There was so much in Tomomi Seki's article that I'm coming back to it again!

After talking about the difference between the loosely-defined hiyaoroshi and akiagari, she goes on to rate a few different types of events (not an exhaustive list) in terms of suitability for people new to sake:

 

  • Nomi-aruki: (飲み歩き) Literally walking and drinking, this could be bar-hopping or sake shop-hopping, or maybe a succession of booths or tents set up for an event. The article rates this format 5/5 for newbies as it makes it easy to go to new places and try lots of different types of sake.
  • Chakuseki: (着席) A more formal seated tasting. Rated 4/5, recommended for letting newcomers experience food pairing and taste several different sakes in succession. They could be held by a brewery, letting visitors taste the full range of sake they produce, or by sake shops to show how to match sake with different dishes.
  • Kurabiraki: (蔵開き) Brewery open days, rated 3/5 as it's best to already have tried some sake and have a few favourite brewers before going to the effort of visiting one. Although it can be an amazing experience to drink the sake where it's produced, alongside the local foods that it's made to go with, many breweries are in remote areas and difficult to get to.
  • Kaku-uchi: (角打ち) Rated 5/5, these events see newcomers tasting sake with the owner of a sake shop and buying the ones they like on the spot. It can be hard to choose a brewery or sake without much knowledge, so being able to ask the shop staff should put new buyers' minds to rest.
  • Kaiyū: (回遊) Visiting a succession of brewery stands at a hotel or event hall, rated only 1/5 for newcomers. The low rating is because these events are aimed more at professionals such as restaurant or bar owners or people working in sake shops looking for new items to stock, and could have up to 100 breweries and 300 types of sake, making them overwhelming for someone without much experience. 

It's a good point about not trying an event aimed at professionals if you're new to tasting - it sounds like my experience at WABI, where there were too many sakes, too much noise and distraction, and not nearly enough time! If you can find one, a paired dinner like the ones held by Tengu Sake in London, are a great way to concentrate on experiencing a smaller range of sake "in context" with food. 

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