KURAND SAKE MARKET Menu Renewal — Made Easier for both Novices and Non Japanese Speakers Alike.

On 25th December, we updated the menus and bottle tags in all three of our branches.

Made Easier to Find a Sake that Suits personal preference!

th_IMG_2519

Our way of thinking at KURAND is that “everyone’s tastes are different and that’s fine.”
It is a thinking that permeates right through our self-serve, free-choice concept.
 
However, some customers told us that they wanted us to make the system even easier to understand, to make the myriad of types on offer easier to choose, to give them some kind of flavour guide. Well our renewal this time can be divided into two major changes.

1. Each Part of the Fridge is Colour Coded.

th_IMG_2505

Up until now, the only way to know which category was in which part of the fridge was by cross referencing the bottle numbers with the menu.

SHOWCASE_MAP

In the new menu system, the bottle tags make it instantly evident which sake belongs to which category. For example, let’s say you want to try a newly brewed sake— you would look for the blue coloured tag because that is the colour for the seasonal sake category.

MENU CATEGORIES

CATEGORY KEY
No.1-18 (blue): SEASONAL
No.19-24 (pink): BEGINNER
No.25-30 (yellow): LIMITED EDITION
No.31-36 (black): NEW KURAND STANDARD
No.37-72 (light blue): KURAND STANDARD
No.73-84 (pea green): DAILY SPECIAL
No.85-90 (purple): CLOUDY
No.91-96 (orange): KURAND ORIGINAL LIQUEUR
No.97-108 (red): FRUIT WINE (plum wine etc)
No.109-114 (brown): SAKES FOR SERVING WARM

2. A Pictorial Guide to the Flavours

th_IMG_2490

From dividing up the sakes into just 4 categories, we have taken a big leap and further divided and classified each sake into a pictorial system of 11 different flavours.

tasting_icon

Once again we would like to reiterate that everyone’s tastes are different. This is simply intended as a shortcut to finding something that suits individual preferences.

PICTORIAL GUIDE KEY
ENTRY LEVEL Cherry
DRY Flame
SWEET Candy
FRESH Water Droplet
RICH Yen Mark
CLEAN Stars
CRISP FINISH Feather
FRUITY Melon
FLORAL Rose
AGED Cask
SPECIAL Exclamation

 * Intended as a rough guide

th_IMG_94582

This pictorial guide was put together based on the tasting notes compiled by our KURAND professional staff member who is also a former master brewer. Each of the 100 different sakes was tasted and then assigned one or more of the 11 different flavour types.

th_IMG_9883

The idea for the pictorial system is the brainchild of our foreign member of staff who wanted to find a way to make the system easier to understand for non-Japanese speaking customers: you simply remove the language barrier by using pictures. A full English language version of the menu is also on in development — watch this space!

new_name_plate_31_36

That is to say, the actual idea of classifying the sake in this detailed way is a result of all the feedback that we received from you the customer. We hope that we can convert more of your feedback into action in the future too, to make the whole sake experience even more enjoyable for all. 

Menu Update: KURAND Specially Selected Breweries

m01

Here at KURAND we believe that “sake tastes all the more delicious when you drink knowing who made it and why”

The previous menu showcased 36 breweries, their backgrounds and their stories. The new menu add a further 6 new breweries — that’s 42 breweries in total. We look forward to introducing them all in more detail via our English language magazine soon.

skm_menu_new_face
  
As part of our goal to introduce visitors to our bars with more and more —as of yet unencountered— breweries from all over Japan, we will add more breweries to the menu in the future so that every visit will offer a new encounter.

A Hand Made Menu Carefully Compiled by the Staff Here At Kurand

th_IMG_2539

Both the menu book and bottle tags have all been compiled by hand by the staff themselves.

th_IMG_2474
th_IMG_2476
th_IMG_247411

On your next visit, please take a moment to check out the menu book that we lovingly prepared to tell the story of each brewery, a product of everyone’s input. We look forward to your next visit.

