Sake Sommelier Course

“The Certified Sake Sommelier Course is an intense course that both challenges the mind and taste buds. Over a short period of time, this course offers a complete and detailed overview of Japanese sake. Participants first go through its historical cornerstones before going through manufacturing procedures and practical information regarding the serving of this drink. Offering a wide variety of sake from different categories – some of which can only be found in Japan – the organizers of this course really outdo themselves! I would definitely recommend this course to anyone curious about sake. New insights are easily formed making the whole experience very valuable, even for those who have had sake before.”

Graduate of the Certified Sake Sommelier Course Feb 2017, Oslo Norway
Top of the class

Once certifed as a Sake Sommelier, you will have the priviliege of participating as a judge in London Sake Challenge which is held annualy at prestegious wine room of Harrods Department Store.

Join the next Sake Sommelier Course! This 24 – 26th April 2017. For more information, please contact the course organizer:  
Kaori Ishii at or visit

Kaori Ishii is a certified Sake Educator and Sake Expert Assessor (authorized by the National Research Institute of Brewing).

True Arctic Culinary Experience at Huset, Longyearbyen

 Huset, Svalbard

Huset, Svalbard

On latitude78 in Longyearbyen stands the world's northernmost fine dining restaurant Huset. Just before four-months-long polar-night casts its darkness to this administrative center of Svalbard, Norway, Nøgne Ø teamed up with the chefs and dynamic team of Huset restaurant and organized a 7 course gourmet sake- and beer tasting dinner on 21 October 2016.

Idea first came from the head chef of Huset, Simon Liestøl Idsø, who has been a chef at Norwegian Ambassador's residence in Washington DC catering for political elites and diplomatic corps around the Capitol Hill that he wanted to do a sake tasting event with us, knowing Nøgne Ø being the first craft sake brewery in Europe and the northernmost in the world.
He worked in Michelin star restaurants in Oslo before taking up current position in Svalbard and was familiar with sake and how it brings out Umami of the food when paired together.

Moreover, Huset houses one of the largest wine cellars in Scandinavia with more than 20,000 bottles of wine and a selection of our sake has been in their wine (sake) list for sometime. They have also been a loyal customer of Nøgne Ø craft beer.

 Head chef Simon and Sous Chef Mattias in their famous wine cellar

Head chef Simon and Sous Chef Mattias in their famous wine cellar

A series of skype conference with Simon and his right-hand-man Sous Chef Mattias Hemhagen, started with sharing experimental food-sake pairing experience at Alchemist in Copenhagen in August this year where Nøgne Ø Junmai was paired with owner-chef Rasmus Munk's concoction of creamed sheep's brain with wood ants and grubs.

 Creamed sheep's brain with wood ants and grubs

Creamed sheep's brain with wood ants and grubs

We exchanged ideas for sake which we can offer and what plates to pair with ingredients sourced within the arctic circle. Toji Brock Bennett scheduled new batch of sake to be brewed in time so that we could release fresh Nigori for this special occasion. Nigori is slightly effervescent cloudy sake reminiscent of arctic snow storm.

We also had the pleasure of introducing 100% European Junmai Namagenshu (unpasteurized and undiluted sake) made from Carnaroli rice from Lombardia, Italy.

The menu followed the sequence of:

  • Amuse Bouche: Roasted carrots with løyrom and creme fraiche,

  • Rye bread with whipped butter from Sønderhaven Gårdsmejeri in Denmark,

  • Langoustine carpaccio (usuzukuri) from Tromsø and tarragon, red beets cream, pickled red beets and red beets vinaigrette paired with Sparkling Sake,

  • Grilled tartar of bearded seal from Svalbard, marinated wtih soysauce and shallots, dill, flax seeds chips and pickled pear paired with fresh Nigori Sake,

  • Bouillon of reindeer from Svalbard, barley chips and chives emulsion, sugar snaps, spring onions and raddish, paired with Havre Stout,

  • Smoked cod from Svalbard and homemade coppa ham, potato cream and leek foam paired with Junmai sake,

  • Resting Course: Hibiscus and black currant ice tea,

  • Grilled reindeer from Svalbard and beef tail sauce, morels, brussel sprouts and chanterelle cream paired with Junmai Namagenshu and Imperial Brown Ale,

  • Blue cheese cream and plums, crispy rye bread and cress, paired with aged Kijoshu dessert sake,

  • Stout icecream and dill bread, lemon curd paired with Imperial Stout.


Guests were welcomed by restaurant manager, Cathrine Thoresen and were served special cocktail made of Junmai and green tea syrup with some twist of citrus. All pairings were fantastic but the consensus was that Sparkling Sake and carpaccio of langoustine was especially divine bringing out sweetness of raw langousitne to the full, and pairing of intricate blue cheese concoction and Kijoshu was heavenly.

