Kurand Staff Brewery Visit Report: Meiri Shurui in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture

Before I jump into the visit report, let me tell you a bit about the sort of brewery that Meiri Shurui is.

The brewery that gave us two mainstream varieties of yeast: Society No.10 and M310.

It is an old brewery that was established in the Ansei period of the Edo Era.

At KURAND SAKE MARKET, the brewery brands Suifu Jiman and Fuku Shogun (Vice General) are very popular. But as many sake fans will tell you, there is more to this brewery. And that is the brewery’s connections with sake yeast.

In sake brewing, it is the yeast that eats the sugar that was converted from starch by the koji mould and produces alcohol; Meiri Shurui is the company that developed the M310 and Society No.10 (Ogawa Yeast) yeasts that are in wide use today by a number of different breweries.

The brewery behind the authentic rich flavoured “100 Yrs Plum Wine”.

The charm of Meiri Shorui does not necessarily lie only in their sake— they have added another string to their bow in the form of an authentic plum wine, “100 Yrs Plum Wine”.

It is an extremely highly acclaimed plum wine that has won various plum wine awards starting with victory at the 2nd Osaka Tenman Tenshin Plum Wine Championships, held in Osaka in 2008, and has also been certified by the Japan Federation of Gifts & Souvenirs as their recommended souvenir.

An undiluted plum wine made from domestically produced plums is aged over a long period before being finished off with brandy and honey to give it a characteristically mellow aroma, body and a smooth thick taste. Meiri Shorui is a must not only for sake lovers but plum wine lovers alike.

An all around alcoholic drinks producer that churns out all kinds of different products.

Meiri Shurui is a large scale maker that, in addition to sake and plum wine, also produces shochu and wine. Their production line includes a range of unique shochus made with all kinds of ingredients such as for example potato shochu made from the Satuma and the Beni Azuma variety of sweet potato, grown locally in Ibaraki Prefecture; a chestnut shochu made from chestnuts grown in the nearby Kasama City; they also make wine made with plums.

They also sell a range of plum wines, the label design of which is a cute anime girl— I guess you could say that their versatility is what defines them.

Highlights From The Day

At 9:45am, we assembled at the North Exit of Mito Station and took a car to Meiri Shurui. It is located a rather delightfully short 10 minute ride from the station.

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In the reception room we received an explanation about the company from the CEO Mr. Kato, Sales Manager Mr. Yasuda and the Technical Section Chief Mr. Kaido, and then the brewery tour got underway.

First, A Tour Of The Sake Brewery

Due to the fact that the sake brewing season was over, we were not actually able to see the brewery at work, but we were instead able to go around the brewery at a very leisurely pace.Even if we weren’t able to experience the frenzy of a working brewery, I think this seasonal shift in workload is one of the things that makes sake so interesting.

We were first shown the part of the brewery where they steam the rice. In the case of smaller breweries, a lot of the process is quite hands on, difficult heavy labour.

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Next we headed to the sake storage facility. This place was fitted out with rows upon rows of tanks. We learned all about the storage process, and the differences in cooling between the normal type tanks and the temperature controllable ones.

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Following that, the next facility we visited was the place where they press the sake. The press they use is called a “Yabuta” which is the norm at most breweries apparently. Lees from the sake gets trapped in between the square metal panels of the press and are chiselled off to provide us with the board shaped lees that we are all used to seeing.

Tour Of The Shochu Distillery

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After touring the sake brewery, we went around the grounds, our destination being the shochu distillery. Throughout the grounds, there are massive tanks which we were told were filled to the brim with brewer’s alcohol. I am sure you will agree, it is quite impressive to think that each one was that full.

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On the day we visited, for production line scheduling reasons, the shochu distillery was not in operation. Stood in front of the pot stills that are used to make the shochu, we listened to an explanation by Section Chief about the characteristics of each type of shochu in the Meiri Shurui lineup. In addition to the ingredients introduced at the beginning of this article: Ibaraki Prefecture-grown Beni Azuma and Kasama City-grown chestnut, the lineup is wide ranging and even includes, rice, grain, dried potatoes, fried potatoes, pumpkin and carrot.

Tour Of The Plum Wine Factory

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After the tour of the shochu distillery, we moved on to the plum wine factory. The star ingredient of the plum wine which has fans everywhere that fawn over its characteristic rich flavour and thickness, the “100 Yrs Plum Wine”: the plums appeared before our very eyes.

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In amongst the tanks where the undiluted form of the “100 Yrs Plum Wine” slumbered we were given a run down about the storage of the plum wine and all the different plums that are used and the methods used to procure them.

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And then, we were told about the massive sake brewing event that takes place during the summer, Nomikiri (literally opening the tap of the tank). This event is when, In the summer months, the tap of the tank is opened to see how the sake is ageing.

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Immediately adjacent to the plum wine factory there is a sight seeing brewery called Besshukan. Inside we found samples of ears of sake rice and samples of polished sake rice. There is also a display of tools that were, once-upon-a-time, used in sake brewing for you to look at. Every March, when they hold a sake barrel breaking ceremony inside the Besshukan the place is buzzing with people.

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On the first floor of the Besshukan, there is a little shop where you can buy the various plum wines, shochu and sake that Meiri Shurui produces. This is also where you can try the “100 Yrs Plum Wine”. This time, we were able to try 3 types. Although each one shared the same aged aroma of brandy and plum, we were surprised to find that from the sweetness and savouriness to the mouthfeel and aftertaste, each had its own unique quality defined by all kinds of different factors; the sort of flavour that breeds tons of fans and leaves you wanting to take it home with you. The sort that you would want to have one bottle of stocked in your house at all times.

As well as the 100 Yrs Plum Wine, we also saw loads of other uniquely designed products such as the “plum wine” and “plum story” products, the packages of which have all been designed by the brainchild behind the character “Young Witch Madoka”, Mr. Aoki Ume. Following the plum wine, we headed upstairs to the 2nd floor and viewed the old sake tools and rice samples.

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And in a small private room on the second floor, the walls were lined with the words “national sake”, each of which written in the handwriting and accompanied by the signature of a different prime minister from throughout history. As well as being taken aback by this distinguished display, to be able to experience the personality that comes from the various way the words “national Sake” are written and the signature that accompanies was quite a rare experience.

And that pretty much wraps up my report of our visit to Meiri Shurui. A brewery in Mito City which is very rarely unknown. Whether it be at KURAND SAKE MARKET, or at home, please enjoy the delicious sake that this brewery produces.
I hope we will meet soon!

Brewery Name Meiri Shurui Co.Ltd
Address 338 Moto Yoshida Town, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture
Tel 029-247-6111
Homepage http://www.meirishurui.com/
Facility Besshukan
Address 327 Moto Yoshida Town, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture
Tel 029-246-4811
Opening Hours 9:30~16:30(groups should book in advance)
Scheduled Closing Mondays (in the case of public holidays, the following day), open every day from February to March. End of year holidays: 29th December to 5th January closed.
Entrance FREE
Parking Free (30 vehicles/ also possible to park large buses)
Homepage http://www.bessyun-kan.jp/

 (Written by Ikeda / Photography by Tsujimoto)