3 Things To Look Out For on the Sake Label To Keep You From Going Astray

The following is a revised version of an old article.

Hello there! KURAND here.

With over 100 different types of sake to choose from here at KURAND SAKE MARKET sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of what you tried.

Our lineup includes sakes with fruity aromas, clean dry sakes, sweet rich sakes — so many different styles.

The fact that every sake is made from rice and water and yet the flavour can be so different is one of its mysteries.

Let’s say for example that ‘clean dry’ sakes are your bag.
Trying to pick out such a sake without tasting would be a bit of a chore.

But in actual fact, with the right knowledge, it is possible to get a general gist about the dryness or sweetness, and aroma from the content on the labels.

And that is where we begin this article.


* Everyone’s tastes are different so no such assessment can ever be 100% spot on. It is merely one method of selection.

1. Investigate the Aroma and Flavour – Raw Ingredients & Rice Polishing Ratio

th_DSC_1170

Plenty of sakes have fruity aromas.

If your preference is for sake that is clean and highly aromatic, then the rice is where you need to start.

Raw Ingredients (sake rice)

Here we will be referring to the part of the label that describes one of the raw ingredients: the rice. Whether it be a special brewing variety like Yamada Nishiki or Gohyaku Mangoku, or one of the many varieties of eating rice — there are so many types — the principal rice used will give off some hints about the flavour of the sake.

Here are some examples…

Yamada Nishiki : nice aroma and mildness. Fine texture.
Gohyaku Mangoku : Light, crisp finish.
Miyama Nishiki : Not so dry. A very strong rice flavour. The aroma is comparatively more relaxed.
Omachi : Rich, full bodied.

The rice in the above photograph is Gohyaku Mangoku. We would therefore expect this sake’s flavour to be light with a crisp finish.

(This is where it all comes down to how much knowledge you have)

Rice Polishing Ratio

Have you ever seen this: Rice Polishing Ratio 60%?

The rice polishing ratio shows how much of the rice has been polished (milled or removed) away in the production process. A higher volume of highly-polished rice that has been polished close to the nucleus of the rice grain translates to less off flavours and more aroma.

A rice polishing ratio of 40% means that 60% of the outer part of the rice has been polished away. To put it another way, the smaller the ratio the higher the class of sake. Incidentally, sake made with less than 60% of the rice remaining is called Ginjo, less than 50% is called Daiginjo.

The rice in the above photograph has a ratio of 65%.

Note: the smaller the ratio, the richer and more aromatic the sake.

Sake polished to 50%, made with Yamada Nishiki is milder and has a wonderful aroma and flavour.

2. Sweet or Dry – Sake Meter Value & Acidity

niho

There will be as many advocates of sweet as there will dry.

These people should be looking for the sake meter value and acidity.

Sake Meter Value

You might have spotted a +3 or something similar on the label before.
Well if this number is a minus number, it is sweet, whereas a plus number, is dry.

+6.0 > +3.5~+5.9 +1.5~+3.4 -1.4~+1.4 -1.5~-3.4 -3.5 ~-5.9 -6.0>
Super Dry Dry Slightly Dry Neutral Slightly sweet Sweet Super Sweet

This plus minus number is called the sake meter value. It is there to tell us how sweet or dry a particular sake is. The higher the number, the more extreme that level of dryness of sweetness will be. A minus number indicates that there is more residual sugar in the final product whereas a plus tells us the opposite.

Acidity

The sake meter value alone will not tell you the sweetness and dryness. You also need to know the acidity. By acidity, we are referring to acids like Succinic Acid, Malic Acid and Lactic Acid and not the sour taste in the mouth. A higher acidity gives us drier sake and vica versa.

Now Let’s Put The Two Figures Together

Overlaying the sake meter value and acidity gives a rough idea about the flavour.

nihonshudo

(throw in a higher alcohol content to accentuate the spiciness)

In addition to the above graph, here are a few more common combinations.

