Sake (日本酒) Holiday

Bits and pieces on sake, brewing, drinking and eating. いただきます!

Ukimafunado – Legend 101

My top google searches when I really miss the old days include Ukimafunado and Shinjuku, the first being where I used to live and the later being where I used to work. I google images and reminisce about my old life back there and how unreal it all felt at the time. There was something so natural about being over in Japan teaching English and something at the same time so alien and supernatural about it all. I remember the small details like the green public phone next to the local 7 Eleven which I would use to call home on when I didn’t have a mobile, the local supermarket where I would buy my nightly eats and beer, the park with the windmill at the end of my street. The fact that I was there, living in a dreamland, not really sure what to make of it all, or how to really embrace it and make the most of it. I guess there were plenty of days when I felt overwhelmed. That’s all natural and normal. I feel the same now but in reverse. Having been back in Melbourne for eight years but at every moment knowing that this is not the place I long to be in I realize that sometimes the best times in your life do pass by without you even realizing. But can you do it all again, years later? I still wonder.


Your room is a little bit stink

Looking around the living room and kitchen I realise it’s time to tidy things up, even though I’m currently on holiday. Chips on the floor, laundry hanging out, dishes to be washed. The title of this post popped into my head accordingly, spoken by the girlfriend at the time of a long ago Tokyo flat mate. He had to go over to her house the whole time and she never wanted to come over to our apartment. When he asked why she replied with the all-time classic line; “Because your room is a little bit stink.”

I continue my Japanese studies. Years later I still torture myself with low level grammar and the same vocabulary learnt, forgotten then learnt again. It’s a real groundhog day. But I’ve resigned myself to it and will press on regardless of my snail’s pace of progress and frustrations. I really do think that JLPT is out of the question. I’m turning into the Australian equivalent of Aki, the ancient Nova student with a transistor radio for a hearing aid, who had completed every lesson in the level 3 “text” book literally thousands of times (each page of his “text” book was slate grey from the blanket of pencil scribble that had accumulated therein over the years). He took great pleasure in shouting out answers, entirely devoid of context, every time the instructor would so much as open their mouth to ask a question.

It’s largely nostalgia, part functional necessity. Family and I still get over to the mother country regularly (me once a year or so) and here in Australia most of our friends are Japanese couples who all speak the lingo when they’re together, so I’ve got plenty of reason to want to continue to improve. Back in the day I couldn’t speak a word, and I remember dudes in the Nova teacher’s room reading a column out of the Japan Times called Kanji Clinic. I would shake my head and marvel at their perseverance, never once thinking that I should also take up the habit of learning the language of my host country.  

I looked up Kanji Clinic online a while back and it really was like time travel, reading those old columns again. The writer was a lovely American lady who had a really gift for imparting the great sense of achievement that comes from getting your head around a foreign language. I’ve posted the link below for old time’s sake. Take a look and enjoy a relic from my earliest days of learning Japanese.

Ah the good old days

I know, I know it’s been done to death but I still get a kick every time I see an oddly named Japanese product. These days there are so many things available from Japan that we didn’t have in Australia when I first went there. There a lots of Japanese and Asian groceries, and more lately, heaps of ramen shops that have recently started spreading out. The Japan booms continues unabated, and we all know why.

Today’s afternoon snack, with no connection to the above comments:

Time Traveller

One moment it’s 2006, next it’s 2016. And here I am, resurrecting Tokyo Rush. Where do I begin? Well, to be honest there were a few posts that I’d done when I first got back to Melbourne which really didn’t fit with the tone of my old TR baby. I used to look at them online and feel that they were completely out of sync but because I was no longer in Japan I had no reason to remove them and they would just sit there like smelly old turds turning white and hard with age. So tonight I removed them. And it felt great. I stripped the blog back to the last post I had done out of a Nova School in Shinjuku. From memory it was called “Ogardo” and I remember it as being one of those new schools that opened at the tail end of the Eikaiwa boom and attracted very few students. There were some, but not many, and I remember sitting in the “staff” room by myself for hours at a time just thinking how damn cruisey the life was.

Anyway, the point of tonight is that I have re-found my blog, removed the stuff that was out of place and boring, and embarked upon a new stage. I hope that those who experienced Japan, left, then realised they could never leave, will find something here that appeals. That’s what’s driving me. Peace.

Looks the real deal

Dark lager lite – looks good. Tastes ok. Better to avoid silly mistakes in the first place.


The brewers are back in town!

A lot has been going on of late, preventing me from updating Sake Holiday as frequently as I should. By way of round up, I bottled the Pilsner and Dark Ale which have both turned out pretty ok. The Pilsner has a fairly foul diacetyl taste going on which I hope will dissipate over time. The Dark Lager fell victim to a rooky error on my part; filling the fermenter to 23 litres when I should have stopped at 20. I am looking on the bright side however with the belief that I have made a decent light beer. image

I had a good night with a bunch of dads from my kid’s school. They came over to my place and we did a home brewing session as none of them had brewed before but were keen to give it a shot. For ease, and because ingredients were at hand, we made another Dark Lager – that was a month or more ago so it’s high time I got it bottled.

