Trane's Reviews > The Insider's Guide to Sake

The Insider's Guide to Sake by Philip Harper
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Dec 05, 07

bookshelves: non-fiction, japan-things
Recommended for: sake lovers, nihonshu fanatics, drunks
Read in October, 2007

Philip Harper has a lot of street cred as far as I'm concerned — he's the only (so far as he knows) non-Japanese head brewer of sake (or 'nihonshu,' as it's actually called in Japan) working in Japan. This book is very well organized and it's especially useful to people who are living in Japan and want to know more about nihonshu, as well as people living outside Japan who are real fanatics and simply want to learn all the Japanese terms involved with this amazing drink. Need to know all the different categories of nihonshu and how they're distinguished from each other? It's here. Need a sake sampler with a plentiful list of fantastic nihonshus? Here as well. Need to know the kanji on the bottle so you can figure out what to buy? It's here. It's also a nice, small size so you can carry it around with you. What this book doesn't have is a bunch of gorgeous color pictures of bottle labels, quaint traditional breweries, and the like. But that's for fantasists, and not for people who actually want to go out and drink the stuff. I've tried several of the sakes that Harper mentions and I think that his taste is spot on. I haven't been able to try his own brand yet, but I'm looking forward to it. The one thing this book really does lack — primarily because Harper is based in Japan, I think — is a good, comprehensive list of restaurants in the States that specialize in sake. His listing of restaurants for San Francisco is woefully small. Of course, he might have made his listing before the current Bay Area sake boom was in full flow, but it's just not really a very useful book when it comes to the restaurants. Better to use this book to figure out what you want to try, and then seek out restaurants with extensive sake lists on your own.

Incidentally, I've had the opportunity to sample some Ume no Yado, the nihonshu made by the company where Harper is the master brewer, and it's good stuff. If you ever have the chance, make sure to get your hands on some.
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