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Meet Josh Hembree of Setting Sun Sake Brewing

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh Hembree.

Josh, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My business partner, Keldon Premuda, and I came from a combined 20 years in the craft brewing industry at the time that we started Setting Sun Sake Brewing Co. I was the brewer and had the original vision for creating and edgy sake brewery. We felt that the beverage had not received the Southern California craft TLC and that our brewing influences could really set fire to a new variation of the same brew.

Has it been a smooth road?
The Ronin is a symbol that to us represents being master-less or the way of walking alone. Our challenge to get to this point has been great, in that fresh sake made with quality in mind is uncommon in our region and many of the potential innovative crossovers has been mired by tradition, leading to an unfortunate preconception from many of our first-time tasters and buyers.

Many people think of sake as a beverage that only has the potential to taste like a watered down vodka and have a difficult time believing that there is such a wide range of explosive flavors that can be drawn out of the yeast, koji, and rice through various artisanal fermentation techniques similar to those used in craft beer and wine. It is a preconception that we are happy to be able to quickly overcome with our high quality, unique take on the sake brews.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Setting Sun Sake Brewing Co. story. Tell us more about the business.
We are extremely proud to be the first to our knowledge to have created a hopped sake. The hop sake is a local favorite, especially for those who enjoy the citrus and floral aspects of the hop flavor, but have a difficult time with the intense bitterness of the amazing Southern California style IPA’s brewed by our neighboring craft beer breweries.

When incorporating fruit into our sake brews, we avoid using extract and unnatural flavorings by brewing with locally grown and supplied fruit and herbs that we process ourselves. We implement barrel aging techniques, using wine, bourbon, and rum barrels to age various special creations in. We host sake pairing evens with local culinary artists as well as pair with various artists to host seasonal galleries.

Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years?  Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc?
Over the last four years of pursuing sake as an art and opening Setting Sun Sake Brewing Co. I have seen the number of craft sake breweries triple in number, There where not very many sake breweries to begin with but there is around 20 in North America now.

Over the next five to ten years I hope to see sake follow the same path with craft beer and expand with proportionate rates. I don”t think it will ever be like the current number of breweries in San Diego, but one in every state would be nice. The biggest shift I see is dry hopped sake, I believe sake is a beautiful vehicle for my lupulin love affair. We dry hope our sake with a variety of hops in the tasting room, come see whats on tap now.

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