Canada’s Only Sake: Artisan SakeMaker on Granville Island, Vancouver BC

We will get to the only Saké made in Canada in a sec. But first a little context to our day.

We start the day headed to Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology. An hour bus drops us on BC’s campus and we hike down to the museum. Small, pricey, and confusing, the museum is a wunderkamen of fabulous totem poles, masks, and ritual wares.

Moa Vancouver anthropology museum

Placards provide oodles of info about acquisition and restoration histories, but little to describe what the heck is depicted (is that a hedghog licking a dwarf priest? No clue).  At least the Salmon chowder tastes delightful.

Nevertheless, famed Bill Reid’s first modern monumental work sits at the Museum’s center. It represents the birth of humanity. Thanks raven for cajoling us out of that clam shell.

Bill Reid

Lacking context or order, we walk out to the totem-framed village, where a coyote was just prowling.

MOA First Peoples village

And then begins our waterfront day hike. First we head down the cliffside:

Vancouver ravineAt bottom we walk a coast of slippery granite stones…for miles. A never ending view makes up for broken ankles:

We walk 9 miles of coast. Dog beaches morph into million dollar house rows. We find a commune home where the Grateful Dead and others stayed. Halready and completely worn, we pass Vancouver’s oldest building: Hasting’s Mill Store:


With the sun already set, after a snack, our tired feet find Artisan Sake Maker amidst Granville Island’s craft shops.

OSake Vancouver artisan sake

For seven years Masa Shiroki has developed Canada’s first sake production. They started with rice imported from Japan, but three years ago planted the world’s most northerly rice field here in the Fraser Valley.  Mad?  Probably.  But they sourced a hardy sake rice strain from Japan’s most Northern region, Hokkaido. If anything could work, it would.

Today, most of their Sakes are converting over to the organic farm. A harvester helps, but it was backbreaking work for their small team when it broke down.

They mill, ferment, bottle, label, and promote everything from this narrow hall.

Osake Artisan Sake Maker

All their sake is fresh and unpasteurized (“Nama”: rare compared to Japan’s imports). They even make a beauty line from the rice byproduct.

But how does Sake from the great white north perform?

We start with Osake’s entry Junmai, which glows clean, bright, and citric with a round, honeyed, white melon of a medium body. It warms well, is a touch too sweet, and lasts a moderate length. Their Junmai is very good (4 of 5) and extremely food-flexible to my ignorant palate. And it comes from Fraser Valley. We buy it.

Osake Junmai nama

Osaka still had a few bottles of their third batch experiment Junmai from Fraser Valley rice (before the transition), which showed similar attributes to the above, but waxier, drier, and more mineral.

Their sparkling sake, albeit open too long, still tasted lit, zippy, and petilant thanks to a hit of CO2 (3 of 5).

Next, Osake’s Junmai Nama Genshu flaunts greater complexity, fullness, dryness, and overall focus. It tastes of fabulous aniseed, lychee syrup, lemon, hay, clover honey, and mint. This Genshu is grander (4 of 5) than their Junmai but for different reasons.

Next came the cloudy, sweeter Nigoris: the Hefeweizen of sake. The yeast added texture and a slight meatiness to the white melon, lemon peal, and honey of the previous styles. I love this style but their Genshu Nigori steps only a bit away from the regular Nigori. Both are quite good, but I expected more differentiation (3 of 5).

We get to try their SakeKazu: basically a paste of leftover lees used to flavor everything delicious including miso soup, their ice cream, salad dressing, chocolates, and their line of fruit drinks. Bam! Intense saline, sweet, earthy, fruity deliciousness hits our palates. Yum!

Osake has a solid lineup of drinks and fantastic potential. Everything is cleanly made and enjoyable, Their pricing is overly humble considering how extreme it is to make sake from scratch to bottle this far north. It was a long day that ended well. We also buy a bag of their rice…more on that later!





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3 Responses to Canada’s Only Sake: Artisan SakeMaker on Granville Island, Vancouver BC

  1. Pingback: Vancouver 4: Sake Rice, Mushroom, and Molsen Beer Risotto | WAYWARD WINE

  2. Duff's Wines says:

    There used to be a sake maker in the Distillery District in Toronto called Izumi. Not sure if they are still there. It is indeed interesting that sake would be made outside Japan. It seems almost sacreligious. Like Burgundy from California.

    • waywardwine says:

      Very interesting! There are a handful in the States as well, but they use Calrose rice from Cali which is more meant for sushi than sake. I give their calling it sake a shrug since sake per se isn’t an appellation, China and Korea do it too, but I agree, it feels weird.

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