Books on Sake, Brewing, and Related Fields

Below we’ve listed a selection of books to improve your brewing technique and knowledge of sake as a category.


Authors: Michael Tremblay, Nancy Matsumoto, John Gauntner

*Recipient of the James Beard Media Award – Claiming the title of best book in the “Beverage without Recipes” category*

*Top 10 Nominee of the Spirited Award from the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation*

This stunning guide invites you into the story of sake–an ancient beverage finding its way in a modern world.

Whether you’re a sake novice or an experienced connoisseur, Exploring the World of Japanese Craft Sake offers fascinating insights, practical tips, and rich stories about this popular beverage.

Authors and experts Nancy Matsumoto and Michael Tremblay personally undertook the challenge of visiting 35 artisanal sake breweries in Japan, the US, and Canada to interview makers and document every stage of the sake brewing process. Nancy’s celebrated journalistic background combined with Michael’s sake sommelier experience have led to an engaging and informative look at the world of sake.

With over 300 color photos and a lively narrative, this fascinating book provides:

  • A comprehensive introduction to the science and history of sake brewing in Japan
  • A look at how fine craft sakes are brewed today using traditional methods and no additives–only rice, water, koji, and yeast
  • Histories of Japan’s venerable breweries, some of them over 300 years old!
  • An answer to why some breweries are able to turn out a superior quality of sake
  • A discussion of rice varieties and the contentious topic of terroir in the context of sake making.
  • Current trends in the world of sake, including the fine sakes now brewed outside Japan
  • Tasting notes and recommendations for top craft sakes you have not heard about yet

This book also includes personal recipes from several top Japanese sake-brewing families along with food-pairing tips and a chapter on the authors’ own Japanese sake-bar-going adventures.

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The Japanese Sake Bible

Author: Brian Ashcraft

Watch our virtual book discussion with Brian Ashcraft!

The Japanese Sake Bible is the ultimate book about Japan’s national drink—from its history, culture and production methods to how to choose the best sake and recommended food pairings.

Author Brian Ashcraft—the author of the popular guide Japanese Whisky—has put together lively commentaries based on dozens of interviews with master brewers and sake experts across Japan. His fascinating stories are accompanied by over 300 full-color photographs, maps and drawings.

A unique feature of this book is that it includes reviews, tasting notes, scores and a buying guide for over 100 of the leading sake brands, written by respected Japanese sake expert Takashi Eguchi. These include all the sakes most commonly found outside Japan. Each sake has a photo of the label, tasting notes, a score and recommended food pairings. Information on the leading brewers is provided, and the sakes are grouped by flavor profile.

Japanese sake is brewed worldwide today and is winning over many converts. A foreword by sake connoisseur and world-renowned DJ Richie Hawtin addresses the spread in global popularity and the shared mission of making this specialty beverage as accessible as possible. With the help of this book you’ll soon become an expert in selecting, serving and enjoying Japan’s favorite drink.

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The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks: Sake, Shochu, Japanese Whisky, Beer, Wine, Cocktails and Other Beverages

Author: Stephen Lyman, Chris Bunting

Japan is home to some of the world’s most interesting alcoholic beverages—from traditional Sake and Shochu to Japanese whisky, beer, wine and cocktails that are winning global acclaim and awards.

In this comprehensive survey of Japanese drinks, experts Stephen Lyman and Chris Bunting cover all the main types of beverages found in Japanese bars and restaurants, as well as supermarkets and liquor stores around the world. The book has chapters on Sake, Shochu, whisky, wine, beer, Awamori (a moonshine-like liquor from Okinawa), Umeshu plum wine and other fruit wines. There is also a fascinating chapter on modern Japanese-style cocktails—complete with recipes so you can get the authentic experience, including:

  • Sour Plum Cordial
  • Sakura Martini
  • Improved Shochu Cocktail
  • Far East Side Cocktail
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Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Sake

Author: Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association

A comprehensive overview of sake by the authorities in Japan.

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Textbook of Sake Brewing

The Textbook of Sake Brewing has been published by the Brewing Society of Japan in English in response to the developing popularity of sake in the overseas market. The aim of the translation is not only to show how to brew sake, but also to help elevate the quality of sake brewed overseas today. The original book in Japanese is popularly read in most sake breweries.