Clean / Light Dry: Low to medium levels of acidity and very little sugar.
Cloying / Heavy Sweet: Levels of sugar are super high but the finish lacks balance of certain types of acidity.
Crisp Sweet: Levels of sweetness are high but with an acidity that creates rounded finish.
Rich Dry: Low to medium levels of sugar and acidity is high.
Rich Sweet: Levels of acidity and sugar are both super high.
Spicy Dry: Levels of sugar are super low and acidity is very high.

Is the way it goes. Please only use the above as a rough guide.

The sake in the picture has a sake meter value of +5, an acidity of 1.4 and is made with Gohyaku Mangoku. Thus, you could expect a light to medium-dry sake with perhaps the tiniest hint of sweetness — or not if the alcohol content was on the higher side which would make it feel drier.

Alcohol Content

One other factor that can make sake taste drier is of course the alcohol content. A higher alcohol sake is always going to taste drier than it actually is; the human tongue has trouble distinguishing between dry and alcohol burn.

3. The Freshness of Sake – Production Year

To find out the freshness of sake look at its production date. Over time, sake loses its mild flavour. Or to look at it another way, newly completed brews are fresh and full of life.

Basically speaking, sake does not have a use by date. The production date on the label shows us the month and year that the sake was bottled.

Sake is at its most delicious up to approx one year from the production date.

It is highly likely that in the case of sake that has passed the one year mark the flavour will have deteriorated somewhat. There are sakes that will develop a taste perfectly suited to the expert palate as a result of their long storage, but these kinds of sakes often fall into the highly matured category.

For all those with a penchant for crisp, fresh, vivacious sakes, there is unpasteurised sake.

Conclusion

We have introduced the above three points to be used as a rough guide only.
Everyone’s tastes are different so this guide is not the be all and end all.
Furthermore, your tastes will vary depending on your physical condition at the time.

There have been countless times when someone has tasted a dry sake as sweet and vica versa.

Let’s not forget that, rice being the organic ingredient that it is, turns out slightly different every year: It all depends on that year’s crop.

Why not try it out in practice and join us at KURAND SAKE MARKET where there are over 100 different types with which to flex your knowledge.

What Kind of Sake Do We Stock at Kurand and What’s With The Self Serve Style?

KURAND SAKE MARKET is a dive bar run by a sake proprietor where you can taste over 100 different sakes. Many customers, mainly a young audience, have come through our doors and enjoyed the experience.

We are not just a specialist sake bar. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you our concept which explains the sorts of sakes we stock and why we stock them.

Painstakingly Crafted Sake is Waiting in the Wings

fcac8ae3509b83fed8c7afbc46eaca0f

The world is still full of delicious sake. But there are very few places in Tokyo where you can drink them. As a result, very few people get the opportunity to taste these delicious sakes. We believe that this is such a waste.

The sake here at KURAND is sake that has been painstakingly crafted by hand by a small team or family, but has yet to make it to centre stage.

Brewers with brewing principles, brewers crafting sake from locally grown rice to help contribute to the local agriculture, young brewers putting their all into their craft; these are the brewers whose sake we want you to enjoy.

Putting out famous sake brands might attract fans of those sakes and aficionados.
However it is the people who have yet to discover sake that we want to be able to get more out of the experience.

This is not just our USP, but our duty.

KURAND Conveys the Passion of the Craftsman

aa

The thing that we want to communicate to our customers, is the story: the ideas of the craftsman that get imbued into the final product.

Sake tastes all the more delicious when you drink knowing who made it and the passion that went into it.

The message that we wish to get across is not whether the sake tastes good or not, rather it is the story that has been chiseled into each one. That is why each and every bottle of sake comes with an explanation about its maker. This information is supplemented by an easy to follow menu book. From time to time, we also frequently hold events where we invite the breweries to come and mingle.

This is something that only we can do because we are in such close contact with the breweries on a daily basis.

