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Craft sake is hot – and a Minnesota restaurant is credited with the trend

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The sake market is an emerging one, a new story from The Associated Press says, with consumption of the drink (sometimes referred to as rice wine) trending upward in the United States.

And the person who got the entire trend brewing, the AP says, is none other than Blake Richardson and his Minneapolis restaurant-brewery moto-i.

In 2013, an NPR story said the same thing, noting the Uptown spot moto-i is "widely considered" America's first sake micro brewery.

Richardson, who also opened Herkimer Pub and Brewery in Uptown, had an interesting path to becoming a groundbreaking sake advocate, which Minnesota Business Magazine detailed in a story from 2010.

"So how does a University of Minnesota speech communications major with no business acumen and a novice interest in the art of brewing start his dream brewpub – the decade-old Herkimer – and why, just when things have stabilized, does he decide to leverage it all in the hopes of starting the first sake brewpub – the year-and-a-half-old Moto-I – in the country?" the story says.

He went to Japan three times, starting in 2006, to learn about sake – how it's made, how it tastes. He then brought that knowledge back, hurdled some regulation and equipment obstacles, and in 2008 opened moto-i.

Richardson told the AP he believes sake's popularity will continue going up as people become more comfortable with the Japanese terminology and characters used.

Moto-i's sake

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made with fermented rice.

While it's often described as a wine (because it isn't carbonated, has a light appearance, and is usually around 18 percent alcohol), the brewing process is actually much closer to beer, Brittanica explains.

The first written record of sake dates back to the 3rd century A.D., Brittanica says.

Moto-i's sake is not pasteurized (unlike many American-produced sakes) and it's stored cold for a fresh and lively flavor. Richardson also follows Japanese tradition and brews the drink only in the winter, NPR wrote.

You can learn more about moto-i's brewing process on the brewery's website – from the milling of the rice, to its soaking and steaming, followed by the introduction of a mold spore called koji-kin as well as a yeast starter, before the fermentation process kicks in.

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