This book will promote the interest of readers who already read the Sake, the Essence of 2000 Years of Japanese Wisdom Gained from Brewing Alcohol Beverages from Rice published in 2010 from the Society.

Translator: Dr. Takashi INOUE
Proof reader: Dr. Elizabeth Anne KAMEI
Printing size: A5, 232 pages in black and white printing, hard cover
Publisher: Brewing Society of Japan (April, 2016)
ISBN: 978-4-9903394-4-9
Price: ¥2,500 + tax

Buy from the Brewing Society of Japan

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries

Authors: Elliot Faber, Hayato Hishinuma, Jason Lang, Bernard Baskin
Publisher: Gatehouse Publishing

SAKE: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries is a compendium of the most important generational sake breweries in Japan, featuring profiles of and interviews with the passionate families who run these operations, along with luxurious photography of the small batch processes, landscape and people involved. The 75 profiles include 60 sake breweries, 10 shochu distilleries and 5 awamori distilleries from Okinawa all the way to Hokkaido for geographic and stylistic diversity. For over 2000 years, sake has been a uniquely Japanese product in some shape or form. Today, Japan even hosts a National Sake Day. However, despite 21st century globalization, it remains an industry that is little understood by outsiders, regardless of the fact that there is growing interest. In addition to the colorful, deeply personal stories behind the owners and brewers, the book will serve as a guide to Japan’s most unique generational sake, helping to enlighten a new drinking audience on artisanal alternatives to the popular mainstream offerings. To ensure a well-rounded approach, the book will also provide an introduction to unique shochu and awamori distilleries, two close relatives of sake. Beautifully illustrated with full color photography by one of the world’s top travel photographers (Jason Lang), the book will appeal to a broad audience but is intended for readers outside of Japan. For novices, it will open a window to the world of sake and the stories of the passionate people who make it. Well initiated enthusiasts will benefit from a curated list of sake, shochu and awamori breweries and distilleries they can further research, buy and taste. Because many of these breweries and distilleries do not actively export their products outside Japan, beverage professionals will discover many brands that they wish to contact and consider importing for their menus.

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Nihonshu: Japanese Sake

Author: Gautier Roussille

Easy-to-read yet scrupulously precise, this book is the fruit of more than 6 years of research, a season of sake-making in Japan and countless exchanges with industry professionals. It meticulously unveils all the mysteries of sake. This book is intended for anyone who wishes to understand sake, its ingredients and its production method, whether they be neophytes, amateurs or professionals. Four themes are covered: raw materials, fermentation, fining and tasting.

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Brewing Saké: Releasing the Toji Within

Author: William G. Auld

Release the Toji Within Like Japan’s Toji, master brewers, you too can brew excellent saké. Brewing Saké details the ingredients, equipment, and knowhow for brewing Japan’s national drink, Saké. It will provide you with the ability to brew your own high quality sake and proudly share it with your friends and family. This is the first non-Japanese book entirely on brewing saké. Based firmly on the actual methods used by Japanese brewers, Brewing Saké details each step in the brewing process and how you can implement them. But it does not stop there; rather it explains the underlying processes that are driven by the micro-biology of the yeast and bacteria that drive the brewing process as well as the chemistry embodied by the ingredients. Brewing Saké walks you through a step by step method that will give you the best chance of a successful first brew. By the time you have finished reading this book, you will have a full command and understanding of saké brewing, each of the steps involved and the ingredients used.

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Sake Confidential: A Beyond-the-Basics Guide to Understanding, Tasting, Selection, and Enjoyment

Author: John Gauntner

With today’s sake drinkers increasingly informed and adventurous, now is the time for a truly expert guide to take you deeper into appreciation of this complex but delightful Japanese beverage, brewed from rice and enjoyed both warm or chilled.

And what better mentor than John Gauntner, the “Sake Guy” and the world’s leading non-Japanese sake educator and evangelist? Here in over two dozen no-holds-barred essays, John reveals “the truth about sake” from a connected insider’s perspective. No other book or website presents such a knowledgeable, practical, and concise yet complete guide to sake idiosyncrasies, misperceptions, and controversies.

