Drink This Now: Nakahama Junmai, by Dovetail Sake

Massachusetts' first sake brewery has released its inaugural junmai at Cambridge Brewing Company, and other accounts are coming.

Nakahama Junmai by Dovetail Sake

Nakahama Junmai in branded glassware, with a prototype Dovetail Sake bottle. / Photo provided

Japanophile and brewer Todd Bellomy has been developing Massachusetts-made Dovetail Sake for years, and finally, Boston-area drinkers can have a taste. Dovetail’s first sake, a junmai called Nakahama, is now on draft at Cambridge Brewing Company, and it’ll be elsewhere around the region soon.

Junmai is a type of sake, and Bellomy’s is medium-dry, crisp, and refreshing. It’s fruity and complex, but Bellomy isn’t attaching a lot of tasting notes to his releases. “When you taste something, there’s no wrong answer,” he says. “Good sake, like ours, is fruity, spicy, it has a lot going on; it changes as you drink it. That draft version [of Nakahama] is a great first foray for people to get to know premium sake,” Bellomy says. 

Nakahama is named for “pioneering spirit” Nakahama Manjiro, who, at age 14, was rescued by the New England whaling ship USS John Howland. The teen ended up joining the crew, then settling in Fairhaven, becoming the first Japanese person to live in the U.S. “He continued to forge a bold path as the first Japanese citizen to command a trans-Pacific voyage, officer an American vessel, and ride a steam train. He taught ship-building, whaling, navigation, [and] English conversation, and eventually became an advisor and translator to the Japanese government. Nakahama’s impact in New England continues to this day,” Dovetail’s website reads.

Bellomy studied Japanese language in college, and various points on the brewer’s résumé include being a chef, a stint at Boston Beer Company, and even as a Japanese sword-making apprentice. When he returned to Boston from Japan, he sought out the caliber of rice wine he fell in love with overseas, and launched the blog Boston Sake to chronicle the endeavor.

In 2014, he cofounded Dovetail in Waltham with certified sake professional Daniel Krupp, and long ago promised Cambridge Brewing Company head brewer Will Meyers that CBC could be Dovetail’s first draft account. The two friends have collaborated for the past several years on a beer-sake hybrid, called Banryu Ichi on CBC’s draft list. Bellomy made good on his promise last month.

“There’s still a lot of staff [at CBC] who have some familiarity with sake from [Banryu Ichi]. I went in the day we put the [Nakahama] keg on and talked to them about my ideas about it, but it didn’t really take a lot of work” to educate the brewery staff, Bellomy says. “Will is doing wild fermentation oak beers, a lot of stuff with local ingredients; they’re used to talking about a lot of weird stuff.”

Bellomy is in talks with other bars and restaurants in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville about carrying Nakahama Junmai on draft, he says. He’s also brewing another type of sake, an unfiltered nigori called Ōmori. That one won’t make it on draft—sake has less viscosity than beer, so unfiltered brews are a challenge to serve from a keg, Bellomy says. But he will bottle both varieties, and he hopes restaurants as well as package stores around greater Boston will be interested in carrying Dovetail Sake. Look for those 500 mL bottles in early April, he says.

Nakahama Jumai is 14 percent ABV. At CBC, it’s served in 5-ounce sherry glasses for $8.

Cambridge Brewing Company, 1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge; 617-494-1994 or cambridgebrewingcompany.com.