Greetings sake lovers! and welcome to another edition of the KURAND magazine where we bring you little nuggets of sake information in bite sized chunks.
Today’s article is part glossary part picture quiz of some of the lesser known skills that go into sake making.
The aim of this picture quiz is simple: work out which sake skill is being depicted in each of the drawings below.
Each picture will be introduced with a little hint to help you figure out the correct answer. A warning though: some of the hints are a little cryptic.
The answers will be presented in the form of a glossary below the quiz.
SAKE SKILLS PICTURE QUIZ
Question 1: For a woody finish
Question 2: The monks made sake this way?
Question 3: An extra stage?
Question 4: Hands on!
Question 5: Back breaking yeast starter!
Question 6: Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
Question 7: Not sticking your oar in?
Question 8: Letting gravity take its course
Question 9: Less is more
Question 10: 18 Litres of joy!?
Question 11: Antique press?
Question 12: Stopwatch at the ready!
Question 13: Sake x Sake?
Question 14: Could these bubbles be a clue?
Question 15: A shuffle here and a shuffle there
Before enamel tanks were introduced brewers used to brew in oak or cedar barrels. Repeated recycling of the barrels traps enzymes inside the nooks and crannies that impart their flavour into future batches of sake. Some breweries have started to bring their wooden barrels out of storage and revive the old process. Look out for sake labelled as Kiokejikomi.
2. Bodaimoto (mizumoto)
Hmm, okay, admittedly the hint was a bit too easy perhaps. This is of course monks made sake, in Japanese: Bodaimoto. This production skill which goes all the way back to Heian Period Japan is believed to be the roots of the Yamahai and Kimoto processes. This particular skill involves the yeast starter stage of the process. The monks would make the yeast starter by first producing lactic acid in a solution of water called Soyashimizu. Learn more via this article.
Yondanjikomi or 4 stage fermentation is where a 4th stage is added to the conventional method of brewing in which more steamed rice is added to sweeten the mix. In the olden days they would add other things as well. Learn more via this article.
4. Tearai (washing rice by hand)
The rice for Ginjo type sake normally washed by hand. While some breweries advocate that human touch is gentler on the rice leading to a reduction in cracked grains, others argue the opposite that the inconsistency of the human element in the equation can throw everything off. The alternative of course is to do it by machine.
5. Kimoto (Yamaoroshi LIT: breaking down the mountains)
Kimoto is one of the oldest, most traditional methods for making the yeast starter (seed fermentation). Instead of just adding lactic acid which forms a barrier against wild bacteria — the modern way of making sake — the brewer borrows the power from the naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria in the air that congregate once a certain balance of acidity and oxygen levels is achieved. The first brewers believed that you had to purée the rice and koji mix to drive glucose conversion. Pureeing the rice is back-breaking work that involves hitting the mixture with heavy wooden oars for hours on end. The process is called Yamaoroshi in Japanese which literally translates to ‘breaking down the mountains’ and refers to the way the brewer shapes the mixture of steamed rice into mountains before knocking it down. The added labour adds both time and cost to the process. Learn more via this article.
6. Setchu Chozo (LIT: storage in snow)
In some colder sake-brewing regions it gets so cold during the winter that the surroundings provide the perfect environment for storing sake, namely in the snow. The trick is keeping the sake at exactly 0 degrees so as to allow for a little ageing.
A little later on, around 1909, scientists at the National Institute of Brewing Research discovered that the oar ramming bit of the Kimoto method was surplus to requirements. They realised that left to its own devices, the koji enzymes would eventually dissolve all the rice naturally — to the sigh of relief of many a brewer everywhere. Temperature control is still very important and because you have to keep the temperature low, glucose conversion proceeds at a much slower rate, so this method can take anywhere between 2-3 weeks longer than the modern method: Sokujomoto. The allure of Yamahai sake has got to be the gamey, wild flavour that it tends to possess in droves which is created by wild bacteria creeping into the mix, only, this is not an accident; it is completely intentional on the brewer’s part for this to happen. Yamahai is an abbreviation of Yamaoroshi Haishi — Yamaoroshi being the Japanese name for the oar-ramming process. Literally: Yamaoroshi omitted. To Learn more via this article.