Taste Varies From Person to Person

th_IMG_7829

Sake is an acquired taste and everyone’s tastes are different.

For example, a food that matches the tastes of person A might not necessarily match that of person B. We believe that as long as the product in question is a luxury item, this will be the case for everyone.

We are a sake proprietor. However, we don’t want to force sake down people’s throats telling them things like: ‘this is without a doubt delicious’. We believe that taste is something that should be felt.

The objective of our establishment is to provide a place where our customers can discover lots of sake, where the customers have freedom of choice — just like you can try on a pair of glasses or clothes, we provide the changing rooms to acquaint customers with their perfect-fit sake.

That is also why we spare no effort to bring our customers sake from all over Japan in the best condition. We follow this with proposals on how to better enjoy the sake that you have just found out about through KURAND.

We Want You to Compare at your Leisure

th__MG_4410

The freedom to compare all kinds of different sake is KURAND SAKE MARKET’s style.

At a normal specialist sake establishment, you often don’t know what to order, or what is going to fit your preference. The KURAND style removes this problem.

And perhaps, in amongst those sakes that sake awaits: the sake that you have always been looking for, the ones that perfectly matches your personal preference.

Our Expert Staff are on Hand to Assist You

shibuya001

Here at KURAND, our team includes not just professionally trained sommeliers, but experts from a wide range of different backgrounds:
brewery-born staff and staff with hands-on sake making experience; former bartenders— sellers, craftsmen and teachers fully versed in their field.

We want you to enjoy good sakes that are overflowing with potential, to discover new sakes. With that in mind, all sake is stringently selected by people from all over the industry.

Finally,

Well that about wraps it up.

Sake still has so much potential and there are plenty of brewers out there giving their all to make it.

We provide amazing sake encounters to make the beverage more free and more fun. Your first stop should be KURAND SAKE MARKET.

We are confident that our setup offers a great opportunity for everyone to become acquainted with sake.

sakema_topvisual_pc「KURAND SAKE MARKET(クランドサケマーケット)」はコチラ

Go to KURAND SAKE MARKET

Sake SET Vol 3: It’s All In The Labels

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 13/12/15
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Asakusa Branch
Participants: 26
Duration: 4 hours 
Theme: Deciphering The Labels of Sake 

On 13th December, we held our third SAKE SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo). I would just like to thank all those who attended the event, it was a pleasure to meet so many lovely people.

IMG_0644

The Theme

IMG_0711

One of the many obstacles facing a non-Japanese person trying to navigate the 1000s of sakes that are available has got to be the lack of English on the labels. That being said, since there is very little else to go by, for most people, it will probably have been the label, for some reason or another, that attracted them towards their first sake. But is it wise to choose sake based on its labels? Is it possible to find a particular flavour based on its label design? These are the questions that we attempted to find an answer to in SET VOL.3.

IMG_0710

Part of the answer to this question may lie in the artwork on the label. Quite a lot of sake labels tell a story and every brewer puts little hints, —whether intentionally or unintentionally— about the flavour of the contents in the bottle. The KURAND SAKE MARKET lineup is no exception. In fact, last time I looked, I counted more than 40 different uniquely designed labels, each very closely matching the type of sake they were advertising. You just have to know what you are looking for. For example: if you see a label designed with flowers on the front then 9 times out of ten you are going to be tasting something with a perfumed aroma, an old fashioned painting of Japan, don’t expect a science fiction expedition, and similarly an abstract work of art is not concealing a clean flavoured simple sake. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but in practice categorisation of the artwork on the label works as a rough guide.

IMG_0720

In the second part of the lecture, we broke down the back labels and deciphered them.
For example: that high percentage (over 20-30%) displayed on the label is not the alcohol content. It is in fact the rice polishing ratio (amount of rice that remains after polishing). The majority of the information on the back labels is just numbers but some of that data can be important.

