When I met Lucy on a dark rainy evening in East London I was immediately taken in by her enthusiasm and energy for the project as we made our way down to the basement of TT Liquor to chat Japan, rice, Peckham and the highs and lows of having a full-time side hustle with your husband.
With no former background in brewing or the drinks business, Lucy and her then-boyfriend Tom returned from a holiday to Japan in 2015 with an ignited passion for this most unique of drinks. A period of experimentation followed, with Tom studying the intricate process of brewing and the pair making their own purely to share with friends and enjoy at home. It was only at the beginning of this year when, spurred on by great feedback and a thirst to put sake back on the map, they made the bold step to set up a microbrewery near their home in Peckham and launch as a fully-fledged brand. It’s hard to believe the timeline when you hear that it’s already stocked in Selfridges.
As the UK’s first sake it’s a pioneering step and although the thirst for sake is well and truly on the rise, especially for us ever-curious Londoners, it’s still a fairly niche market. Perhaps it’s the light, approachable and delicious sake they produce, or maybe it’s the modern craft approach to making it (Kanpai is sold in beer bottles and each batch experiments with new ingredients and techniques purely for fun) that has seen them gain such an esteemed following so quickly, or possibly it’s the passion and dedication shown by Lucy and Tom themselves, but the couple have seen unflagging support from a whole host of Japanese brewers who have all visited their brewery when in London, which for something as steeped in history and tradition as sake can only be a testament to the quality of the product.
With a number of tasting events and collaborative supper clubs in the pipeline and a collection of tasty brews to try from the last few months, if ever there was a time to dip your toe in the water of sake – it’s now, especially when it’s made right here in our city. Kanpai!
‘Tucked into a small bar in Kyoto, a bowtie wearing barman taught us the simplest way to say cheers in Japanese is "kanpai!" ‘
Kanpai London Craft Sake is 100% natural, vegan & gluten free and is stocked in Selfridges, Borough Wines as well as numerous independent merchants. See www.kanpai.london for details.