I was never a fan of sake until I went to Japan and discovered the huge variety of its national drink. Essentially, it's like wine, in that there are dozens of varieties that run the gamut from dry to sweet and everything in between.
While wandering in Toronto's restored Distillery District last weekend, my friend and I happened upon the all-in-one brewery and tasting bar of the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company. I felt duty-bound to investigate.
The limestone walls of the renovated 19C building make an impressive backdrop to the bar. The main attraction is the sake tasting flights, but you can order a single glass if you like. My friend and I opted for the 'small' tasting flight, which consisted of, yes, 3 small cups containing 3 different types of sake brewed onsite.
I'm on the right, if you're wondering.
If memory serves, we were given the Genshu (which I think we're toasting with in the picture above), Teion Sakura, and Nama-Nama. Of the 3, I preferred the lightest-tasting, which was the Teion Sakura. In the end, however, we purchased a bottle of the Genshu to enjoy later with other friends. The small tasting flight cost $10 per person.
Weekend tours of the brewery are available. All the brewing takes place on the premises, behind where we're sitting in the above photo. Here's a view of the brewing area.
The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company claims to be the first sake brewery in eastern North America to make sake in the Junmai style, i.e. unfiltered and unpasteurized sake. As a practical matter, pasteurization extends shelf life, so unpasteurized sake needs to be refrigerated and should be drunk within six months.
If you're keen to learn more, there are weekend tours of the brewing area. I myself AM keen, so I plan to sign up for a tour on my next visit to Toronto.
All the sake products are available for sale onsite in both small and large bottles.
Gift sets, snacks, and assorted sake accessories are also offered. The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company supplies Toronto restaurants, and it distributes its wares through the LCBO, as well. I wouldn't count on finding them in your local LCBO -- mine, for example, doesn't have any OSWSC products on the shelves on the day that I'm writing this. (Note to out-of-province and international readers: the LCBO is the government-owned chain of stores that has a virtual monopoly on retail sales of alcohol in the province of Ontario. Seriously.)
You can find the brewery and tasting bar at 51 Gristmill Lane in the Distillery District. I highly recommend visiting. For more information, please go to: http://ontariosake.com/home/