As per the picture, Steve and I hit the home brew shop and stocked up with enough ingredients for a red ale, a red lager and a dark ale. We’ll be back in the brewing saddle as of next weekend. Happy days.



Stout in the bottle, diacetyl in the Pilsner

Steve and I, with Steve doing all the hard work, got the stout bottled last Saturday. It looks and tastes a good one, with the vaguest hint of chocolate from the 30mls or so of chocolate essence that he added to the fermenter after the main fermentation had died away. There’s also 300g of chocolate malt in there. Good for a winter night, no doubt. We got about 33 x 500ml bottles and a six pack of 375ml stubbies. A good haul.


Unfortunately the Pilsner has a very sickly and unwanted hit of diacetyl which is quite unwelcome. My book on yeast describes diacetyl thus; “Diacetyl, even at low levels, can contribute slickness or slipperiness to a beers mouthfeel. In higher quantities, diacetyl gives beer a buttery or butterscotch like aroma and flavor.” It goes on to state the obvious that home brewers don’t like its presence as it indicates a fermentation or contamination problem. It could go either way in my case but I would think fermentation before contamination. Primary fermentation temp was too high and I may have underpitched the yeast, both of which will contribute to diacetyl levels. I’ll leave the beer to condition in the fermenter a bit longer and see how it ends up. In the meantime I’ll forget about that buttery diacetyl by drinking lots of one of the Kings of Beers, as often as possible.image

Dark lager take two

Yesterday I knocked out my second take of a dark lager as per the recipe in my previous post. I steeped 100g crystal malt and 150g chocolate malt in 2.25 liters of water at 75c for 15 minutes. I then tipped that into a pot to top up to 10 liters at 75c. I added to that the lager kit and 500g of dry malt extract and commenced a 60 minute biol. I added Hallertau hops at 20, 10 and 0 mins, 10g at a time. I used the chiller to cool it down and then filled up the fermenter with my wort and cold mineral water to 23 liters. I admit now that the last 2 liters were cold from the tap! After taking the OG reading at a very low 1.034 I pitched the rehydrated Saflager w-34/70.image

All was well and I crashed out most satisfied however in the morning noted that there was no activity out the airlock. Closer inspection revealed a little split in the black rubber o-ring, which is supposed to make the fermenter nice and airtight. I could see pressure building with the level of water in the airlock being pushed down but just before it could bubble the level suddenly elevated again. That’s when I checked the seal and found the problem. I opened it up, took out the seal, taped it up and put all back together. She’s bubbling away quite happily now. I was reminded though of some earlier ferments which appeared very lackluster, upon which I blamed the yeast, temperature, etc but never thought to check the equipment closely. I’ve leaning a new trick today…keep my eyes open.

On another note, below is my first all grain, looking lovely. The temperature over the course of primary fermentation has been very warm for the season which is a bit of a shame but I don’t know how heavily the brew has been affected yet. Can’t wait to find out.image

Mostly straight from Customize your Coopers

This is a Bock-Like lager made with added chocolate malt.
The American Mount Hood hops add fine flavour and aroma.
1 can Coopers Lager
100g Cracked Crystal Malt
200g Cracked Chocolate Malt
500g Light Dry Malt Extract
20g Mount Hood Hop Pellets and Saflager S-34

Steep grains in 77c water for 15 minutes. Boil extract and DME for a while. Add hops. Cool. Add to fermenter. Top up to 20 liters. Aerate. Rehydrate yeast. Pitch yeast. Bubble.

1. Mix the cracked grains with about 1 litre of water and bring to the boil.
2. Boil gently for 20 minutes then add the hop pellets and turn the heat off at the same time. Let
the hot mixture stand for about 10 minutes.
3. Pour the hot mixture through a fine strainer into the fermenter. Gently pour some hot water through
the collected grain to rinse all the goodness into the fermenter.
4. Add the other ingredients to the fermenter plus some hot water if necessary and mix thoroughly.
5. Add cold water up to the 23 litre mark and stir well.
6. When the temperature is below 30 deg.C. add the yeast and make your beer the usual way.


Next brews

In line with my previous post I’m going to do a few test yeast starters using the Coopers kit yeast as I’m getting more conscious about over or under pitching the yeast. Building a proper starter will help ensure I pitch the right amount. It’s also an angle that I can pay more attention to and get improved results in with minimum expense or effort.

Next brew lined up is a Coopers lager kit with about 100g of chocolate and 50g crystal malt, 500g of dry malt extract, 20g hallertau hops and Saflager w-34. After this I’m planning to do the all grain Traditional Bock recipe from the Brewing Classic Styles tome by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer.

Speaking of books, I’ve dipped into Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation again. I forgot how much great information is in this one, not just concerning the main subject but also fermentation issues and everything about proper handling. Recommended, for sure.

p.s. I’ve just costed two all grain recipes being the Traditional Bock and  Munich Dunkel. See ingredients below.