In the heart of Toronto’s historic Distillery District sits The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, eastern North America’s first sake brewery. Using traditional Japanese methods, recipes and Ontario spring water, Torontonians and visitors alike enjoy fresh, unpasteurized, locally brewed sake for the first time. Many of the cities top Japanese restaurants proudly showcase the local spirit on their sake menus.
The company’s retail store is located within the brewery premises and features a tasting bar and wee patio out front. All of the sake produced here is prepared in the “Junmai” (pure rice) style in several varieties worth sampling during your visit. Be sure to call in advance to sign up for their educational one hour brewery tasting tour. You’ll learn a lot about the sake making process and have an opportunity to sip a few bottles. By the tasting bar you can order sake infused cocktails featuring Muskoka cranberry juice, yuzu and ginger.
I visited on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the middle of July. Staff here are infectiously friendly. I had fun chatting with the two women behind the counter about where in Japan they originally came from (Osaka and Tokyo) and was sure to ask them what their favourite sushi restaurant in Toronto was (they both raved about Koyoi Sushi being the most authentic). In between sake sips I sort of lost myself in the place and for a pleasant moment allowed my mind to drift back to the summer of 2008 when I backpacked through Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.
I had good fun nibbling on seaweed wrapped rice crackers which I dipped in wasabi and sesame dressings while sampling six different sakes. After sipping to the point of “a wee bit tipsy” I ordered two of their soya based “ice creams,” sweet black sesame and red bean offered a perfect cool treat to scoop in the hot hot heat.
Sips and Nibbles:
signature, unpasteurized sake
acidity, high koji ratio, low temperature fermentation
full bodied, undiluted higher alcohol
rough filtered, creamy and cloudy
pressed only by gravity
Seaweed and Rice Crackers
sakekasu sesame and wasabi dressing for dipping
Sakekasu Ice Cream
goma (black sesame) azuki (red bean)