8. Shizukudori (LIT: catching the drips)
This is an old method of pressing the sake where the sake is put into bags and hung on poles over the tank opening. Although it takes longer to press sake this way, very little labour is required; you simply let gravity take its course. Because it is very difficult to produce volume via this method, the end product is often sold as limited edition.
Learn more via this article.
9. Kojikomi (Small scale brewing)
Sake is brewed in smaller batches, usually completely by hand. Brewing on a smaller scale allows more attention to detail. In general smal-scale-brewing refers to a yield of less than 1000 litres.
10. Tobin Kakkoi
Although sake is normally stored in the large 6000 litre tanks, sometimes it is transferred into large 18L glass bottles called Tobin. The sake is normally dripped into the bottles using the drip-drip Shizuku method of pressing described above Each Tobin may hold a completely different flavour and aroma as a result of its seperation.
11. Fune Shibori (pressing using the fune)
The fune is an old press which is shaped like the bottom of a boat, hence its name fune (LIT: boat). Special 50x50cm cloth filter bags are filled with sake. These so-called ‘sake bukuro or sake bags’ are specially made for the purpose. The bags are then placed into the fune. A vice is then applied from above. The pressure levels can be adjusted by inserting planks of wood under the vice. In general, it is a much more gentle method of pressing and although it is much more labour intensive it produces less off flavours.
Learn more via this article.
12. Gentei Kyusui (LIT: Limited Water Absorption)
Instead of just soaking the rice willy nilly, a Toji times the entire soaking process with a stopwatch, sometimes to the exact millisecond.
Well, first off, kijoshu is a type of sake, where the water that is normally added in the third and final stage of the three-stage fermentation* process: Tome, is replaced with sake; accordingly it can be quite an expensive luxury item.
* In general, sake is fermented in 3 stages.
As those who have tasted it before will know, it is recognisable by its sweet, rich, velvety flavour. The raw ingredients are, for the most part, rice, koji and sake which puts it into the futsushu tax category. Incidentally, Kijoshu is apparently the brand name that the Kijoshu Society, an organisation of over 40 breweries, thought up and is exclusive to its members. Kijoshu made by non-member breweries is therefore referred to using other names such as Saijojikomi, Jojo and Sanruijoshu.
Learn more via this article.
14. Ginjo Tsukuri (LIT: Ginjo process)
In the case of the more fruity ginjo aromas, they are what you get when you slowly ferment highly polished brewing rice (Shuzokotekimai) like Yamada Nishiki at low temperature.
That is because when the yeast, the little microorganism that converts the sugar into alcohol, is pushed to its limits like this: with limited nutrition, in the cold, it creates something wonderful in the form of Ethanol Alcohol and other types of high quality alcohol.
Sometimes the yeast used to make Ginjo type sake produces foam or bubbles which brewers use to reply on to guage the fermentation’s progress.
15. Koji Buta (small box Koji method)
This version of the Koji-making process moves the koji into smaller boxes called Buta. The object of the small box is to bring the rice together in the centre to increase the surface area and even out both moisture levels and temperature. If done properly, you end up with a neatly formed mound of rice in the middle of the box; if done improperly, you end up with a mess. In Japanese it is called Buta Koji. Buta Koji is a bit like that “tilt it!” game where you have to tilt balls into holes and just like that game, a steady hand and balance is essential. Suffice to say this method requires the highest skills.
How many questions did you get correct?
The below key shows how your score would rank you in the brewery worker heirarchy.
14 = Kamaya (rice steamer) 5-8 = Koujiya (Koji maker) 9-14 = Kashira (assistant foreman) Full score: Toji (foreman)
However you did, well done! This was not an easy quiz.
More quizzes to come in the future. Until then, we look forward to meeting you at KURAND.