IMG_0672

The Concept

IMG_0766

Learn about sake in a casual and fun way while making new friends with people from all over the world. Each event comes with a guided tasting and the opportunity to taste from over 100 different types of sake, without time limits, all sourced from rare small breweries that don’t usually get a look in in the capital. Furthermore, some of the sakes can only be tasted at these events.

The Lecture 

 

IMG_0657

● Sake in a nutshell 
● Cultural origins and history
● Modern developments 
● Raw ingredients 
● Production process:
● Sake label artwork divided into categories 
● Examples of sake labels
● Conclusion 

The Guided Tasting 

IMG_0717

Participants were taken through a guided tasting of 3 completely different sakes; 2 of the sakes tasted more or less like the label suggested they would, the remaining one was a bit more vague. Each label design came with its own story. I really enjoyed telling each story— the role of storyteller and sommelier is not that far apart really.

The Blind Tasting

IMG_0737

The guided tasting was followed with a blind tasting where participants had to get into teams and identify a 4th sake out of the 3 they had just tasted. The game was a bit easier this time because of the colour difference between the sakes so we had a total of 4 winning teams out of 5. It was free nibbles all around for the lucky winners.

Participants were then free to compare as many sakes as they could muster and make friends in the process.

Photo Session in Costume

IMG_0742

Some people had their photo taken trying on one of a number of different sake brewing aprons.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the breweries that kindly provided these.

IMG_0741
IMG_0739

Conclusion

IMG_0701
Tasting sake by label is like walking around an art gallery with a glass of wine in hand. And just like the art gallery visit, you need interesting fun people to make the experience complete. Once again, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the lovely people who attended this event. I assure you the pleasure was all mine.

If this event report has tickled your taste buds, there is another SET just around the corner.

Hot Off The Press!! Newly Brewed Sake

Learn what a new brew is and taste a number of different types from different breweries
—without a doubt the creme de la creme of seasonal sake.

I look forward to seeing you all !!

SAKE SET VOL 4 17th January noon-4pm (Asakusa Branch)

RSVP

SAKE SET VOL 4 24th January noon-4pm (Shibuya Branch)

RSVP

It’s Finally Here! The New-Brew Season!

A Selection of 5 Newly Brewed Sakes

Hello there! another delicious sake season is upon us- here at KURAND SAKE MARKET the new sake has already started to hit the fridges.

For many people the term new brew might be quite alien. What on earth is it and isn’t sake made all year round? is there such a thing as new and old?

Fear not for I shall attempt to explain.

New Brew = New Sake?

002 (2)

Pop into a sake shop and you will no doubt see sake marked as new brews and little notices attached to the bottles that read something along the lines of: XX brewery’s new sake in stock. In the case of new brews, what you see is what you get: newly brewed sake.

That being said, is there a way to know when it was newly brewed?

An accurate definition would in fact be sake which has been “produced and shipped within the brewing year”.

There Is a Punctuation Mark in the Sake Brewing Season.

The term brewing year in sake-making terms is effectively a way of punctuating the brewing season and points in particular to the period from July 1st of one year, to 30th June of the next. In Japanese it is called the Shuzonendo, marked on the sake labels by the abbreviation BY.

For example, if the label is marked with 25BY (2013), it means the sake was made during the period July 2013 to June 2014.

Sake is usually brewed between October of one year to March of the next so nearly all sake brewed in 2014 would actually be marked 25BY.

If we were to explain the meaning of new brew based on this interpretation of brewing year, then it is self explanatory that it refers to sake that has been produced between October and March and shipped before June.

Anyone Who Likes Their Sake Fresh and Vivacious Is Recommended To Try a New Brew!

003

If we were to sum up the characteristics of a new brew in one word, we could use the word ‘fresh’. At the end of the day, we are talking about sake that has is freshly pressed, freshly bottled so you might even call it vivacious or youthful. On the other hand, roughness and off flavours are also characteristic.

Over time, the edges fade and the flavour transforms into a milder child; putting in the fridge and having fun with this transformation is just one of the ways to enjoy new brews.

