Proud as punch (or, rather, sake): Devon Mederos, left, receiving his Master of Sake certificate from Zenkuro head brewer/director David Joll

A Queenstown brewery producing Japan’s best-known alcoholic beverage has become the only one outside Japan certified to offer a Master of Sake course.

And, last Friday, Zenkuro hosted a ceremony, featuring the breaking open of a sake barrel lid, for its second graduate, American Devon Mederos, who’d just completed the intensive two-month course under head brewer/director David Joll.

Mederos recently co-opened Florida’s first sake brewery — Shōjō’s Dojo, in Miami — which is one of only about 20 in the United States.

The newish Master of Sake qualification is offered by London-based Sake Sommelier Academy.

Joll, whose first graduate was from Norway, says Mederos chose to study in Queenstown, rather than Japan, where he had five breweries to choose between, ‘‘because of our small-scale hand-crafted approach, using traditional Japanese brewing methods’’.

Mederos, who’s 27, says it was also a big plus to learn in English and from a multi-award-winning sake brewery — still the only one in New Zealand.

‘‘The product speaks for itself.

‘‘I feel honoured to have spent time here, learning from Dave — there’s over 1000 breweries in Japan, and he’s beating them in international competitions.’’

Mederos initially worked in a meadery, making honey wine, ‘‘then I fell into beer’’.

‘‘There’s 10,000 breweries in America, for beer, so I decided to do something a little different.’’

Joll adds: ‘‘Now in our ninth year of sake production in Repco Boulevard, we feel very proud to be able to contribute towards the establishment of the world’s newest sake brewery.’’

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