Japan’s national alcoholic beverage, saké, is probably only encountered by the average American in a Japanese restaurant, and then after following the waiter’s direction. The fourth annual Saké Fest PDX, taking place at the Sentinel Hotel on Thursday 26, aims to demystify the drink (it is, after all, only fermented rice and water and it forgoes the bewildering complexity of wine’s different styles and classifications) and to showcase its versatility with foods—here it will be paired with chocolate and cheese, as well as more traditional Asian dishes. It’s an admirable attempt to help take saké out of its sushi ghetto and to broaden its appeal.

There are dozens of Japanese sake varieties to try, including rare and premium examples, as well as those from “jizake”, or artisanal brewers. Oregon is also represented and you will be able to compare pourings from the g saké, Momokawa and Moonstone labels. Food offerings are deliberately diverse, with the likes of Yakuza, Biwa, Bamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille and five chocolate companies matching tastings with appropriate saké varieties. Plus, there are plum wines to try, while Rogue is showcasing its Morimoto line of craft beers.

Tickets, which include all food and drink tastings and a tasting glass are $50 advance, $60 on the door and are available here. Sake Fest PDX, Sentinel Hotel, 614 SW 11th, June 26, 6:30 to 9 pm, SakeFestPDX.com