Sake Fest

11 04 2009

Sake Fest Philadelphia is an annual event that benefits the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia by inviting sake vendors and restaurants to give the public a little taste of their wares. This is the third time Matt and I attended so we know the routine by now: arrive early, get some food in our bellies (because it’s usually gone in an hour), and then schmooze amongst the sake.

The event is held in Millennium Hall of the Loews Hotel:

This year Sake Fest hosted sixteen beverage distributors and twelve food vendors, although unfortunately three of the food vendors did not show (Di Bruno Bros., Alfa, and Miss Amelia’s BBQ).

This is generally a fine event for people who want to taste as many different types of sake as they can in two and a half hours.  It was difficult to have a lengthy conversation with any of the vendors about their sake as there wasn’t much time to talk–they really only had time to pour.  A select few of the vendors had representatives just to discuss and educate but it worked most effectively on a one-on-one basis.

Matt and I do enjoy this event because of the diversity and uniqueness of sake that is presented.  For the novice, it can be an excellent introduction to this beverage.  For the expert, it’s a playground of new selections and tastes (more of which will be detailed in a future sake-only review).

We also can see old acquaintances that have come into town just for this event:

This year, two beer vendors were invited to Sake Fest.  This didn’t really make much sense to us but the event organizers explained that it was because “sake” in Japanese actually means “alcohol.”  What we call “sake” is actually called “nihon-shu” in Japan.  It would have been a nice addition to the Fest if these were unique and little-known beers being introduced to many people for the first time, such as Hitachino Nest.  Asahi and Sapporo are like the Budweisers and Heinekens of Japanese beers.


There was an underlying sense of sake education being an important part of the event and this could become a major selling point in future years. This year there was a bit of a disconnect between the education and the beverages and food. Signs were put up on the tables with recommendations on what to eat with the sake at that table. There was a “sake educator” on site but placed at the back of the room, quite difficult to locate.  This concept needs to be fully committed to. This event could be really dynamic, as it is unique and only happens once a year, but it needs some focus and more effort and thought to be more than just tasting and leaving. I hope that the event continues to grow and add to their concept of education and diversity.

Sake and food posts will follow.  Stay tuned.




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