Weekend fortification

All the talk about beer last week made me thirsty, as did a post on umeshu, Japanese plum wine, by our resident Japanese culture correspondent, Yokahamama.  So, during my biweekly visit to the Purveyor of Alcohol, I picked up the following for this weekend:


I needn’t tell many readers of this website about Samuel Smith, a British brewery whose products are all first rate.  Oatmeal Stout is one of my favorites (Imperial Stout is equally awesome).

Umeshu is a big deal in Japan, and is served in a variety of ways.  As Y. notes in her post (you can see it in the background), it’s made from ume (Prunus mume), a fruit more closely related to apricots than plums. The wine is made by steeping ume fruits for a long time—a year or even more—in a mixture of alcohol (shochu) and sugar.  The Choya brand of umeshu has a good reputation.  It’s only about 12 bucks for the container, and the 500-ml bottle contains 6 ume fruit.  It’s not clear whether I should eat them afterwards—advice is conflicting.  The wide mouth allows extraction of plums.

Here’s a YouTube video showing how umeshu is made.  I’ll report back on the flavor. It’s a sweet wine, suitable for after dinner or as an aperitif, but I like those.  This is a highly LOLzy video because there’s a French poodle who attentively watches the process:

29 Comments

  1. Andrew B.
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I’ll stick with my bubble-gum ramune, thanks.

  2. Posted January 15, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    So you finally just went out and picked some up for yourself instead of waiting for delivery? Did the delivery ever make it? If not, maybe they’ll be claircognizant enough to deliver it as soon as you finish your first bottle… ;-))

    Hope you like!!

    I made some a year ago, which is now all gone… (*whistling, looking at ceiling*)…or I would gladly share with all (except I found out that you have to lie and say you’re sending juice, because it’s illegal to send alcohol).

  3. Tom Harrington
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Actually it’s the Oatmeal Stout that I find most interesting. How does it compare to stouts typical malt/barley stouts?

    • winwar
      Posted January 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      It depends on your definition of “typical”. In theory oatmeal stouts should be slightly smoother and sweeter. The English styles are definitely different than the American styles. You could take a look at beeradvocate.com that rates beers from people and provides beer styles. In any case, I consider it a good stout and certainly better than the travesty from Ireland that everyone likes. Then again, I prefer Imperial Stouts (like the Abyss).

      • Tim Harris
        Posted January 16, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

        You are absolutely right about the over-rating of Guinness.

  4. Jolo5309
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I will be trying to make that. I love plums, I wonder if shochu is available in Saskatoon.

  5. Col
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I and all of my Japanese friends always ate the ume. One of my favourite treat drinks when I lived in Japan.

  6. Bill
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Mmmm, like making sloe gin.

    • Sili
      Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Though I usually forgo the sugar.

  7. Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Oh yes, I prefer to eat/suck on the ume with the last few glasses (once you can reach them).

  8. Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Samuel Smith ruined my life … but it sure was a tasty demise.

    Now I “let go and let Loki” because it’s just one day at a time.

  9. Doc Bill
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Of course you eat whatever’s in the bottle, that’s why it’s there!

    You might think to yourself or even say out loud, “I sure as hell am not going to eat that worm at the bottom of the bottle,” but, believe me, when you get to the end of that Mescal, you’ll eat the worm. And you’ll dance like nobody’s watching. And you’ll wake up with your underwear on your head.

    Or maybe that’s just me.

    • Bill
      Posted January 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      No, no it’s not just you

  10. HP
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    If you find the umeshu too sweet on its own (I do), you can make a really nice cocktail by basically making a Manhattan substituting buckwheat shochu for rye and umeshu for sweet vermouth. Garnish with ume instead of a cherry.

  11. Hempenstein
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Another dog video!

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted January 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      It’s NOT a dog video. It’s an alcohol video with an ancillary dog.

  12. Doc Bill
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Quite right. Notice the dog appears to be sitting on the stove. Very doggish if you ask me.

