The Hudson Valley just got a sake brewery: Dassai Blue Sake Brewery. The state-of-the-art brewery and tasting room will open in Hyde Park, NY, and act as the launch point of the famed sake maker’s new U.S. brand, Dassai Blue.
Over the past thirty years, Dassai has experienced exponential growth in Japan, the U.S,.and globally. Hiroshi and Kazuhiro Sakurai, the father and son, 3rd and 4th generation Chairman and President, have refined Dassai and expanded its markets and they believe opening the New York brewery is their latest bold step into the global sake market.
A Junmai Daiginjo-only sake, Dassai is considered the highest level of premium sake. Made from 100% Yamada Nishiki rice, utilizes craft sake methods, making sake batch-by-batch, using handmade koji, and fermenting in each small tank. The brand also employs detailed analysis and technology to achieve taste and premium quality. According to a press release, “Sake breweries that only produce such premium sake are rare even in Japan, with Dassai Blue becoming the first of its kind in the U.S.” The Sakurai’s named their new creation “Dassai Blue,” which comes from an old Japanese proverb that says “indigo dye is bluer than the indigo plant from which it is derived”.
The Dassai Blue Brewery is a 55,000 square foot facility with an annual capacity of 140,000 cases (9L per case), producing solely craft sake made by both veteran staff from the Dassai brewery in Iwakuni as well as local recruits. For now, the sake is produced with the same Yamada Nishiki rice imported from Japan. However, the brand has spent three years cultivating Yamada Nishiki in the U.S. and working with Isbell Farms in Arkansas in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and foster a sustainable supply chain. Dassai is also searching for an upstate producer to distill its “sake kasu,” rice lees into Shochu as well as pursuing a buyer of the rice powder from polishing and has made a large investment in water purification.
The original Dassai brewery was founded in the 1700s and is still in the same location in the mountains of Iwakuni in Yamaguchi, in Southern Japan. The Sakurai family took over in the late 1800s during the Meiji era and started the sake brewing business as Sakurai Sake Brewery. After the Second World War, in 1948, they established Asahi Shuzo with Hiroshi Sakurai becoming the family’s third-generation CEO in 1984. He launched the brand Dassai shortly thereafter, growing it to the number one premium sake brand in Japan.
“The expansion of production to the United States is a significant step towards realizing the desire I had when I started Dassai 30 years ago, which was to have Dassai enjoyed all over the world,” said Chairman Hiroshi Sakurai.
The Dassai Blue property consists of two buildings: the brewery and a rice polishing facility, both of which were designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and their Japanese partner, Jun Mitsui. The interior welcomes visitors to observe the brewing process through multiple windows looking into various production rooms. The exterior design mixes modern and traditional, as seen in the tin roof and the burnt cedar walls of the rice mill.
“The goal of Dassai Blue is to create the finest sake achievable within the environment of New York,” said President and CEO Kazuhiro Sakurai.
Dassai is also proudly collaborating with the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), also located in the Hudson Valley, to further the education and awareness of sake in the United States. As part of the partnership, they will be developing curriculum, certification programs, workshops, special events and tastings. Since sake plays an important role in Japanese society, these new unique programs will further the education of Japanese cuisine and culture for CIA students, food enthusiasts, food industry professionals, and other visitors to the Hudson Valley.
To encourage Dassai’s growth in New York, Empire State Development offered the Japan-based brewery up to $588,235 in performance-based tax credits through the Excelsior Jobs Program. Dassai has invested more than $80 million in the facility and will create 32 new jobs. “New York’s wineries, cideries and craft beverage industry are engines for job creation, tourism, and regional economic growth,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “Dassai’s expansion into the Mid-Hudson Region builds on New York’s national and international leadership in agribusiness and will be a welcome addition to this industry.”
The Dassai Blue Sake Brewery is located at 5 St Andrew Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538 (2 hours north of Manhattan via car or Amtrak). It will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 1pm-4pm starting October 19th for small group tours and tastings by reservation only through the company’s website. The brand will start distributing in New York State on Monday, September 25th. The first product, Dassai Blue Type 50 is priced at $34.99, and will be sold at Union Square Wines, Kuraichi, and 1936 Wines and other retailers and restaurants.