As young Japanese seek moderm indulgences and the elderly refrain consuming in large volumes, Japanese sak\u00e9, or Nihonshu, is gathering greater appreciation on foreign shores. This trend is driven by sak\u00e9\u2019s growing popularity in food pairing science, a taste for Japanese cuisine beyond sushi, and an American middle class seeking authentic traditionality. For the Japan visitor, Nara sak\u00e9, or more colloquially narazak\u00e9, is definitely on the bill. Often credited as being the birthplace of refined or 'clear' sak\u00e9 (\u6e05\u9152 \/ seichu), narazak\u00e9 is still defined by small local breweries and quality output. So, take a dip into Nara\u2019s sak\u00e9 barrel with us for a taste of original Japan. Bodaiyama and the story of narazak\u00e9 About 15 km outside Nara City is a temple called Shorakuji on Bodai Mountain. Originally, it was annexed to the famous Kofukuji. The monks at Shorakuji got into running a lucrative brewing operation. In doing so, they popularized an innovative brewing technique. This technique became known as Bodaimoto, although it was probably not unique to Shorakuji. It relied on a sak\u00e9 yeast starter, or a lactic acid water (soyashimizu), made from first soaking a quantity of rice in water. This was then used to speed up fermentation and to increase production quantity. Shorakuji and the revival of the shubo In due course, this method became the gold standard across Japan. It foreshadowed more modern brewing techniques where wild lactic acid is first cultivated as in the kimoto and yamahai methods. The ultra-modern sokujo method just adds in already cultivated lactic acid. Shorakuji\u2019s monk brewing days, however, eventually ended. Then, some 500 years later in 1997, scientists, monks, and some local sak\u00e9 brewers decided to get the barrel rolling again. Ancient lactic acid yeast spores were isolated in the hallowed temple grounds and the spirit of the past was resurrected. Now, each January, a fresh starter, or shubo (\u9152\u6bcd), is produced in the temple grounds, blessed in a ceremony, and taken back by the brewers to their respective companies. These small batch productions of jummai sak\u00e9 carry a golden seal of authenticity and are only sold in Nara. You can visit Shorakuji and buy this sake at the temple (or elsewhere). However, it's rather out of the way and the only way is by car or a taxi 25 min from JR Nara Station. The temple is quite popular for its garden and leaves, so from November 15th to December 10th you can catch a special seasonal bus. A few sak\u00e9 basics Sak\u00e9 can be separated into two categories. Junmai (\u7d14\u7c73), meaning \u2018pure rice\u2019, has no added alcohol to augment or enhance the flavor and aroma. Aruten (\u30a2\u30eb\u6dfb) sak\u00e9 uses additional distilled alcohol. Which is better is largely a question of personal taste. The degree of polishing, or how much of the outer grain layers is removed, is a secondary classification. Junmai (\u7d14\u7c73): no minimal polishing requirement, no additives, full bodied.Honjozo (\u672c\u91b8\u9020) - 70% polishing, added alcohol, smooth, & light. Junmai and aruten sak\u00e9 are both found in the following additional categories. The word \u2018aruten\u2019 is basically omitted and Junmai (\u7d14\u7c73) affixed where necessary: Ginjo (\u541f\u91b8): 60% polishing, premium, light, fruity, & complex.Daiginjo (\u5927\u541f\u91b8) - 50% polishing, ultra-premium, rich, & complex. Furthermore, there is also namazak\u00e9 or unpasteurized sak\u00e9. Heating or pasteurization is used to kill the fermentation enzymes and lock the flavor. Namazak\u00e9 tastes fresher and fruitier with a sweet aroma. Jizak\u00e9 (\u5730\u9152) refers to a local sak\u00e9 this is not widely distributed. How to explore Nara\u2019s traditions of sak\u00e9 brewing One of the best things to do in Nara is to book a private sak\u00e9 tour with a guide. This is often the best way to get hands-on experience with authentic insights. Plus, there\u2019s drinking for adults along the way.\u00a0 Many breweries have open public tours, but you usually need to book in advance. While some information may be available in English, the tours are generally in Japanese. In Naramachi, only Imanishi Seibeisyouten of the Harushika brand has tours in English. The other option is Umenoyado in Katsuragi City. These are other places, though, to enjoy narazak\u00e9: Harushika Brewery in Naramachi Harushika is one of two sak\u00e9 breweries in old town Naramachi and has long been a favorite on the scene. It\u2019s one of the best places to casually stop by and sample narazak\u00e9. They're also English friendly with an English speaking host. It costs only and no reservation is needed. Opening times are 10:00 to 17:00, but 16:30 is the last order for tasting. They are closed on holidays and on the 11th of each month. Yagi Syuz\u014d Nara Sak\u00e9 Brewery Yagi Syuz\u014d is Naramachi\u2019s other sak\u00e9 brewery a couple of blocks down from Harushika heading east. It\u2019s a quiet place with not much English and they also make Japanese shoch\u016b and umesh\u016b. You can sample their sak\u00e9 anyway at Nara Izumi Yasai listed below. Nara Izumi Yasai shop Nara Izumi Yasai is a drinking establishment and sak\u00e9 retailer certified by the Nara Prefecture Sake Brewery Association. You pay per glass and there are also snacks to order. The bar master and staff do well to communicate in minimal English, but there is an English menu available. They open from 10:00 to 20:00 and are closed on Thursdays. Recently, however, there are additional non-business days. You can view notifications of temporary closure (\u81e8\u6642\u4f11\u696d\u306e\u304a\u77e5\u3089\u305b) on their website. Umashu Izakaya As you come out of the Nara Park end of the Kintetsu Nara Station, hang a right and walk down the popular shotengai. Towards the end on the left you\u2019ll see an izakaya eatery. You can\u2019t miss it for the big sak\u00e9 barrels outside. This is a very decent place to get down to local grub, and they stock almost all varieties of narazak\u00e9. The menu is only Japanese, but the staff are very friendly and may be able to help out with minimal English. Momotaro Liquor and Sak\u00e9 Store JR Nara Station Momotaro is a shop inside the main building of JR Nara station. They sell many varieties of Nara sak\u00e9. Help isn\u2019t available in English, so it is good to kind of know what you\u2019re looking for. They stock Goshin sak\u00e9 (\u4e94\u795e\u9152) from Gojo City which is considered among the best, and also Bodaimoto gold label sak\u00e9. Learn more about Narazak\u00e9 The Sak\u00e9 Times has a comprehensive listing of narazak\u00e9 breweries and topical news from the world of sak\u00e9. The Sak\u00e9 international Association has a ranking of their top Nara sak\u00e9 breweries. The Japan Sak\u00e9 and Shochu Association (JSS) has a great resource website on sak\u00e9 in Japan. There are only a few breweries, however, that actually have an English web presence: Goshin - in Gojo.Umenoyado - in Katsuragi.Harushika - in Naramachi.Choryo - in Koryo, North Katsuragi.Yucho - in Gose, South Katsuragi.