Cedar River Brewing, Washington’s sole sake brewery and one of just a handful of companies making the Japanese rice beer in North America, is leaving its Phinney Ridge home of five years and taking a break from producing its fantastic alcohol.
Owner-brewer Jeff James told Eater he’s been unsuccessfully looking for a new location in South Seattle, closer to his home, but realized time off would suit him anyway. “Once I decided to let go of the Phinney space without having a new one in hand, I realized I also really want a hiatus. Many of my other interests in life have been pushed to the side for the last five years.”
In his tiny space at 7410B Greenwood Ave. N, below Opus Co., James brews four outstanding types of sake regularly, including classic Junmai, unpasteurized Nama, cloudy Nigori, and spicy Taru aged on local cedar. He said he’s not looking very hard for a new spot right now, and is also considering other possibilities like contract brewing, an arrangement that could involve another brewery making James’ recipes for him to sell under his brand.
Sake is slowly growing in popularity in America, but it’s still rare to find local makers. Andy Neyens has been planning a sake brewery in Ballard for at least five years, and hasn’t given up on the project. The only other rice-based drink made in Seattle is makgeolli, Korea’s national beverage, brewed at Girin. The next closest sake makers are Sakeone outside of Portland as well as YK3 and Artisan Sakemaker in the Vancouver, BC, area.
Anyone hoping for a last look at the Phinney Ridge brewery — or, more likely, hoping for a first look at this hidden gem in the neighborhood — take note: Cedar River will be open two more times, Saturday, November 4, and Saturday, November 11, from 2 to 5 p.m. for tours, tastings, and retail sales. Meanwhile, Cedar River’s sake should still be available elsewhere in town for a while, from retailers like Sake Nomi to restaurants like Mashiko. Here’s hoping James gets back into the game before supplies run dry, though.