Patrick Shearer / Head Brewer, Ben’s American Sake, Asheville, North Carolina
Originating in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Ben’s American Sake has crafted a fresh new take on an ancient beverage. Ben’s is one of the first American craft sake producers and the first to promote sake drinking outside of sushi restaurants in the United States, particularly in a casual tasting room and beer/sake garden setting.
Ben’s Head Brewer Patrick Shearer says Ben’s is unabashedly American and aims to remove any pretension from the experience of serving and drinking this ancient refined Japanese libation. Ben’s strives to make sake approachable with new fruit infusions, light carbonation and friendly packaging in familiar bottles and cans.
All of Ben’s sakes are served fresh, unpasteurized (“Namazake” or “Nama Sake”) and chilled for a truly original sake experience compared to most sake sold in the U.S. that have been pasteurized and shipped from Japan. Ben’s crafts traditional styles such as Nama Genshu, unpasteurized and undiluted sake, and unfiltered Nigori (meaning “cloudy,” “milky” or “foggy”) but its most popular sakes are fruit-infused. All sake is naturally gluten-free and vegan.
The most popular fruit-infused sake are the bestselling Ben’s Lemon Ginger and Yu-Tang with The Perfect Purée Mandarin/Tangerine Concentrate. Yu-Tang emerged from an experimental session with complimentary samples from The Perfect Purée and became an immediate staff and customer favorite when it was released as a summer seasonal in 2019.
“The flavor impact from the Mandarin/Tangerine Concentrate was immense!” Patrick exclaims. “The bright orange color and complex citrus aroma and flavor was an instant hit.”
As a concentrate, Mandarin/Tangerine has no added sugar, which helps Ben’s maintain a dry finish to elevate Yu-Tang’s citrus profile and reduce concerns about the product refermenting once it’s blended.
“Concentrates also help save money on shipping costs since a little goes a long way,” Patrick says.
Ben’s adds a splash of yuzu juice to Yu-Tang for another layer of citrus complexity, then dilutes its base sake down to 6.5% ABV and carbonates it. Patrick says Ben’s lowered the alcohol content in Yu-Tang more than its other infused products because it’s so good everyone wants to drink more of it.
“In the process of working on this product, we created what very well may be the first “sake spritzer” on the market,” he says. “Yu-Tang has been an amazing success and has helped us reach customers that previously wouldn’t have been interested in trying sake.”
Yu-Tang has been so popular that Ben’s expanded distribution in North Carolina and South Carolina. It’s also available via Ben’s website to the following states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.