While the origin of true sake is unclear, it is believed to have originated around 700 AD. Most of the breweries that grew and survived during the mid 1800's were set up by landowners who grew rice crops, and would ship left over rice to their breweries. The most successful of these family breweries still operate today. During the 20th century, sake-brewing technology grew by leaps and bounds. Yeast strains specifically selected for their brewing properties were isolated and enamel-coated steel tanks arrived cleaner and longer lasting.
Sake has since branched out far beyond the borders of Japan and the quality of sake continues to increase. In the not so distant past, sake in the U.S was served hot at sushi bars and ranged in flavor from mildly pleasing to barely drinkable. That mass produced industrial-quality brew (Futsu) was what many Americans associated sake with, since the high quality handmade sake from Japan was much harder to find here… until now.