Selling sake to the Japanese: Scottish brewery to export rice wine to Japan

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Can Scottish sake blossom in Japan?
Can Scottish sake blossom in Japan?

Related tags: Beer, Wine, Alcoholic beverage

Scotland’s Arran Brewery is planning the country’s first sake brewery – and will sell the traditional rice wine to Japan.

Scottish craft beer and whisky is already sold in Japan. Arran Brewery believes its existing reputation - coupled with a high quality product and the novelty value of Scottish sake – will be its secret to success.

The brewery has been producing craft beer for a decade. Sake, a traditional Japanese alcoholic drink, is made from fermented rice.

Training in Japan

Gerald Michaluk, managing director, Arran Brewery, told he travelled to Japan for an intensive sake training course.

I’ve always liked sake. However, there was a bit of a misperception of the quality level we’d have to achieve - it was only when I went there and tasted their sake I realised the challenge. That’s upped the game.​”

Arran Brewery’s marketing will emphasise its Scottish heritage – something Michaluk thinks the Japanese will respond well to - and produce premium quality sake (a standard determined by the polishing of the rice during brewing). However, Michaluk says the real proof will be in the taste.

“The sake industry is like the craft beer industry. Overall [beer] sales are falling, but this sector is exploding – it’s quality over quantity.

“My challenge is that, when people buy it, they want to try it again. I think anyone can launch and get a trial. The challenge is to make it supremely good. We need to get the general acceptance – the novelty has to be backed up by really good product.

“The trick is making the sake so good they will keep buying it.”

Former primary school brewery site

The brewery has received planning permission to convert a former primary school site in Dreghorn, North Ayrshire, and is now applying for its brewing license for the premises.

The 5.4 acres site will also be used to house an R&D facility, exhibition space, restaurant, shop, beer hall, and a brewing school. The brewery will initially take up 3,000 sq ft.

Michaluk hopes the sake will hit the shelves in Japan in time for Christmas this year.

“Sake brewing is a duel simultaneous fermentation process - we turn the starch in the rice into sugar and at the same time turn that sugar into alcohol with yeast.  We have brewed on a research scale and are confident that we can now move to a production scale.

“We will produce on a modest scale initially and ramp up production from there, as demand and our quality improves.” 

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