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Gaijin 24886 brewing sake in Denver

Gaijin 24886 Red Sake

Gaijin 24886 Leadville Snow Queen

Gaijin 24886 El Colorado

Gaijin 24886 is brewing up its first batch of sake in Denver. The alcoholic rice beverage has made inroads into the U.S. through sushi restaurants, and Texas and Oregon operations have brought sake brewing stateside, but the company is the only one currently commercially brewing the Japanese beverage in Colorado. The company's first batch should be ready by about mid-December.

Co-owner and Master Brewer Marc Hughes used his employee identification number in Osaka, Japan, gaijin 24886, as the name for the brewery. He explains that 'gaijin' means foreigner.

"It started off as a hobby and I wanted to do something different," Hughes says. "Everybody else was making beer and all of the distilled spirits are explosive." He used snow from Leadville and other places, as well as ingredients like peach and cherry blossoms in his home brews. His friends and family enjoyed his homebrewed sake enough that he and co-owner Keith Kemp chose to take it to the next level and began brewing at Grandma's House Brewery on South Broadway earlier this year.

Though sake is a brewed beverage as opposed to a distilled spirit, Hughes likens the process to lagering rather than the traditional fermenting used for most beers, which means it takes longer to ferment because it's done at lower temperatures. For sake, that means more than a month of fermenting and conditioning. The process also allows for a higher alcohol content. "The alcohol content is anywhere in between 14 and 20 percent," he says.

Still the company is facing some initial hurdles. Sake is currently classified more like a wine although it's brewed like a beer. That means that it can't be sold alongside beers at Grandma's House, according to Hughes. "I don't know why it's that way. It just is," he says. However, Hughes and Kemp are exploring their options and talking with local retails and restaurants about stocking its beverages.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Read more articles by Chris Meehan.

Chris is a Denver-based freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. He covers sustainability, social issues and other topics.
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