Raise a glass to New England. This year, Massachusetts sake makers Dovetail Sake and Vermont’s DRINKmaple have paired up for a uniquely regional drink. The partnership subs in DRINKmaple’s organic maple water during the brewing process to create Kōyō, a specialty northeast sake. Named for the Japanese word for autumn leaves, the beverage is a natural match for the season’s bounty, bridging the gap between fall and spring (as well as between beer and wine) for holidays cheers-ing.
Dovetail Sake launched in 2016, hand-crafting small-batch sakes using American-grown rice and Japanese yeast. Each of their flavors – Kōyō is the third – are designated Ginjo grade, based on the fact that 40% of the rice grain is milled away to get to the starch-y center. The Kōyō is a Junmai Ginjo, meaning that it’s a product of pure rice brewing, without the addition of alcohol. “We consider ourselves heavily inspired by Japanese brewing tradition, so we feel no need to change sake to fit into an American palate,” says co-founder Todd Bellomy, who runs Dovetail with Daniel Krupp. “However, sake brewing in Japan often has strong regionality in local water or rice strains.” Enter DRINKmaple, the ingredient that brings extra New England-ness to the Kōyō bottles.
The organic maple water company was begun by partners Kate Weiler and Jeff Rose, both Ironman triathletes who appreciate the beverage for its nutrient-rich hydration. They started DRINKmaple in 2014, sustainably sourcing their product from family-run farms in Vermont according to maple tapping season. It boasts 46 nutrients and a hint of sweetness, bringing a maple-y addition to the Kōyō. “It brings a light maple aroma and flavor, minerality and a unique green wood note,” says Bellomy. “It is water from a tree, after all.”
According to the collaborators, Kōyō is best enjoyed chilled, alongside the fall foods of autumn and winter in the northeast. “We have noticed that the maple and spice notes seem to pair best with foods like turkey, duck, sweet potato and squash, roasted vegetables and hard cheeses,” Bellomy explains. “Over Thanksgiving, we confirmed that is it also amazing with pumpkin pie.” A place at the holiday table seems appropriate for the autumnal addition or it can even replace the New Year’s Eve toast, served in a wine or tulip glass to concentrate the fruity, spicy flavors and aroma. You can find Kōyō on the shelf at spots like Craft Beer Cellar and Gordon’s Fine Wines for gifting your favorite beverage-lover or sipping yourself in New England spirit.