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How Master Brewer James Jin Brought Premium Sake Back to California

Using local rice and traditional methods, Jin makes the alcoholic beverage at LA’s first sake brewery

It’s safe to say that sake brewer James Jin is obsessed not with sake or beer, but with water. “The water is very important in anything, really — beer, sake, wine. More than 80 percent of what you’re drinking is water,” he says as he double-filters California water to make sake at Nova Brewing Co. in Los Angeles.

Noticing an absence in LA’s sake scene, Jin embarked on co-founding the city’s first sake brewery and tasting room. His shop is dedicated to using traditional methods and local ingredients. “Californian rice grew in Californian water. So I believe that making sake in Californian water with Californian rice is the best combination,” he explains, palming some shiny white grains of Calrose rice, which is notable for being the founding variety of the California rice industry. From there he embarks on the technical and scientific process of steaming, fermenting, and straining the rice to make the premium sake while using as few machines as possible.

Jin learned the classic, hands-on methods and techniques from Inaba Shuzo Brewery, a small and notable brewery in Japan. “I was really intrigued by the old way of making sake without too much machinery,” he says. “When you’re hands-on with your raw ingredient, you get to feel it, you get to have an intimate relationship with it. If you rely too much on machines, you stop learning about rice.”

Watch the video to see Jin’s laborious and dedicated process of making sake the traditional way.

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