The response from the participants was very positive where we had nearly 40 who were half local residents and half visitors. One visitor posted photographs of all the food on Tripadvisor's page commenting it was «Spennende kveld med mange interessante smaker og parret med sake og øl fra Nøgne Ø. Herlig kveld! Utsøkt service».

Some of the active members of Japan-Norway Society from Oslo joined us at the table. Mr. Tore Fossen who was celebrating his 87th birthday thanked us for fantastic evening as this was his first time to be on the island as well as the first time to have Nordic fine cuisine paired with sake. We overheard his wife Takako whispering to him “Now that we are in Longyearbyen, enjoying beautiful food with delicious Norwegian sake and since sake is known to be good for long and healthy life, let's enjoy our long life together”.

Ms. Aino Karvo, a Sake Sommelier from Finland, who was with Culinary Institute in Helsinki and who helped introducing Nønge Ø Sparkling Sake to “Hella ja Huone” in Tampere earlier this year, joined to witness what magic Nordc food and Sake pairing can make and seemed to have been inspired to replicate something similar back in Finland.

 Seamless service throughout the evening

Seamless service throughout the evening

There was a logistical challenge to have all the beer and sake to be delivered in time as they only have one shipment of goods from Tromsø per month. Both my colleague Ingebjørg who represented Nøgne Ø and presented beer selection to the guests and myself had to carry some in our suitcases. Unfortunately a couple of sake bottles were damaged in my suitcase and I had splash of sake all over my clothes, which was actually a lucky sign in Japan. One downside was perhaps sake-perfumed attire during the evening which may not have pleased everyone!.

Longyearbyen is a fantastic destination for those who love aventure and wilderness. If the gourmet food and sake-beer pairing experience is added to these already attractive features of the northernmost town in the world, it is not difficult to imagine anyone wanting to come back and experience everything it has to offer. We were in the vicinity of a polar bear when we took a RIB tour across the Isfjorden the following day. The towering glaciers from the ocean and the thunder-like fall of some was awe-inspiring. We wish to thank Simon, Mattias and Cathrine of great Huset team to host Nøgne Ø sake-beer tasting dinner and Toji, Brock Bennett who brewed two new beautiful artisan sake in time for this event. Kanpai!

(Huset, Alchemist and Hella ja Huone are all listed in White -guide Nordic 2016 and this exemplifies how sake can pair well with new Nordic dishes.)

  Sake course for Team-Huset before the evening started

Sake course for Team-Huset before the evening started





Ultimate Umami experience


Ultimate Umami experience
presented by Taku and Nøgne Ø @ Vespa & Humla,

To mark the launch of limited release of Nøgne Ø Nigori sake from Vinmonopolet category 7 stores from 7. April, a special sake-food pairing event was held at Vespa & Humla.

As the guests entered this popular local Italian brasserie cum microbrewery, through a Japanese Noren curtain doors, they were greeted by Amazake welcome drink made from fresh Sake lees from Grimstad mixed with brown sugar and ginger. The venue was transformed into a Japanese style Izakaya for the evening.



Most of the guests were Taku’s regulars, members of the Japan-Norway society and Sub-Japan Facebook Group as well as a sushi chef from a secret location near Oslo, who have had some knowledge about Japanese food and sake.

I first came to know Chef Arne Austbø in a four-page article on Mat Fra Norge in 2012 (Nov 6 2013). He was introduced as a creative chef who makes sushi with Norwegian twist having had extensive working experience in Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, London and Copenhagen. I also noticed that he published a cookbook on sushi in 2013. To my knowledge there are three cookbooks dedicated to Sushi published by Norwegian chefs and this is one of them. (Others are from Alex Sushi and Kulinarisk Akademi) Moreover, Chef Arne has done tasting back in 2011 of Nøgne Ø sakes with his culinary friends and gave a little bit bitter critique. He was one of the graduates of the recent Sake Sommelier Course and has reviewed our sake thoroughly and gave thumbs-up this time.

 Chef Arne Austbø 

Chef Arne Austbø 

We are very pleased that Taku-Nøgne Ø collaboration which was discussed since September last year finally came into fruition marking the release of special Nigori Sake.

Chef Arne was very creative in pairing:
Konbu cured sashimi (Salmon and Turbot) with local seaweeds with Sparkling sake.
Charcoal grilled chicken with red onion pickles with Junmai.
Sake lees and miso marinated grilled fatty fish kama (jaw area) with new Nigori sake
Dark chocolate with Kijoshu.

“Although the amount of food is not overwhelming, they are all tasty and rich in Umami and paired well with sake. My stomach feels satisfied and I feel very healthy as a result of this experience. I am proud of Norwegian Sake and will ask my husband to look for it when Nigori is released.” said Ms. Tone Ravndal, the wife of Mr. Anders Håan, the former President of The Japan-Norway Society.

The room was full-house and we had a very good rapport with many of the guests who showed interest in learning more about Japanese food and Sake. There was a full support of team Nøgne Ø; Martin showing his newly acquired Sake Sommelier skills mingling with the guests and Ingebjørg and alumni Adriana enjoying the sake-food pairing with rest of the guests.

