Gruel has some negative connotations in popular culture. In the English-speaking world, the adjective “thin” frequently precedes the noun “gruel.” The word conjures up images of hapless Cinderella-types being gastronomically abused by harpies of various sorts. Perhaps the man who did the most to solidify its odious image is Charles Dickens, who had the orphan Oliver Twist beseech the master of the workhouse with this request: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Oliver was referring to a second serving, of course.
What exactly is gruel, anyway? Well, Wiktionary defines it thus: “A thin, watery porridge, formerly eaten primarily by the poor and the ill.” It should be noted here that gruel is not always thin and unappetizing, as the rather flavorsome Chinese dish congee attests. It should also be noted that the beverage under consideration here looks quite a bit like Oliver’s workhouse staple, but the resemblance is confined to the visual. Doburoku is a fermented beverage that tastes like sake but is not considered nihonshu. It is a rice-based brew that is not pressed. It has a milky color and can be thin or chunky.
Below is a picture of what we tasted recently. Doburokusou brewed doburoku. This luscious product of Niigata Prefecture could compete with the finest of Rutherglen Muscats. (For those unfamiliar with this unique Australian wine, it is made from Brown Muscat, fortified, viscous, and luscious.) Doburokusou started brewing doburoku in 2004 under a Special Agricultural Zone license. It is rough, yet inexplicably opulent. This diamond in the rough or rough diamond has an abv of 12%, and will leave you, like the urchin Oliver, plaintively uttering, “Please, I want some more.”