Rice "Wine"

Rice Centered Beverages Originating in Korea and Japan


Name Style ABV % Origin
Hana Takju 16 Makgeolli 16% Brooklyn
Sho Chuku Bai  Sake, Nigori  15% Berkeley
Gekkeikan Traditional Junmai 15.6% Folsom
Sho Chiku Bai Junmai Ginjo 14% Berkeley
Konteki Pearls of Simplicity Junami Daiginjo 15.5% Japan
Chum Churum Soju 16.5 Korea

Today's Samples 

  • Remember Beverage "Styles" Are Relatively New
  • Alcohol made with whatever is on hand
  • Western Tradition
    • Beer is grain based, lower in alcohol
    • Wine is fruit/sugar based, higher in alcohol
  • Sake/Soju/etc tend to be more wine like in aroma and alcohol level
  • The overall category is broad with many different strength levels, filtration, flavors, etc (Wikipedia has 42 types of "Rice Wine" across Asia)
  • This is just a super skimming primer - each of these beverages has countless subcategories




  • Usually a "low alcohol" beverage of 6-9%
    • higher abv = "Takju"
  • Sometimes referred to in English as "Drunken Rice"
  • Oldest recorded alcohol in Korea (~100BCE)
  • Traditionally it's a household product
    • Steamed Unpolished Rice
    • Water
    • Mixed bacterial culture ("nuruk")
    • Month long fermentation, rough filtration
    • Exported versions are pasteurized to stop fermentation



  • Probably the first thing you think of when you think of "rice wine"
  • Made with polished rice. 
    • polishing removes the outer layers that are fat and protein laden
  • Process:
    • Wash the rice, soak it to add moisture
    • Steam and cool the rice
    • Uses yeast and koji (Aspergillus Oryzae)
    • The koji converts starch, the yeast ferments
    • Multiple additions of freshly steamed rice
    • 40-80 days
Term Meaning
Junmai "Pure Rice Sake" rice, water, koji, yeast
Honjozo Sake with distilled alcohol added
Nigori "Milky" Unfiltered Sake
Ginjo Rice polished by 40%
Dai Ginjo Rice polished by 50%
Futsushu "Table Sake" - this is probably the stuff you're getting warm at the sushi bar

Sake Terms



  • distilled clear "neutral" spirit from Korea
    • Sochu is the Japanese version, different, but same idea
  • traditionally made from rice wine
    • The clearer, unsedimented part of the makgeoilli process.
    • today can be made, like Vodka from anything, especially wheat
  • Most Soju is around 20% abv
  • Since 1999, California law allowed Soju to be served under a Type 41 beer/wine license under 25% abv



Rice is an incredibly common and useful adjunct for brewing.


Echigo claims Japan's oldest microbrewery in 1995. 


Niigata Prefecture is famous for it's rice, featured in this lager.


The brewery has also received international awards for their Wit and Stout

Sapporo Black

Oldest Japanese Beer Brand


Contains barley, roasted malts, corn, rice and noble hops


Also a steel can (according to legend back in the day)


By Drew Beechum


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