My appreciation goes to Mr. Brock Bennett, Toji, Master Sake Brewer, for making such elegant sake which matched very well with Norwegian seasonal ingredients. Silky texture of Nigori cut through fatty fish very well and left us with refreshing aftertaste. “Thank you” for giving us this ultimate Umai experience. I also wish to thank Chef Arne Austbø for coming up with creative and perfect Otsumami for the evening! All the photo credit goes to Ms. Asaki Abumi, a Japanese journalist resident in Oslo.

Kaori Ishii
Sales/Taste Promoter Nøgne Ø


Certified Sake Sommelier Course

Certified Sake Sommelier Course accredited by London based Sake Sommelier Academy was organized in Oslo on 28 and 29 February 2016 in close cooperation with Nøgne Ø

It was held at the basement of Alex Sushi Solli Plass, an artistic and tastefully decorated event venue with modern AV system. Participants of the course were sommeliers who are also beverage managers from leading restaurants around the country such as Alex Sushi, Nodee, Kita (Stavanger), To Rom og Kjøkken (Trondheim), and fellow brewery representative from Lervig which has just brewed beer with Japanese twist (with Yuzu), as well as a representative of Moestue, which has started importing Sake into Norwegian market and Arne Austbø, author of cook book “Sushi fra Hav til Fat” and the chef of Taku. Martin, new sales representative from Nøgne Ø also joined. After two days of intensive learning, the participants took written and practical exam and I am happy to announce that they all did exceptionally well.

They will soon receive Sake Sommelier pin and a certificate from Sake Sommelier Academy in London. Some of them will be crowned with triple (wine, beer and sake) or double (wine and sake) sommelier qualifications as a result of this.

This will open doors to participate in the London Sake Challenge which is organized by the Sake Sommelier Association once a year in August at the wine room of notable Harrods Department Store in London and it is certainly a great opportunity to taste and evaluate a large number of sakes with other fellow Sake Sommeliers from around the world and to learn, network and exchange information face-to-face.

During a two-day intensive course, participants learned the history of sake which dates more than 2000 years back, culture closely related to sake and a complex production process and how it affects the designation and types of sake. They also learned how to read sake labels, magic of serving sake at different temperatures, and quintessential “Umami” in sake which comes to the fore when paring with food. We were also very fortunate to welcome Halvor Digernes, the founder of Fuglen Cocktail Bar, to share the art of sake cocktail-making who demonstrated three distinct types of sake cocktails, two shaken and one stirred, from Nøgne Ø Namagenshu, Junmai and Sparkling sakes. He was in the middle of opening two new bars in the same week and we appreciated his dedication and passion for what he loves and what he is very good at!

 Halvor making sake cocktails

Halvor making sake cocktails

Participants had the chance to taste last year’s IWC champion sake, which was sold out in Japan, (Aizuhomare’s Banshu Yamadanishiki Junmai Daiginjo), six-year oak barrel matured sake (seimaibuai 90% Junmai) from Suehiro (which was also sold out in Japan), and Junmai Ginjo Fukuju from Kobe Shushinkan, which is said to be served at Nobel prize award dinners in Stockholm, Junmai and Junmai Ginjo sakes from Fukumitsuya, sparkling sakes from Ninki and Toyokuni, all sakes from Nøgne Ø including soon to be released Nigori (and Sparkling, Junmai, Namagenshu, Motoshibori, Kijoshu) as well as specialty sakes such as All Koji vintage sake and Yuzu sake.

They also tasted Nøgne Ø fresh sake lees topped with brown sugar and ginger and savoured Ishikari Nabe (salmon hotpot with miso and sake lees soup broth) for the first day’s lunch.
We also had a surprise visit of NHK International (Japanese version of BBC World) film crew who were making a 15 minutes documentary on Nøgne Ø, the first sake brewery in Europe as one of the episodes in “Japan meets Europe” series.

Participants came to the classroom well before the start of the lecture and they all asked very pertinent questions which in turn enriched the classroom experience. At the end of the course, we were all reminded that the more we drink “sake” the deeper our knowledge and appreciation of this magical drink develops!  Many participants expressed their appreciation for Norway spearheading the production of Sake in Europe and brewing high quality fresh sakes.

Congratulations to you all for spending your weekend learning together and Kanpai for the future of your never-ending sake related journey!

My heartfelt appreciation goes to all the participants who made this course very special, Alex sushi for hosting the course, Halvor for generously accepting to give a module on Sake Cocktails between his unbelievably busy schedule and Ms. Aino Karvo, sake sommelier from Finland, for meticulously assisting me, Sake Sommelier Academy for a thorough backstopping from London and last but not least, Nøgne Ø for making this course happen again in Norway!!!

Kaori Ishii
Sales/Taste Promotor, Nøgne Ø
Sake Educator, Sake Sommelier Association, London