Nøgne Ø Brewery in Norway is best known for its line of award-winning craft beers, but the company is quickly gaining a reputation for another brewed beverage: sake. Located in the maritime town of Grimstad, about 300 km south of Oslo, the brewery began producing sake in 2010. In 2012, Nøgne Ø took home top honors in an international competition organized by the Sake Sommelier Association in London. Since then, the brewery's Yamahai Muroka Junmai-shu has become the second-biggest selling sake in the country and is exported throughout Scandinavia, as well as to the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Spain.
Cofounder and brew-master Kjetil Jikiun came to sake via beer. An airline pilot by trade, Jikiun developed a taste for bold, full-flavored beers that were not available in Norway and started experimenting with home brewing, which was still in its infancy, in the late 1990s. "No one in Norway understood what I was doing," he recalls. Sake making was the next logical step.
Sake has become a global phenomenon, and in recent years enthusiasm for the drink has led some fans abroad to try brewing their own. Although sake has been produced outside of Japan since the early 1900s, most of the breweries are outposts of large Japanese manufacturers. A turning point came for international sake production in 2007-08, when microbreweries began popping up in North America. The first was Vancouver's Artisan SakeMaker, followed by the brewpub Moto-i in Minneapolis, Minnesota.