KURAND SAKE MARKET Will Also See The Arrival of Many a New Brew!

So there you have it, a new brew is a sake with a fresh feel that has been “produced and shipped within the brewing year”. Every KURAND SAKE MARKET branch is stocked with freshly brewed new brews. All of which are procured directly from the breweries so they really are new in every sense of the word. Allow me to share a section of the menu with you.
(All of these are available to compare at your leisure)

Kamisugi New Brew Honjozo Muroka

1

Aichi Prefecture, Kamisugi Brewery. A regional sake bursting with the unique flavour of rice and water from Anjo. There is an insistence on using raw ingredients that have been sourced from within eyeshot. That lettering on the front label, which reads ‘freshly pressed’, is really powerful don’t you think. Freshly pressed and new brew are almost synonyms.

Miyoshikiku (3 scented chrysanthemums) Awanami Yamada Nishiki Shiboritate Tokubetsu Junmai Genshu

09

Tokushima Prefecture, Miyoshikiku Brewery! Brewing the sake of today, a type of flavour that is new to everyone. Their focus is on not just the flavour and aroma, but the harmony of the water and alcohol and from that creating something that doesn’t feel alcoholic. Recommended for people who are not so used to drinking sake. The label itself gives off a “I am not just anyone” sort of aura.

Fukunishiki Junmai Shiboritate Nama Genshu

010

Hyogo Prefecture, Fukunishiki Brewery. 20 years of junmai-only brewing. Banshu sake that conveys the umami qualities of the rice. A prominently strong flavour in the KURAND SAKE MARKET lineup, a very manly masculine sake!

Marushi Masamune Shiboritate

012

Tokyo, Koyama Brewery. The only remaining brewery in Tokyo’s 23 wards, this is a must-try Edo sake. A new brew made in Tokyo— just in, this is the embodiment of freshness. You might be thinking that sake is all about regionality; well just feel Tokyo’s potential.

Chiyo No Kame (Ancient Turtle) Junmai Shiboritate

0123

Ehime prefecture, Chiyo No Kame Brewery. ‘Life-focused sake brewing, brewing that isn’t possible anywhere else’. Generally speaking, sake that is produced by a cheerful and energetic brewery is bound to make the drinker feel the same way! — the brewers certainly are an energetic bunch……! ’KURAND SAKE MARKET always comes alive whenever Chiyo no Kame is around.

Well, that abouts wraps up my explanation of ‘new brews’.

Every year, around this time, we receive an update from the breweries about their new brews. To receive the announcement: “The new brews are ready!” is always a special event and is the sake proprietor’s unique way of tasting the seasons.

Everyone, be sure to try new brew sake before the season ends!

sakema_topvisual_pc
You will find KURAND SAKE MARKET here!

CHRIS’S GLOSSARY

Shinshu = (新酒)New brew
Shiboritate = (しぼりたて)Freshly pressed
Shuzonendo (酒造年度) = Brewing year / BY (July of one year to June the next)
Muroka = Unfiltered (see this article)
Nama = Unpasteurised
Genshu= Undiluted
Junmai = Sake made with only 3 main ingredients: rice, water and koji (no added alcohol / fortification).
Tokubetsu Junmai : A junmai with a special quality such as a high rice polishing ratio.
Edo = Old name for Tokyo (if something is old Tokyo, it tends to get referred to as Edo)
Honjozo = Sake made with a little added brewer’s alcohol (fortification) and with a minimum rice polishing ratio of 70%.
Yamada Nishiki = The king of sake brewing rice famed for its elegant feminine flavour.
Banshu = An area of Hyogo Prefecture where some of the best Yamada Nishiki is grown.

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.

Z4VWLOwP18j2E3s1435648429_1435648439

V_ve4dMfSzX2WaH1435648481_1435648504

RgqlPs8Yna0pY931435648636_1435648741

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.

