M-50: Brewing beer versus brewing sake—What makes the difference?

U. KATTEIN (1); (1) Technische Universität München (retired), Wartenberg, Germany


Sake is the traditional alcoholic beverage of Japan. It comes in several different varieties and was first made at least 2,000 years ago. Since then, sake has played an important role in Japanese culture and history. From its origins as the “drink of the gods” to its current status as one of the most popular drinks in the country, the history of sake is steeped in tradition, innovation, and custom. Similar to beer, which presumably has its origins in steeped breads made with cereals, the original source of sake was steamed rice, a staple food in Japan. It must be assumed that in both cases some remains of dishes were forgotten and over a few days with high humidity and convenient temperatures, microorganisms could affect the carbohydrates and produce low amounts of alcohol. During the centuries, with continuous improvements, the contemporary high-quality characteristics of beer and sake were achieved. Although sake often is designated as “rice wine,” the production facilities are called breweries. The technology used is completely different from beer production, however, due to the fundamental disparities of the raw materials. Finished rice has no enzymes, only natural starch, and is not suitable for fermentation. So, first an artificial saccharification is performed by adding Saccharomyces oryzae to steamed rice. After a few days, enzymes of the MOs have modified some starch to low molecular carbohydrate, yeast and water are added, and a starting culture for final fermentation is fashioned. A few days later, the starter is mixed with additional steamed rice and water to the final mash. Over the next weeks, both enzymes of fungi and yeasts perform further modifications, the so called “parallel combined fermentation,” until the desired alcohol content is achieved. After filtration, pressing miscellaneous finings follow until the final product is ready to be bottled. This paper describes the sake brewing process in detail and the fundamental differences from the production of beer. Additional information is given using several pictures and clips taken during a visit in a sake craft brewery in Kyoto, Japan.

Udo Kattein received a diploma engineer degree from the Technische Universität München–Weihenstephan in 1972; afterward he performed an economic study at the University of Munich, finishing a diploma merchandiser degree in 1976. At this time he started work on his doctoral thesis and employment at TU München. He was charged with technical leadership of the Trial and Research Brewery Weihenstephan. He served as head brewer and was responsible for production of commercially sold malts and top-fermented beers. In addition to these tasks he was involved in the development of new beer types and training students. In 1984 he received a Ph.D. degree in engineering sciences, with a thesis on investigations of sulfur compounds in malt, wort, and beer. Since 2002 he has been responsible for the construction of the new malting and brewing facilities of the research brewery, which began in 2005. In 2010 he retired and occasionally acts as a consultant.

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