As more izakayas arise around Portland, so too has the popularity of sake as the de rigueur accompaniment to snacking on karaage and pretending not to hate natto. But in Japan, sake is old news—all the trendy young things are drinking shochu, a traditional distilled liquor that tastes like a milder form of vodka and has seen a renaissance in recent years due to its low price and smooth finish.
Two years ago, House Spirits distiller Matt Mount decided to attempt his own version of the spirit, partnering with local sake company SakéOne and enlisting the expertise of Biwa chef/owner Gabe Rosen.
The project quite literally sat on the shelf for a whole year while the company battled government red tape, and it was finally released in August this year under the name Uchi no Kami ("House of Spirits").
They experimented with distilling various unfinished forms of SakéOne's sake, creating three distinct versions of the spirit—Nama, Peaceful River and Nigori. The Nama is the standout, with an incredibly crisp, slightly sweet flavor, and is excellent over ice, while the Nigori is pleasantly subtle and easy to sip.
"I think our shochu has a little bit more creaminess, a little bit more sweetness," says Mount (pictured above, drinking shochu at Biwa with his wife, Heather).
House Spirits has used it in a mai tai, an old fashioned and a version of a popular Japanese shochu-based soda called chu-hi. But for an authentic izakaya experience, try a flight of all three straight at Biwa. Go soon, though—Mount says there are only about 100 bottles of the 800-bottle limited release left.
If straight spirits aren't your poison, sample some milder Japanese libations on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at Saké Fest PDX. Local and imported sake, Japanese beer and umeshu (plum wine), paired with sunakku (snacks) from the likes of Biwa, Masu, Kin, Yakuza, Park Kitchen and others. A portion of the profits go to the Japan-America Society of Oregon.
DRINK: Uchi no Kami is served at Biwa (215 SE 9th Ave.), Ping (102 NW 4th Ave.) and Departure (525 SW Morrison St.), and can be purchased for $21.70 from House Spirits Distillery, 2025 SE 7th Ave., 235-3174, housespirits.com. Saké Fest PDX takes place at the Governor Hotel, 614 SW 11th Ave., 6-8:30 pm, Wednesday, Oct. 13. $65. Visit sakefestpdx.com to purchase tickets.
THURSDAY OCT. 14
Describing Benson as the funniest pot comic in the country seems like a backhanded compliment—most of those guys just giggle a lot, right?—but it's true. His criticism of America's bizarre prohibition campaign is doubly convincing because it's absolutely hilarious.
[MUSIC] DIE ANTWOORD
Yeah, this might be the worst $20 you'll ever spend, but don't you think it's worth it to see just how crazy the South African "zef" band gets? Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-0047. 9 pm. $20 advance, $25 day of show. All ages.
FRIDAY OCT. 15
Ah, yes: Nothing like an evening in the company of giant rats, giant wasps and giant worms. The Jacques Boyreau animal-revenge film series continues with this H.G. Wells adaptation, with some very special effects.
[ART ROCK] SHINE A LIGHT
The Portland Art Museum's second annual rock art party, which aims to connect to new fans through installations, music and drinking, returns with Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside and nude Greco-Roman wresting matches inspired by PAM sculptures. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave. 6 pm-midnight. $12 or free with museum admission, free for PAM members. Info at portlandartmuseum.org.
If you like indie rock or punk or, hell, even emo and don't go to this show, you just lost all your credibility, son. Superchunk is like the Thermals on hyperdrive, and the new songs sound great next to all the classics. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., 284-8686. 9 pm. $20 advance, $22 day of show. 21+.
TUESDAY OCT. 19
Love chiming indie pop but can't throw down the big bones for Belle and Sebastian? The Morning Benders' lively '60s-influenced sound should do the trick.
[WORDS] DINAW MENGESTU
His new novel, How to Read the Air, tells the story of a young man who, desperate to understand where he came from, leaves his job and his wife in New York City and heads for his parents' home country of Ethiopia. Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651.
7:30 pm. Free.