"Like most people, the first time we both had sake was hot sake in a sushi restaurant," said Nan Wallis and Lindsey Brower Beard, the founders of Wetlands Sake. The New Orleans sake brand is making waves with its handcrafted lighter style sakes that can be enjoyed with or without food, anytime and anywhere.
The founders both enjoyed drinking high quality cold sake before launching Wetlands Sake, but had trouble finding it in New Orleans. Inspired to create their own, they went full force and began to plan out their Sake Brewery. Wetlands Sake is the first sake to be brewed in the state and the first sake brewery anywhere to brew using Louisiana Rice. (The closest sake breweries are in Nashville and Austin.)
Each sake is gluten free, contains all natural ingredients, and is served in a can, perfect for enjoying while out and about. The traditional sakes have 14% ALC/VOL and the sparkling sakes contain 6.5% ALC/VOL, and they are available in most grocery and liquor stores in New Orleans and beyond. Wetlands Sake also pledges to donate 2% of profits to Save America's Wetlands.
Below, more on Nan and Lindsey and their sake venture.
What was the process like from idea to launch?
There was a very steep learning curve for us to build our Sake Brewery. Because we are distributing Wetlands Sake throughout Louisiana and then going to other states, we had to build our facility to be able to scale up our production. That took patience and time. Discovering our Louisiana rice and working on our sake recipes and actually making sake was the exciting and joyful part of the process. COVID made getting on store shelves with our products harder and made it take longer than we could have imagined. We are delighted that we are now in most grocery stores and liquor stores throughout New Orleans and beginning to hit store shelves in Covington/Mandeville, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Houma/Thibodeaux. People seem excited about our products and more and more bars and restaurants have started serving Wetlands Sake.
What is your favorite part about being in this industry?
The community of people that we have been fortunate enough to meet and get to know and to work with. So many people in the beer brewing world and in the sake world have been incredibly helpful and kind to us as we were building our brewery. We have had the opportunity to learn all about rice growing in Louisiana and even more about the importance of the wetlands and wetlands conservation. We feel so lucky that we get to do something we love everyday making sake, which has also given us a platform to make people more aware of the importance of wetlands conservation by donating 2% of our profits to Save Americas Wetlands, a cause close to our hearts.
Why do you think more people should try sake?
There are so many reasons to love sake! It is a truly handcrafted beverage, made with patience and love. It’s also so clean and pure, made with four simple ingredients (filtered water, koji, yeast, and rice) and has no additives, preservatives, tannins, or sulfites. The sweetness is natural and comes from the rice, so there are no added sugars. A high quality sake like ours, meant to be served cold, is delicious and refreshing, and pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods but also works perfectly as a stand-alone beverage.
Why did you decide to offer the sake in cans vs. bottles?
From the very beginning we knew that we wanted to package our sake in single serve cans. We believe that sake needs to be more accessible to become an everyday drink. The cans not only make Wetlands Sake easy to grab and go but it also makes the price point more affordable. Instead of opening a bottle of sake that you may be unfamiliar with, the cans allow the consumer to try a single serve portion to see how they like it before investing lots of dollars. The cans are also great for extending the shelf life of sake because they seal in the freshness and they keep light from hitting the sake which is one element that is most harmful in maintaining the long term quality of sake. Finally and also very significant to us and our passion for conservation, is that cans are more eco-friendly for the environment. They are more easily and readily recycled than any other beverage packaging material.
Are flavored or sparkling sakes a new concept?
Flavored and sparkling sakes are very new to the United States. While Japan has been producing sparkling sake and flavoring sake for some time now, very little of it has been exported to the United States and it is much different than the sparkling sake we are producing. We have styled Wetlands sparkling sake to be light, refreshing, and very drinkable so that it can be consumed anytime. We think people will want to take it along wherever they may be going to have fun; to the beach, poolside, hiking, to a barbecue or crawfish boil, to hear music, or just when hanging out with friends.
What is your vision for Wetlands?
Our short term vision is to get our Wetlands Sake taproom open this summer and to get people drinking and loving sake. Our longer term vision as America's Craft Sake is to expand our distribution throughout the United States. We want to share our love for sake and hope people will love it as much as we do.