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There is a growing demand for sake in the United States, evident by the near-doubling of Japan’s sake exports over the past decade. American craft brewers have noticed and are producing the fermented rice alcoholic beverage with their own unique style. It’s often called rice wine, but is brewed like beer.
Jeremy Goldstein is the founder and co-owner of North American Sake Brewery in Charlottesville, Virginia. He says the trajectory of the sake business is going straight up.
"When we started this, there were only about eight sake breweries in North America, and it’s already doubled from then, which was three years ago. If that continues to see that sort of growth, we could see something like a cider boom in America which went from a $200 million-dollar market to over a billion-dollar market," says Goldstein. "And that will mean that everyone will need a lot more rice, of course."
Goldstein says short-grain rice of many varieties is used to make sake. And there’s plenty of room in the market for more rice growers.
"Primarily sake rices have been grown in Arkansas by one farmer, and then also a large producer like Sun Valley in California," he says. "But, we would love to see more people growing more varieties of these short-grain rices because the sake industry in America is all about embracing experimentation and collaboration and doing different things outside of the box."
He says it usually takes about one pound of rice to make one liter of sake.