65bU4W7oYjdU8fy1435717154_1435717173
TgQbBGUW_l05QfD1435660540_1435660555

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.

a_CYn0TEH5doI_g1435660601_1435660618

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

OImmtVBpjbNKXDm1435660888_1435660915

hAPZFzHaDP_tFmv1435648559_1435648568

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.

veBkYer3NQWpXUe1435661043_1435661082

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

n1dj87p28zouYAf1435661161_1435661176

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.

FPlQeTwxFDzWdzm1435661239_1435661255

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.

pNL2FvkUiKSvjux1435661302_1435661334

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.

AQjWX20DCdUTQfe1435719006_1435719014

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.

9UTaC45tOjcocSy1436233943_1436233955

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.

fTFtdZeziINZom41435718891_1435718900

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)

A Sake Lecturer Lets Us In On His Trick to Selecting A Sake To Suit Personal Preference (Sake Shop Volume)

Hello, I am Kitayama, a sake lecturer. Following on from my last article of the same title, this time we are off to the sake shop. There is still plenty more I would like to write in this article. I hope this was worth waiting for. Please, take your time and why not enjoy this article over a sake.
Well then, allow me to explain the trick to choosing the right sake in a sake shop. This is where things get difficult.

The Method That Hits The Spot

kaori01

I will start from the conclusion, and that is that we cannot tell the flavour of sake from the label. Of course, you might get an idea about a few of its traits, but in the end it might not quite hit the spot. The truth is that there is no better method than to taste it. And that is why the best method is as follows:

● Purchase sake that you have discovered at an izakaya.
● Purchase sake that you like at a sake shop which offers tasting.

Following the above two methods, your chances of success are very high. (excluding those rare cases where the sake has been damaged by UV light or heat). Relying on a friend who has similar tastes to you might also work. If you are on your own, knowing which sakes you are unlikely to be able to taste beforehand will help you to discover appealing new ones.

Select Using a Tasting Chart

4type

Source: SSI (Sake Service Institute / Master of Sake Research Society Association)
Well then, what can you do to purchase a sake that fulfills your desires without tasting? This is one hell of a topic. It would be no exaggeration to point out that this is why so many places categorise and evaluate sake in the first place. There are so many axis by which sake is evaluated: the depth of aroma and flavour, divided up into 4 types; a comparison of the bearing of dryness and sweetness etc. Sometimes looking at these axis just confuses further. A sweet sake to a novice is something completely different to a reviewer.

Purchase By Label

W700Q75_10426847_316662955204741_65907040695351140_n

Allow me to write again, you cannot tell how a sake will taste from its label. That being said, turning that claim on its head, I might reword it to say: if you are looking for x sake then you should be looking for x description. Furthermore, allow me to write again that this method is not a given, so please don’t hold me to account later and claim: I didn’t get the right one! “” . Apologies in advance………..

Recommendations By Type Preference

21183_348403595364010_9074889430687946653_n

I have compiled a bunch of expressions that you should look out for for each type.

Rich type : with strong cocoa-like aroma type.
Look out for the expressions: unpasteurised, unfiltered, undiluted.

Aroma : strong melon-like aroma and subtle flavour type.
Look out for the expression : Ginjo

Caramel texture and viscous expansive umami type
Look out for the expression: aged sake

An energetic gassy, about-to-burst type
Look out for the expression: Kassei (active)

“Fresh” type that screams “I haven’t had much contact with oxygen”
Look out for the expressions: turtle mouth and arabashiri

That prized rare sake that the brewery has given everything to make
Look out for the expressions: shuppinshu (display sake), tobin, awarded gold etc.

Sweet-through-to-the-last-drop type
Look out for the expression: kijoshu

Once you understand the meaning behind each and every expression, you also understand why a particular type of sake tends to taste a particular way. Please forgive me for not preparing a more expansive list.