    Years ago I read about the process of making saki, rice wine. Lots of waiting, rolling, mashing and ritual. Sort of thing I could get into. Like making donuts, but not at 4AM.

    My uncle made something called “cherry bounce” which was cherries in brandy. Their buoyancy varied and they would settle to the bottom of the bottle or rise to the top, hence the name. I’m sure my uncle woke up with underwear on his head many, many times.

  13. Posted January 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is definitely in my top 5. It used to be my all-time favorite, but got demoted when I had my first Steelhead Extra Stout by thr Mad River Brewing Company. It’s simply the best beer on the planet. Nearly perfect in every way.

  14. Adam M.
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Only tangentially on topic, but I’m also a fan of that oatmeal stout (evidence: http://adammil.net/img/baking/pizza.jpg !), and I really wanted to send some to a friend in Yokohama. Not allowed to mail alcohol (Those post office workers never listen to reason!), I tried to find some last time I was in Yokohama, to no avail.

    It would be awesome if Yokohamamama just happened to know where to get some and just happened to mention it… *ahem* 😉

    Fat chance, I guess. 🙂

    • Tim Harris
      Posted January 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      If you live near Fuchu (on the Keio Line), there’s a very good place there called Beerhouse Ken (you can Google it, but it’s in Japanese), where they sell Samuel Smith’s and a lot of other English, German and Belgian, as well as Japanese and American ‘ji-biru’ (local brews).

      • Posted January 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Oh–good! I was hoping you’d chime in, too. As I said below, Yokohamamama doesn’t get around to the bars/shops too often (I just make my own :-))

        • Tim Harris
          Posted January 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          Also, there’s a little magazine called Ko-e edited by a gifted young American, Ry Beville, which specialises in poetry, paintings, photographs and beer: it contains many advertisements about bars, pubs and shops where you can get decent beer in Japan – all over it. Incidentally, The Warrior Celt, a pub between Ueno and Okachimachi stations sells (when they have it) Shepherd Neame’s 1698 ale, which is excellent (and very strong, as I discovered one evening…), and also Bishop’s Finger (I think the bishop was Anglican so one is probably safe).

          • Posted January 15, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

            Come to think of it–I should ask my brother-in-law. He spends *lots* of time in bars here when he’s working on a gallery showing, and in fact is working on a book detailing little known (but good) places to eat and hang out. Mamas who spend their weekends at baseball practice serving o-cha to the coaches (I’m o-cha toban *again* next weekend!) don’t hit the bars too much ;-))

    • Posted January 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Gomen nasai! I don’t know where to find that–but I do know that I mailed Umeshu to my sis and my mom by going to a different post office than the one I first went to, and said I was sending Ume Juice. *cough*

      My sis who comes over all the time said the only place she knows that sells specialty American brews is a bar in Nakameguro (Mama doesn’t go to bars too often these days… ;-))

  15. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Loved all the sanitation along with all the staph epi.

  16. Michael Fugate
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I just tried a double stout by Green Flash Brewing in San Diego County – pretty good. Another one on a different plane – nice fruity complex beer is Victory Brewing’s (PA) Helios.

  17. SteveF
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    It’s probably fair to say that Sam Smiths are some of the worst English ales. Drinkable, but ultimately pretty unremarkable. So if you like that, you’ve got a real treat in store when you get on to the good stuff.

  18. Michael Fugate
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    What do you think of bottled Oxfordshire ales? I had a Marsh-Mellow which was pretty reminiscent of cask ales I had in the UK this summer.

  19. MadScientist
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    “The wide mouth allows extraction of plums.”

    It also makes it a hell of a lot easier to get them in there.

    I was wondering why the fruit in the bottle looked like plums but the picture on the bottle looked more like peaches. I’ve never seen this mummy prune.

    You can always try eating one of the plums and if you don’t like it then you can ditch ’em regardless of whether they’re meant to be eaten or not. I’ve tried eating the fleshy part of the mangosteen rind because the locals ate it – but I doubt I’ll try that a second time.


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