Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brewers' Profile #04: Shinkame shuzo

picture from "http://jizake-ya.com"

  Shinkame is a small brewery in Hasuda city, Saitama Pref. less than 1 hour from Tokyo. Established in1848, in 1987 they became the first brewery to change to producing only Junmaishu. This was an epoch-making event. At that time the word Junmaishu was not even in the dictionary. In order to sell Shinkame Junmaishu, Yoshimasa Ogawahara travelled across Japan giving out samples for people to try. People think that Junmaishu means just that there is no added alcohol but it is not that simple. To produce Junmaishu, the brewing process is different from the very beginning. This is why many breweries are still unable to change to producing Junmaishu only.

  During World War II, Kura-san, Yoshimasa’s grandmother worked very hard to protect the brewery’s status against pressure from local government and the army, to merge with larger breweries. After the war pressure from the authorities continued and there was also harassment from the sake industry.

Mr and Mrs Ogawahara,
at "Sake wa Junmai 2012"

  Today Shinkame not only produces 100% Junmaishu but also uses 100% Sake brewers rice and uses small Koji trays for all sake. Use of small Koji trays is more labour intensive but it also ensures more control of and uniformity in the sake-brewing process. Shinkame’s emphasis is on aging the sake before putting it on the market. Shinkame Sake is at its best with food which means that it brings out the flavour of the food without sacrificing any of its own characteristic qualities. I think that Shinkame is the essence of the sake.

There is a good restaurant near Hasuda station. Mr Ogawahara recommends their "zenzai" (sweet and thick red bean soup) with Shinkame's daiginjo.
"Sasala" http://sasala.info

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Brewers' Profile #03: Gunmaizumi (Shimaoka shuzo)

picture from "www.zaku-izakaya.at.webry.info"

  Ohta city, Gunma Pref. where Gunmaizumi is situated dates back to 14th century. These days Ohta city is the home town of Subaru. This town also has one of the largest populations of Brazilian people in Japan. Most of them are working in the Subaru factory.
Around Ohta city, people like to drink hot Sake to counteract the very cold, windy winters. The result is that at Gunmaizumi they aim produce Sake that has more Umami at warm temperatures. The water is hard, which tends to produce a dry Sake.

  At this brewery, 80% of the rice that is used is the brewers’ rice Wakamizu, which is locally grown. They import some Yamadanishiki for their daiginjo.

  Most of the Gunmaizumi Sake is made using Yamahai method. This brewery’s skill in its use of this method sets it apart from the others. Yamahai offers a complex, dense and earthy set of aromas, some of which are carried on to the finished Sake, which also has higher levels of organic and amino acids.

  Toshinobu Shimaoka, the owner of Gunmaizumi, says that keeping up tradition is important. He likes the traditional Gunmaizumi, however he also tries to experiment with new ideas, in order to match today’s taste. Even then, he only makes Sake that he likes to drink.