“Sake is big in Japan, but it is just at the cusp of catching on in the west.”

Credit: Courtesy of Eric Rorer

When Jake Freed opened Shiba Ramen in Emeryville nearly three years ago with his wife Hiroko Nakamura, naturally he started slurping down a lot of noodles. And also a lot of sake.

“Drinking sake is an important part of the food culture in Japan,” says Freed. “After we opened up Shiba Ramen, we started drinking more of it, and the interest started to grow.”

So the chemists turned co-owners of the ramen-ya transformed their newfound thirst for Japan’s famed rice wine into a business: The Periodic Table, a sake-focused bar inside the Emeryville Public Market.

“The sake bar is a very public, democratic kind of place,” says Freed. “The flavor of an individual sake will change so much depending on what else you’re eating, so we realized we could use burgers, beer and chicken wings to get folks in the door, then have a unique opportunity to expose them to these great products in Japan.”

That means geeking out over innovations within the sake brewing industry they see coming out of Japan (and even the States) and giving it full attention on the menu at The Periodic Table. Look closely at the next bottle of sake you buy–if you see one of these things, you’re literally getting a taste of the next big thing in the field.

Credit: Courtesy of Eric Rorer

The Trend: Flower Yeasts

Strawberry, begonia and sunflower yeasts are just a few that are making their way into bottles. “These are added during fermentation,” Freed says. “The result is a unique flavor profile that you don’t typically get with most sake. Each one is a different experience.”

Drink It Now: Amabuki Gin no Kurenai, made with dianthus yeast.

The Trend: Rice Strains

Considered the king of sake rice, you’ve likely noticed Yamada Nishiki on most sake labels, a short-grain variety crossed between Yamadaho and Tankanwataribune and grown in Hyogo, Okayama and Fukuoka in Japan. But keep an eye out for omachi and gohyakumangoku, says Freed. “Each imparts a different flavor to the product,” he says. The best way to get a sense of each nuance? Try a flight of these different rice strains at the bar or at home, as detailed below.

Drink It Now: Seiden Gohyakumangoku and Seiden Omachi, both brewed with their namesake rice varieties.

The Trend: Domestic Sakes

“Sake is big in Japan, but it is just at the cusp of catching on in the west,” says Freed. His favorite of the bunch is Sequoia Sake in San Francisco. “We visited Jake Myrick and Noriko Kamei’s brewery and spent a few hours talking and trying their product,” he says. “Sake is hard to make. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and they’re doing a great job of making it happen outside of Japan.”

Drink It Now: Aromatic, acidic Coastal Ginjo or creamy, Junmai-daiginjo style Coastal Nigori.