkling sake as well. He’s

Timothy Sullivan: 58:05
yes, I have Hakkaisan Awa in my glass and John has

John Puma: 58:10
I have a Masumi sake in my glass. I have the Masumi. Uh Nanago.

Chris Johnson: 58:17
Very nice

Timothy Sullivan: 58:17
yeah. Well, let’s get your Masumi sparkling into the glass and we can have a cheers together.

Chris Johnson: 58:24
I couldn’t like crack it at an angle. Like you’re supposed to open a sparkling, cause I didn’t have a thing to do that, but I will introduce this into my glass.

Timothy Sullivan: 58:35
Now that looks like a healthy amount of bubbles in there. Now, CJ, you said this was an origami. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means?

Chris Johnson: 58:44
So origarami. It basically means the lees are still inside. there’s little particles of rice, so it’s not quite at nigori level. Um, but it technically would fall into the nigori category. Cause it is cloudy sake, but it’s not an, a heavily clouded cloudy sake. It’s quite, it’s quite light and it’s color. Um, I’m trying to see, I might turn it upside down and see if I can introduce a little bit more, uh, but I might have to step away from the camera for a second to do that. Otherwise we might have a disaster, um,

Timothy Sullivan: 59:17
So it’s like a hazy, it’s like a hazy, hazy, sake, not full. nigori

Chris Johnson: 59:22

Timothy Sullivan: 59:23

Chris Johnson: 59:23
not full nigori, not clear. I can see that there are some more lees at the bottom of the bottle. I thought they would integrate naturally from the bubbles, but they didn’t quite do that. So I’m going to stir it around a little bit and it’s exploding as sparkling beverages like to do when you spin them around. They like to explode a little bit. So we are having, it’s like a cellar it’s like new year’s that you have here in Colorado at the moment. And we have bubbles and spray everywhere. Uh, oh yeah, that’s better.

Timothy Sullivan: 59:55
All right. Well, we all have sake in our glass, so let’s do a little kanpai with CJ and CJ. I know you love your kanpais right.

Chris Johnson: 1:00:05
I do. I’ve been known to kanpai a few times, uh, over the, over the zooms and places in my life. Uh, so if you’d like me to, to say the words, I am more than happy to do so gentlemen, dear, to your hundredth episode, congratulations and kanpai

Timothy Sullivan: 1:00:20
Thank you.

John Puma: 1:00:21
Ah, so it was a, it was nice to catch up with CJ.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:00:24
It was he, I said it before. I’ll say it again. He is the nicest ninja town.

John Puma: 1:00:30
Yeah, definitely the nicest ninja I’ve ever met. Having said that he’s the only ninja I’ve ever met. So I don’t know if that’s enough of a sample set for accurate reporting, but you know, a nice guy.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:00:44
It was super nice of him to bring us sparkling along for our 100th episode.

John Puma: 1:00:48
Yeah. Uh, I think it was kind of funny that he kind of, his sake is both of ours combined

Timothy Sullivan: 1:00:53
Yes, absolutely.

John Puma: 1:00:54
a way. so we should probably get to that kanpai. But first I would like to take a few moments to shout out our patrons.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:01:10

John Puma: 1:01:11
you know, as we say every week, this is a listener supported show and it really is, those people that help the show to happen, producing a sake podcast is a, is, is an expensive, uh, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of things that we have to, take care of in order to make sure that this happens every week and the efforts of our patrons to help us make that happen, really go a long way and it’s so, so very appreciated., Now we have a couple of different tiers for our Patreon. And so actually going to call out and recognize the individuals who have been contributing to our highest tier, today on our hundredth episode as a, as a, just like a nice little, thank you. and so we want to give a special thank you to, Susan McCormick (JapanCultureNYC), Glorfind3l hope I got that. Right. Jillian Watanabe, Fumitaro Masaki, Lisa Lim, Shun Yamamoto David

Timothy: 1:02:31
Byron Stithem, Mark Hunter, Mitchell Cooley, Jp Herb, Chris Wood, Nathan Kelly, Will Jarvis, Michael Luo, and Namazake Paul.

John Puma: 1:02:49
We wanted to take a moment and just to kind of recognize and say thank you to each and every one of you who helps make the show possible

Timothy Sullivan: 1:02:57
Yeah, we do want to say a very special thank you to all of you for believing in our show and supporting us on Patreon. It really does mean the world to us. And we’re so happy to acknowledge you all on our hundredth episode.

John Puma: 1:03:10
Yeah. Uh, so Tim, I think there’s one last thing for us to do.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:03:15
You know, I think it’s finally time. I’m going to take the phone off the hook. It’s finally time for us to do our kanapi. And uh, oh my John, we we’ve had so many kanpais with everyone that now my glasses is actually empty now. Oh

John Puma: 1:03:40
So we’re at a sake now?

Timothy Sullivan: 1:03:42
Well, it was bound to happen one day

John Puma: 1:03:45
Bound to happen eventually. Yeah. but yes. All kidding aside though, Tim, thank you so much for, working with me on this and helping to, to, to make this show everything that it’s become. It’s it’s been a lot of fun, I think for us to do.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:04:03
Yeah, it’s been great. And over the a hundred episodes, I’ve gotten to know you a lot better, and it’s been a lot of fun exploring sake together. I’m really looking forward to another hundred episodes. Do you have any predictions or hopes for the next hundred?

John Puma: 1:04:20
I think that, uh, much like what you said earlier that you had concerns early on that maybe, like what we run out of things to talk about, uh, for a long time, I thought that too, and it’s really come to a place where we know that there’s an endless supply of, uh, of topics of sakes out there to discuss different ways to, to show them the people and, and different things to talk about while we, while we sip them. And I think that’s going to be, is going to be great continuing forward and exploring that more.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:04:57
One big hope that I have for the next a hundred episodes is that we can get more into travel episodes on the road, visiting people in person, going to events. I think that would be a really fun frontier since we’ve been forced to be on zoom for two years. Now. I think that getting out there, exploring the world and bringing the podcast, uh, out of our studios and into the sake events will, we’ll be, a big goal of mine for, for the next a hundred episodes.

John Puma: 1:05:26
Hmm. I like that idea. Uh, and, and I, and I, I really thoroughly hope that, you know, by the time we get to episode 200, there will have been an episode where someone is in Japan,

Timothy Sullivan: 1:05:40
At least one of us gets to

John Puma: 1:05:42
at least one of us. Yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:05:45
All right. John, before we wind up, I want to thank all of the people who called in today to wish us well on our hundredth episode, I want to thank again all of our patrons and last but not least, I want to thank our listeners as well. Everyone who has tuned in for one or a hundred episodes, listening to our rantings and ravings about Japanese sake, John and I are so happy that you, take the time to listen to us and join us on our little sake adventures and misadventures. And we wouldn’t have a podcast if it wasn’t for you. So thanks to all our listeners.

John Puma: 1:06:23
Tim, I could not have said that better myself. and so everybody at home please, raise a glass with us and until next time, please remember to keep drinking and Kanpai

Timothy Sullivan: 1:06:39
finally made it Kanpai.

John Puma: 1:06:44
Yay. We finally got our Kanpai.