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Will the American Dassai Sake Surpass its Japanese Counterpart?

Sake crafted by Asahi Shuzo's brewery in Hyde Park, NY received high praise at a tasting event where participants compared it with the original Japanese Dassai.



Asahi Shuzo members in charge of Dassai Blue, made in New York State, discuss sake brewing in the United States at a tasting event. Manga artist Kenji Hirokane (right) served as the moderator. (© JAPAN Forward by Yukihiro Watanabe)

"Dassai Blue" is the product name of sake produced at Asahi Shuzo's Dassai Blue Sake Brewery, which opened in New York State in 2023. The word "blue" was inspired by the Japanese proverb, "The indigo dye is bluer than the indigo plant from which it is derived."

This proverb is used to praise an apprentice who surpasses their master through diligent training. Therefore, the name "Dassai Blue" hints at the aspirations of the American brewery to craft sake that surpasses its Japanese counterpart.

In response to fervent requests from curious Dassai enthusiasts, a limited quantity of Dassai made for the American market was imported to Japan. Released in late April, the sake is only available until stocks run out, making it truly exclusive.

Bottles of Dassai Blue (©JAPAN Forward by Yukihiro Watanabe)

At a tasting event, I had the privilege to compare American Dassai with its Japanese counterpart. The American Dassai is made with American rice and water from New York State. Participants at the event offered overwhelmingly positive feedback. They expressed admiration for Asahi Shuzo's dedication and the American brewers' efforts in achieving a high quality in a short time.

According to Dassai Blue's chief brewer, the sake currently crafted at the brewery surpasses those sampled at the event. This raises expectations for even greater flavors in the future.

Challenges for Dassai Blue

President Kazuhiro Sakurai of Asahi Shuzo states that Japanese sake accounts for a mere 0.2% of total alcohol consumption in the United States. Thus, the journey of Dassai Blue has just begun. It faces an uphill climb to attain parity with other alcoholic beverages like wine and spirits.

Nevertheless, the popularity of Japanese cuisines such as sushi and ramen among Americans suggests promising market potential for sake, provided it seizes the opportunity to shine.

Participants had the opportunity to compare Dassai Blue and the original Japanese Dassai. (©JAPAN Forward by Yukihiro Watanabe)

Visitors to the Dassai Blue brewery frequently purchase sake following their tour. Offering the opportunity to see the brewing process firsthand seems to have an impact on potential customers.

Furthermore, the brewery is situated in Hyde Park, near the esteemed Culinary Institute of America (CIA). It is a two-hour drive from New York City. The significance of the institute's faculty and students being able to observe and experience the brewing process cannot be overstated.


Asahi Shuzo clearly has a long-term perspective on Dassai Blue's challenge in the United States. I look forward to reporting on its progress again.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Yukihiro Watanabe, JAPAN Forward advisor