Unfortunately, I have to admit to not being a fan of the hop so the ale reference is lost. If anyone knows of a good unhopped ale or barleywine I'd sure like to know!
Back to sake, I was under the impression that the rice needed a fungus pre-ferment to access the rice sugars similar to how barley needs to be enzymatically treated (malted) to release the sugars. Am I misunderstanding the process?
When you mention the distilled "brewers alcohol" and headaches, are you referring to the fuesil alcohols (various phenols) that need to be "aged out" of good wines and meads?