Farthest Star Sake Lands as New England’s Only Sake Taproom
At the Medfield taproom, brewer Todd Bellomy is exploring a new frontier of this ancient rice beverage.
On the surface, brewer Todd Bellomy’s story isn’t all that uncommon: He began homebrewing years before he opened his own production space and taproom. But unlike most (if not all?) owners on the booming brewery scene in New England, Bellomy wasn’t just working on the next great beer; he was also making sake.
Japan’s national drink, sake is created by fermenting rice. Bellomy, who majored in Japanese language at UMass Amherst, fell in love with the beverage after college while living abroad and apprenticing with a sword maker in the Kanto Region. (So, his story differs from most other brewers’ in that regard, as well.)
After returning to the United States in 2004, Bellomy began homebrewing beer and eventually got a desk job at Boston Beer Company. He also tried to seek out sake locally but, as he chronicled on his blog Boston Sake, there wasn’t much available in Boston-area stores and bars. So he got himself some Japanese brewing textbooks and tried his hand at making his own, eventually collaborating with Cambridge Brewing Company on a beer-sake hybrid and becoming the brewer at Dovetail Sake—a now-defunct Waltham producer.
Now, nearly 20 years after his first homebrew batch, Bellomy has debuted Farthest Star Sake—New England’s first sake taproom. The Medfield space opened on May 28 with four brews on draft: a fruity, filtered sake on the dry side, called X-1; a sweeter, cloudy, unfiltered sake called X-2; and two rotating, flavored batches. Bellomy also plans to begin distributing Farthest Star Sake to Massachusetts restaurants and stores later this summer. “My whole thing is to make sake accessible,” Bellomy says.
He’s doing that in a few ways. At the taproom, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays for now, he’s offering 5-ounce glasses as well as flights of three samples. Five ounces is a larger pour of sake than American restaurants typically offer, Bellomy says, and at $8, “it’s probably the best deal on sake in Massachusetts.” By September, he also aims to begin kegging sake for restaurants and producing two bottled varieties, which will be sold in roughly 7-ounce vessels at stores throughout the state. “Single-serve sake is what is getting people to try it,” Bellomy says.
For at least this summer, though, the only place to sip Farthest Star Sake is the Medfield taproom—also designed to be inclusive. Located in an industrial area off Route 27, it has parking and sits next to 7th Wave Brewing, a local beer company and pizza kitchen. “Being next to a beer brewery helps both of us,” Bellomy says of 7th Wave. He’s been especially jazzed to see visitors bring in pizzas to enjoy with their sake. “I love sake with all food, and that’s a real uphill battle for sake breweries in general,” he says, noting that Americans tend to associate drinking sake only with sushi or ramen. Food pop-ups are already happening at the new taproom, and “our plan is definitely to get [vendors] in here making everything,” Bellomy says.
With big windows letting in natural light, table and counter seating, plus large silver tanks on the production floor, Farthest Star may not look too different from any brewery you might’ve visited. But it has some amenities wholly unique from a beer operation. Made of recycled refrigeration panels, a custom “koji room,” for one, offers a space to grow koji—a mold cultured on rice that produces the enzymes sake brewers need to break down rice starches into sugar, which is required to produce alcohol. “It’s analogous to malting in beer,” Bellomy explains, noting how malthouses like Valley Malt prepare grains that beer brewers use. “We need a really clean source of enzymes, so we do this incredibly laborious, two-day process anytime we make a drop of sake.”
It takes about six to eight weeks to go from grain-of-rice to glass, so the sakes Farthest Star opened with are on tap for the foreseeable future. Small-batch flavors based on each type—like a dry-hopped version of X-1 called Biodome—will come and go as Bellomy and his employee, Daniel Moon, experiment.
Because that’s really what this new frontier of sake brewing is all about. “Sake is this ancient Japanese beverage that is on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the States,” Bellomy says. “We’re at the cusp of letting this beverage spread its wings and be influenced by the myriad drinks and traditions that exist here.”
120 N. Meadows Rd., Medfield, fartheststarsake.com.