Follow Us

Sake Matsuri festival guide: What to expect, how it works, and how to make the best of it

Sake Matsuri Singapore

It’s been a while since the last Sake Matsuri – a festival in Singapore dedicated to craft sake organised by the folks behind online retailer sakechan.

Now back for its fourth edition after over two years spent hibernating from the fallout of Covid-19, this summer edition of Sake Matsuri 2022 promises to be back with a vengeance.  

It will be held once again at the UE Square, Skylight Atrium grounds. This sheltered outdoor space has been the site of all editions of the event so far, as it’s not only convenient and spacious, but located just a stone’s throw away from Temple Cellars, a popular bottle shop and sister brand of sakechan, which makes logistics easier to manage.

The summer edition of Sake Matsuri 2022 will take place for one day only on 25 June, from 11am-10pm. It is a ticketed event, with a non-ticketed component happening in the evening (more on that below). 

How Sake Matsuri works

The scene during the last Sake Matsuri in 2019

Those who have been to any of the previous editions should expect much of the same, though there are a few key differences worth noting this year that have changed the format of Sake Matsuri quite a fair bit. 

First off, rather than being held over Saturday and Sunday, the festival is now held for one day only. Thankfully, it is on a Saturday (25 June), so staying on at the festival and drinking till late is still a sound option.

However, the event is now split into three different blocks throughout the day – 11am to 2pm, 3pm to 6pm, and 6pm onwards. The first two time blocks is Sake Matsuri as we know it. A ticket grants you entry into the festival grounds, and you’re free to roam and approach the various booths for tasters.

Tickets are sold according to the time blocks. So those who purchased tickets to the earlier session aren’t allowed to get any more tasters when the later session starts, and vice versa. You will be identified by coloured wristbands for this purpose.

[Read more: A beginner’s guide to sake]

But don’t worry: you won’t be chased away the moment your allocated time is spent. You’re welcome to stay on at the festival grounds to peruse and purchase. Vendors just won’t be pouring any more free tasters for you.

Organisers have said that the time blocks are implemented to give everyone – guests, vendors, and organisers – a more pleasant experience. It helps better manage crowds so that there’s less jostling and everyone gets a fairer amount of time with each other.

Beyond that, new to Sake Matsuri is the Sundown Sake Party. This non-ticketed evening session happens from 6pm onwards, and one and all are welcome to join in the revelry.

As the booths stop pouring, a live DJ set comes on, setting a very different kind of mood. Drinks continue flowing in the form of a cocktail bar (order them a la carte) featuring sake-inspired tipples and sake flights being sold by organisers sakechan themselves.

What to do the moment you arrive

Register to get your wristband and tasting glass

Once you’re at the venue, make a beeline for the Registration Counter. This is where it all begins. Here, present your digital tickets to them and you’ll be tagged with a coloured wristband and given a wine glass. 

The colour of your wristband denotes the allocated time block you got, and the wine glass is for you to use for tastings. The glass is also yours to keep and bring home.

Equipped with your wristband and vessel, head on over to the sake booth of your liking and feel free to approach the vendor for tasters.

[Read more: At Table 33, have your sakes served hot and house-aged]

With over 150 sakes and Japanese spirits being offered from 14 different vendors, there is a lot to taste, so pace yourself.

Food is available as well, in the form of an izakaya booth dishing out items like nori fries and fried tako. We highly recommend lining your stomachs with some nosh. The alcohol content of sake does stack up quick.

Which sakes to drink

Sakes of all kinds, shochus, and other Japanese spirits await

With so many options, it is wise to pick in advance the sakes you’d want to drink. While a big part of the fun lies in spontaneously discovering new things, it is also prudent to know what are your must-haves given the 3-hour timeframe.

So we decided to do some legwork and hit up some of the vendors prior to the festival in order to better plan ahead. Here are a couple of recommendations.

Head on over to Kirei’s booth and try the Gangi Yuunagi Junmai Daiginjo. Nicknamed ‘The Beautiful City’ (coincidentally, Kirei also means ‘pretty’ in Japanese), this sake from Yaoshin Shuzo is made using a rare yeast and undergoes very little post-processing, making for a unique and flavourful brew. Expect a lightly floral bouquet and velvety texture that seeks to portray the beauty of Iwakuni city, where the brewery is located along a river.

Count on Inter Rice Asia to bring out the good stuff. We expect them to be offering a wide range, but make it a point to ask for the Dewazakura Daiginjo. This award-winning sake from the eponymous brewery is an off-dry, gentle beverage full of fruity peach and fleshy plum notes. It’s a dependable brew for sake lovers that will appeal to wine drinkers too. We anticipate high demand for this.

[Read more: What are natural sakes, and why one man has made purveying it his mission]

There’s no better opportunity to hit up Saketen’s booth and taste for yourself their array of natural sakes – some of which are already out of stock at bars and retailers islandwide. One sake to look out for is the Miyakobijin Brown Label. Unpasteurized, undiluted, and unfiltered, this aged sake stands out with its alluring earthiness and notes of cacao and persimmon. We’re getting thirsty already.

You’ll want to head on over to Woodstock and peruse their range of rare finds, such as the Abunotsuru Goya Junmai 58 Namazume. Polished and brewed in commemoration of the year the brewery closed (Showa 58; 1983), this highly limited bottling is slightly sparkling, bittersweet, and rich in rice umami. It’s great for dinner parties too, since it pairs nicely with (non-spicy) food.

Sake geeks, look no further than Epicurean Nomads. This edition, the Shoryu Hourai Kimoto Jungin Yamadanishiki 60 Namagenshu is what you’re looking for. A bold, well-structured brew that whiffs of green apples and chestnuts, yet moreish and bright on the palate, those wanting their sakes to go the extra mile to please and delight won’t be disappointed with this one.

Masterclasses and fringe events

The masterclasses at Sake Matsuri are always a hit

Beyond the actual festival itself, there are a couple of masterclasses happening in the lead up to the 25th, as well as one session taking place during the 2-3pm interim period on festival day.

On 11 June, sake educator and founder of Inter Rice Asia Adrian Goh will be conducting a super premium sakes masterclass, taking you through four bottlings that carry a hefty price tag. He’ll go through in detail why these special brews manage to command such prices, all while you taste and savour every precious drop for yourself.

[Read more: Daishichi, the sake brewery defying the mainstream in pursuit of their craft]

Then come 19 June, a cheese and warm sake pairing will be taking place. Sake/cheese experts Olivia Chey and Cedric Tan will be teaming up to present the pairing of six sakes and seven cheeses. While sake and cheese pairings are nothing new by now, this warm sake pairing will showcase just how much of a difference temperatures make.

Finally on 25 June itself, sake expert Kanako Takahashi will be going in-depth into how rice expresses itself differently by focusing on a singular sake grade, Junmai Ginjo. Taste and uncover for yourself how three sakes, all Junmai Ginjos, show off their rice varietal and polishing ratio differently. You’ll definitely leave with a newfound appreciation of the humble rice grain.

Head on over to the masterclass ticketing page for venue and pricing details.

Tips, tricks, and etiquette

Being polite and patient goes a long way

Wondering how you can be as festival-ready as possible? Here, we offer a cheat sheet on how you can make the best of your Sake Matsuri experience.

1. Come dressed in light and breezy clothing. It may be a sheltered outdoor venue, but given the blistering weather these days, long-sleeved anything may not be a wise choice.

2. Rinse your wine glass now and then. To better taste the next sake, you’d want your glass clean of what’s inside before. Now, while there’s no need to rinse it after every single taster, it is especially important to do so after being poured a cloudy nigori sake for instance, since the residue tends to stick to the glass.

3. Don’t be that person who gets sloshed. Sake Matsuri promotes the appreciation of craft sakes, and is not the festival to be if you’re looking to get hammered off alcohol. Being happily tipsy but still functioning is perfectly fine, of course.

4. Don’t push and shove. With tickets all sold out, it is likely that the event will be crowded. While organisers have allocated time slots in order to make it a better experience, all it takes is one bad incident to ruin someone’s day. Try to be patient and wait for your turn. 

5. Check out a less crowded booth. Following from the point above, sometimes the better thing to do rather than wait is to head over to another vendor first. Who knows? You might just unintentionally find another favourite brew.

6. Come with an open mind. The nature of a craft sake festival means there will be brands and styles you’ve never heard of before. Give them all a fair shot. There’s no better time to taste them all than at Sake Matsuri.

7. Eat first. Given the limited time to try as many sakes as you can, you won’t want to spend your time buying food and eating. Save that for once your time block is over, or during the sundown sake party.

8. Chat and make friends. A big part of the enjoyment of sake comes from shooting the breeze with fellow fans. You can be sure that most people there are those who enjoy the beverage to a large extent, while the vendors themselves are definitely more than happy to share about the love they have for their products.

9. Sip on Japanese gins and shochu. While sakes are the highlight of the show, some booths will be carrying Japanese spirits too, and are definitely worth trying. We do recommend saving these for the final hour though, as the higher alcohol percentage and intensity might diminish your palate for sake.

10. Get comfortable if you need to. There are plenty of seats and tables for you to plonk down on should you wish to take a breather or to eat. The nearest toilets are within UE Square itself, on the ground floor to the left the moment you enter the main entrance. There are no lockers available, however, so try to carry light.

11. There could be a spring edition. Depending on how things pan out, Sake Matsuri might just return for a second round in 2022. After all, holding the event twice a year was the intention when they first launched the festival. So if you’re hankering for the next one already, keep your eyes peeled.

Whatever you do, remember to channel plenty of good vibes, have lots of fun, and look out for each other. We’ll see you on the festival grounds!

Sake Matsuri Summer Edition 2022 takes place on 25 June, from 11am-10pm at UE Square, Skylight Atrium. Tickets are S$55 at the door, inclusive of wine glass and entry to the festival.

[Read more: Sake brewer Nihonsakari unveils modern look, vegetarian certification in major revamp]

Dannon Har

About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.