A SCOTS brewery is locked in a “friendly rivalry” with a Japanese competitor to become the first company to produce sake in the UK.
Arran Brewery hopes to start production of its first non-traditional beer on October 1 - World Sake Day - and have bottles on sale in time for Christmas.
But the Cladach-based firm is in a race with Japanese business Dojima, which plans to open its own sake production centre in Cambridgeshire later this year.
Gerald Michaluk, Arran managing director, said: “It’s nice to have a bit of friendly competition. I’ve met with Dojima before and I will be visiting them again on Tuesday to see how they are getting on.”
Sake, despite being known as a rice wine in the UK, is technically a beer as it is brewed from grain.
Arran will initially produce the drink at its Loch Earn base after being forced to postpone plans to open a new brewery at a former primary school in Dreghorn, North Ayrshire.
The site suffered £5,000 worth of damage in June after vandals broke into the building.
Arran remains committed to opening at Dreghorn but a decision was taken to switch production to Loch Earn in the short term.
“It may not at first appear there is a connection between Dreghorn, near Kilmarnock, and Japan but there is, added Michaluk.
“In Japan you will find a small piece of Scotland in the form of a church which once graced Dreghorn but which was dismantled and rebuild in Tokyo.”
Arran bosses will primarily market their sake at the Japanese market, but believe there will also be a demand closer to home.
“Sake produced in Scotland will have resonance in Japan because of the whisky connection,” said Michaluk. “Whisky is massive in Japan, which I think will give us an advantage over the guys in Cambridge.
“Everyone loves Scottish whisky in Japan - so they should at least try Scottish sake. Our job is to make it so good they will keep drinking it.”
The Arran MD admits it will take time and effort to produce a product that will eventually compete with Japan’s very best sake.
“It’s all about the care and attention - it is a relatively complex thing to make as you are doing dual fermentation,” he said. “As brewers that’s not beyond our capability.
“We don’t expect to be near any major sake awards in the first 12 months. But we expect to be entering the major awards within four or five years.”