While it feels like sake has established itself, how do you find one you like with so many breweries all over Japan putting out so many different labels? One way to start searching is at the popular Kurand Sake Market.
The 1,600 sake brewers in Japan are mostly small businesses, who find it hard to market and advertise. They may make excellent sake, but it’s hard to get consumers to notice it, and it they don’t know about it they can’t ask for it or look for it. So a business that introduces sake to consumers is also of interest to producers. Once they have the chance to taste it, if they like it they’ll then keep buying it. That frees the brewer up to concentrate on making even better sake – everyone wins.
Offering a large range of sake, but in small quantities (ochoko) lets consumers try lots of different sake in a short period of time, and the fixed price with no time limit lets them have fun tasting without feeling pressured. (You can also bring your own food or order food to be delivered.) They also invite brewers to give talks and meet the drinkers, giving them a chance to meet each other and build personal connections, and cater to those discovering sake and those who already know about it.
Their business model covers planning, making, distributing and selling sake so it covers the entire process, and as they know all about sake they also have a large refrigerated warehouse to store their stock in optimal condition.
The unlimited all-you-can-drink plan costs JPY 3,000 (excluding tax) and Kurand has eight branches in Tokyo and Yokohama. Advance booking is highly recommended and can be done on their site.