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Le Guide du Sake en France

Authors: Adrienne Natsumi Saulnier Blache and Ryoko Sekiguchi

At a time when world wines (German, Hungarian, American, Chilean, Serbian, Greek, African, Italian …) are invited to our tables, sake is no exception. This “rice wine”, straight from Japan, seduces us with its delicate taste and ancestral manufacturing methods. This guide answers the questions of neophytes: “Which vintage to choose? With which dishes to grant? Is it hot or cold? “… It’s also a textbook for knowledgeable amateurs. With a selection of 100 best sakes, portraits of producers, tasting fact sheets and an address book.

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Globalization of Sake

Author: Philip Harper

A two part article on the globalization of sake. In Japanese only.

Download Part 1Download Part 2

Food, Fermentation, & Rice

Koji Alchemy

Authors: Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih

The first book devoted to processes, concepts, and recipes for fermenting and culturing foods with koji, the microbe behind the delicious, umami flavors of soy sauce, miso, mirin, and so many of the ingredients that underpin Japanese cuisine

Koji Alchemy chefs Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih—collectively considered to be the most practical, experienced, generous educators on the culinary power of this unique ingredient—deliver a comprehensive look at modern koji use around the world. Using it to rapidly age charcuterie, cheese, and other ferments, they take the magic of koji to the next level, revolutionizing the creation of fermented foods and flavor profiles for both professional and home cooks.

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A History of the American Rice Industry, 1685-1985

Author: Henry C. Dethloff

Henry C. Dethloff has researched many originals manuscript documents for the history of this three-hundred-year-old American agribusiness.

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Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas

Author: Judith Carney

Few Americans identify slavery with the cultivation of rice, yet rice was a major plantation crop during the first three centuries of settlement in the Americas. Rice accompanied African slaves across the Middle Passage throughout the New World to Brazil, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. By the middle of the eighteenth century, rice plantations in South Carolina and the black slaves who worked them had created one of the most profitable economies in the world.

Black Rice tells the story of the true provenance of rice in the Americas. It establishes, through agricultural and historical evidence, the vital significance of rice in West African society for a millennium before Europeans arrived and the slave trade began. The standard belief that Europeans introduced rice to West Africa and then brought the knowledge of its cultivation to the Americas is a fundamental fallacy, one which succeeds in effacing the origins of the crop and the role of Africans and African-American slaves in transferring the seed, the cultivation skills, and the cultural practices necessary for establishing it in the New World.

In this vivid interpretation of rice and slaves in the Atlantic world, Judith Carney reveals how racism has shaped our historical memory and neglected this critical African contribution to the making of the Americas.

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The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, vinegars, garums, lacto-ferments, and black fruits and vegetables (Foundations of Flavor)

Author: René Redzepi

At Noma—four times named the world’s best restaurant—every dish includes some form of fermentation, whether it’s a bright hit of vinegar, a deeply savory miso, an electrifying drop of garum, or the sweet intensity of black garlic. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles.

Now René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, and David Zilber, the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab, share never-before-revealed techniques to creating Noma’s extensive pantry of ferments. And they do so with a book conceived specifically to share their knowledge and techniques with home cooks. With more than 500 step-by-step photographs and illustrations, and with every recipe approachably written and meticulously tested, The Noma Guide to Fermentation takes readers far beyond the typical kimchi and sauerkraut to include koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, lacto-ferments, vinegars, garums, and black fruits and vegetables. And—perhaps even more important—it shows how to use these game-changing pantry ingredients in more than 100 original recipes.

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The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection

Author: Karen Hess

This is a history of the influence of rice and African culture on the economy and households of the Old South. Included is a facsimile of Carolina Rice Cook Book.

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The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World

Author: Sandor Ellix Katz

Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship, and a New York Times bestseller, The Art of Fermentation is the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published. Sandor Katz presents the concepts and processes behind fermentation in ways that are simple enough to guide a reader through their first experience making sauerkraut or yogurt, and in-depth enough to provide greater understanding and insight for experienced practitioners.

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