The rice guys: Sunset Park sake brewers open a new taproom

Sake to me: Brooklyn Kura founders Brandon Doughan and Brian Polen hope that their sake brewery, opening in Industry City on March 2, will introduce people to the many nuances of the Japanese rice drink.
Brooklyn Paper
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For goodness, sake!

A new brewery and taproom opening in Industry City this weekend will add a new kind of craft booze to your local drinking options: sake. The owners of Brooklyn Kura, which officially opens its taproom on March 2, are excited to introduce people to a high-end version of the rice-based beverage that they might only know from the limited drink list at their local sushi spot, said the brewery’s co-owner.

“People’s exposure to premium sake is so limited,” said Brian Polen. “They don’t know — are you supposed to shoot it? Is it only served warm? So we’re excited to educate new consumers about sake in a way that I don’t think they’ve had the chance to be educated.”

Polen, who lives in Prospect Heights, had his taste buds opened to the possibilities of sake during at 2013 trip to Japan, where he also met his soon-to-be brewing partner, Brandon Doughan. The two returned to the United States determined to make their own sake, and spent the last few years training, home-brewing and experimenting with the rice beer, with Polen here in Brooklyn and Doughan in Portland, Oregon.

In 2016, the two rented a spot in Brooklyn and began working full-time on brewing sake. Setting the business in the Borough of Kings was an easy decision, said Polen.

“We both think of Brooklyn as this very exceptional place with its history and current resurgence of craft breweries and makers. And there’s a large market of sophisticated consumers who would be excited about something relatively new,” he said. “And the quality of New York City water, which is so important to sake — the combination of those things made Brooklyn a no-brainer.”

Brooklyn Kura — named for the Japanese word for a warehouse where valuables are stored, said Polen — produces bottles of sake for sale at wine stores and restaurants around the city, and its taproom will offer those varieties on tap, as well as a rotating selection of sake types that Polen and Doughan produce in the nearby tanks.

Kura’s sake is a hefty 15 percent alcohol, so portions are a little more than three ounces, said Polen. It will be available by the glass, as well as in small and large carafes, which can be shared between three to five people, respectively.

“People tend to get two or three small carafes and taste the range,” said Polen.

Most of the sakes are served chilled, but the Orizake, a cloudy variety of less-filtered sake, is served warm. Polen is looking forward to guiding people through the different flavors and varieties of sake, he said, so visitors will want to come back for more.

“We’re continuing our efforts to educate people,” said Polen. “We want to make the best product we can, but also to grow the market for ourselves and other sake producers.”

The taproom will also serve charcuterie and cheese plates to help soak up the booze, along with tasty toasted seaweed snacks.

Brooklyn Kura taproom [68 34th St. between Second and Third avenues in Sunset Park, (347) 766–1601,]. Open Fri, 5–9 pm; Sat, 1–9 pm.

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Updated 5:48 pm, July 9, 2018
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