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Izakaya Den hosts Asabiraki Sake Brewery for a lesson in sake pairing

All sakes start with rice and water, which are fermented in a process similar to that of brewing beer. But every toji -- head sake brewer -- has a different style, and rice polishing, additives and aging techniques all result in vastly different expressions of the spirit. Sake can be bracingly dry or sweet and ambrosial, crystal clear or nearly opaque, sparkling, fruity or floral. Some are meant to be served hot, while it's an insult to serve others any way but cold.

And tonight you have the rare chance to compare several sakes from Asabiraki Sake Brewery.

Izakaya Den is hosting an event that will pair appetizers with spirits from Asabiraki. The brewery's distinct sakes are award-winners, but you don't frequently find them in Denver.

The brewery, which was started in 1871, is famous for its Nanbu style of sake brewing, which uses lower temperatures and long-term fermentation to achieve spirits with a crisp, smooth finish. The Nanbu technique was developed in northern Japan -- where Asabiraki is located -- 300 years ago, and has since proliferated throughout the country.

Yasu Kizaki, owner (with his brother) of Izakaya Den, Sushi Den and Ototo, says his decision to bring in Asabiraki Sake is related to the earthquake. "Because we are deeply connected with many vendors from our industry in Japan, we have decided to carry some of their sake we never carried before," he says. "We feel this is the long-term solution to help companies in Japan, including sake breweries."

Asabiraki is located in the Iwate prefecture, which was rocked by the quake; industries in the area, including sake brewing, are still recovering slowly.

The event runs from 6 until 9 p.m. tonight at Izakaya Den; tickets are $50 at the door.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk