Nova Brewing Co. in Covina, California was founded by Emiko Tanabe and James Jin in 2019. The two met while studying for the SSA’s (Sake School of America) sake sommelier certification. They enjoyed visiting sake and beer breweries and wondered why there weren’t any sake brewery & tasting room in LA. They felt a place in LA was needed where people can personally visit and smell, see, and taste how sake is made. Nova’s goal is to have locals experience a style of sake called NAMASAKE which is fresh and unpasteurized sake that is hard to import due to its high sensitivity to temperature. NAMASAKE has characteristic of being more vibrant and juicy so small batches of sake are constantly brewed to have the freshest sake available. James, previously a home-brewer, went to Japan to get formal training in brewing while Emiko took over an old winery & brewery and flipped it into a sake and beer brewery. Nova released their first sake at the end of 2020, and Gravity and Eclipse sake were awarded silver medals at 2021 New York Wine and Spirits Competition.
Using 100% rice sourced from a farm in North California, our brewer uses hand-crafting brewing techniques learned from an award-winning brewery Inaba Shuzo in Ibaraki, Japan to produce sake that is rich in flavor, bold and higher in acidity than traditional sake to be able to stand up to the variety of food culture in LA.
A rice variety originating in California and grown since 1948, Calrose is a medium-grain rice and a subspecie of Japonica rice. It’s a strain originally from Japan that seemed to thrive in California climate. We use premium grade of Calrose polished down to either 50% or 70% depending on the style of sake. As a sake brewery located in California, we believe using rice with the historical connection to the local region is vital to our identity.
Calrose rice is grown in Californian soil with Californian water, therefore we strongly believe Californian water has the best chemistry with the rice we use. Due to high sensitivity of sake to minerals, we filter our water twice to remove any unwanted minerals such as iron and manganese, and treat our water with our secret recipe of minerals to achieve the taste that defines our original style.
Arguably the most important ingredient in brewing sake. Koji (scientific name: aspergillus oryzae) plays the role that malt would play in beer, providing enzymes and sugars that yeast needs to ferment and produce alcohol. We built our koji production room from scratch inside our brewery and we use our Calrose rice to produce the koji. Our brewer spent about a year during his homebrewing years with countless fails producing koji in an ice box using hot water container to maintain warm temperature. Due to high quality koji spores are not available in the US, we import the spore from Japan and make our koji in-house.
The yeast used for sake is very unique in that in produces high amount of esters, thrives in cold temperatures and can produce high amount of alcohol. To honor the rich history of sake yeast strains isolated from historical breweries in Japan and to not derive too much away from the flavors of sake, we decided not to make any substitutes with local yeast. We currently import sake yeast Kyokai #7 and #9 from Japan to be used in both our craft beers and craft sake.