About the Appraisal


The U.S. National Sake Appraisal has been held annually since 2001, with judges from Japan, the U.S. and other countries evaluating around 500 entries over three days.
The Appraisal is dedicated to the memory of Takao Nihei, master brewer and pioneering research technician at the Honolulu Sake Brewery from 1956 to 1994.

The purpose of the Appraisal is to (1) recognize breweries that produce sakes of exceptional quality and (2) elevate public awareness outside Japan through tasting events featuring competition-level sakes in peak condition. Together the U.S. National Sake Appraisal and The Joy of Sake have made a significant contribution to the popularization of sake in the U.S. and the development of a vibrant, viable sake market.


By the late 1990s in the U.S. it had become apparent that the growth of sake overseas was a long-term trend. Yet it was also apparent that there was a lack of knowledge about the different categories of sake, as well as the criteria for evaluating them. As a result, it was not uncommon for off-flavored sake, which may have been in an unrefrigerated warehouse for a year or more, to be sold to consumers. Not surprisingly, the people who tried such sakes were not likely to order them again.

The Kokusai Sake Kai (International Sake Association), established in Honolulu in 1987, decided to address this situation by conducting a blind tasting of sakes being imported into the United States. Towards this end, the association contacted the Japan National Research Institute of Brewing and requested assistance in establishing judging procedures for use in the United States. It was decided to use a simplified version of the judging form used for the Japan National Sake Appraisal, which has been held annually since 1911.

On September 28, 2001, ten judges from Japan and the U.S. participated in a blind tasting of 126 entries submitted by 42 breweries. Following this first U.S. National Sake Appraisal, the public was invited to sample all the entries at The Joy of Sake. This public tasting event traveled to San Francisco in 2003, to New York in 2004, to Tokyo in 2010 and to London in 2018.

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