We talk to founder Lucy Wilson to find out more about new sake brewery KANPAI on the Bermondsey beer mile
Find out more about the Japanese tipple:
Firstly, what is sake, for those who may not be familiar with the tipple?
Lucy Wilson: Sake is a truly unique drink: we say it is “brewed like a beer and enjoyed like a wine”.
Sake is a fermented beverage made from rice, its roots are Japanese and stretch back more than 500 years. It’s easy to drink and for smooth sipping. It is not strong like a spirit, as it is fermented it has relatively low alcohol, which is more similar to wine strength, around 15% ABV.
Junmai Sake (which we mostly make) is made from only four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji – a magic mould, also used to make soy and miso.
How is it best consumed?
Most premium sakes are best enjoyed chilled in a glass – be it a small sake glass or a stemmed wine glass. When winter comes around, it’s fun to play with warming up certain sakes to different temperatures, opening up new flavours.
Which is your favourite?
For me, you can’t beat a namazake – this means the sake is still “alive” as it hasn’t been pasteurised. It’s what we serve on the taps, and it is always full of life, super fresh and even a bit spritzy.
How did you start KANPAI and making sake?
Little did we know on an intoxicated holiday to Japan that we would come back and get obsessed with making sake. A hobby turned turbo, and we haven’t looked back.
Everything is brewed onsite, why is this important to you?
KANPAI sake is a true craft operation – our brewers have touched every grain of rice that makes the final sakes, and it simply wouldn’t have its personality and flavours without that intimate relationship.
What do you offer at the taproom?
The taproom’s sake bar is within our brewery site, so the sake simply can’t get any fresher! We have indoor and outdoor tables plus a special mezzanine with a viewing platform over the brewery. We run brewery tours with tastings every Saturday.
We have 10 taps serving our wide range of sakes by the glass for every taste, plus additional sakes by the bottle, and a rotating list of guest sake from fellow brewers (Japanese and international).
As for beers, you can always expect a special KANPAI collaboration beer alongside local craft beers. We have developed a special cocktail menu, as well as Japanese beer, whisky, gin, shochu, awamori and liqueurs.
Plus, the kitchen offers a delectable menu of Japanese izakaya-inspired dishes prepared by talented chef Tai Nguyen, former head chef at Hakata and Bone Daddies. Expect the finest ingredients crafted into oh-so-satisfying sando, gyoza and chicken wings. Each dish has been carefully designed to enjoy with sake to enhance it, as well as many dishes being made with sake or sake-by-products.
What has life been like since moving to the beer mile from Peckham and your opening on National Sake Day in October?
Tom [husband and co-founder] and I have spent many an afternoon on the beer mile over the years, we’ve always loved it and it felt like a natural progression for us when we outgrew our space in Peckham.
The Bermondsey community is amazing, thank you for welcoming us with open arms! From neighbours Omni doing amazing print wrapping on the front to OngOng bakery making shokupan bread with our sake kasu (leftover rice from the brewing).
We’ve met so many new faces and visitors are so curious about sake and open-minded to trying the range.
And finally, what can people expect from KANPAI next?
We are heads down in the brewery making this season’s sakes, then it’s full steam ahead arranging some fun events – keep your eyes peeled for sake-paired dinners and “Bonenkai” (Japanese “forget the year”) parties!
Happy hour is every Wednesday and Thursday 5-7pm, two draft sakes for £10.
Walk-ins welcome, plus bookings.
48 Druid Street, Bermondsey, SE1 2EZ