Bonus Content

W700Q75_10690101_325761267628243_8996045325613781378_n

As a little bonus, I would like to teach you the method for the sake shop away from home. There will doubtlessly be regional sakes for your location that it would be a waste not to try. Have you heard the phrase Terroir? It is a French word used to refer to the sort of surrounding natural environment in which something is grown, and is heavily used in the wine world. It would be a waste not to choose a sake made with rice grown local to where you’re staying. A lot of labels display the phrase: _____prefecture-grown. Why not try one of these sakes on your travels.

Please reference the above guidance the next time you are in a sake shop.

Everyone, please go forth and enjoy your days with sake.

( Written by Kitayama Hideto Sake Lecturer )

A Sake Lecturer Lets Us In On His Trick to Selecting A Sake To Suit Personal Preference (Izakaya Volume)

Hello, I am Kitayama, a sake lecturer and this marks my first article. I am involved in the management of both sake shops and izakayas.

Allow me to talk to you about the various methods of selecting a sake. There are two main scenarios:

1. The Izakaya
2. The Sake Shop

Selecting A Sake In An Izakaya

W600Q75_a0001_005444_m

By choosing a izakaya, you should be looking to enjoy conversation with its staff. If it is a place with many different types of sake, then you ought to ask for their daily recommendation. Each and every izakaya stocks sake that they have worked hard to procure. Why wouldn’t they want you to ask them?

Even Though “Dry” Is Just One Word, There Are So Many Types.

fgh

However, If you want to be troublesome just try saying:
“I want to a dry one, a dry one!!”

Dry sake is dry because all the sugars have been turned into alcohol so that very few remain.
No sugar, but the alcohol creates a crisp finish.

A long long time ago, there was a type of sake called Sanjoshu which was sake topped up with alcohol and sugar to give it a very sticky sweet flavour. For many people it is a reluctance towards this type of sticky sweetness that makes them ask for ‘dry’.

We are in an age where sweet sake is plentiful. The trend has changed from clean dry styles to rich savoury ones which are by no means cloying.

The levels of acidity are higher than before and carbonated styles are on the increase. It is thanks to this carbonation and acidity that sticky cloying sakes are becoming extinct.

I digress. The answer to the order for dry sake is not an easy one. I always revert to the 3 options below.

1. Extremely Dry Sake

0d9d0cffe2f97f30cfbf2e9169c043ba_m

This type of sake has a strong tendency to clean the palate in between meals, and make the next bite taste even more delicious; it also doesn’t interfere with the food. I guess you could say that this washing away motion which is often referred to as the “wash” is particularly strong in this type.

Teacher Yamaho’s Junmai Nama Genshu Depth-Charge Dry SMV +28
Jokigen Dry SMV +12
Jozen Mizunogotoshi SMV +5
Hakkaisan Honjozo SMV +5

2. Non-Cloying Type Sake.

jyukusei

Even though this type of sake is sweet, the presence of carbonation and acidity gives it a short finish that is nothing short of joyous. Rich type sake that comes with a short finish creates a synergy with food.

This type of synergy is referred to as a marriage (emanating from the idea that a new flavour sensation is created similar to how a married couple produce a child). There will be many places that want you to enjoy sake in this way. Recently, you could be forgiven for considering it mainstream. Allow me to introduce some sakes that I have picked from various breweries.

Senkin Muku (Purity) The acidity is characteristic.
Mutsu Hassen Red Label Tokubetsu Junmai Full of flavour but with a crisp finish.
Jikon Junmai Ginjo Gohyaku Mangoku Pasteurised Type Pasteurised but with a sparkly edge and finish.

3. Old Fashioned Sake With a Slight Aged Aroma

W700Q75__MG_2302

Listening to those around me, I felt that this type of sake was actually being interpreted as ‘dry’; just why is a mystery.

Conclusion

th_IMG_8984

Alas, if those people who tend to order ‘dry’ knew what they were looking for, it would be much easier for sommeliers like myself to offer them something that they like. Please, try and find out which type of ‘dry’ suits your preference. I believe that doing so will acquaint you with more and more agreeable sakes . Well then, I hope everyone will go out and spend their days with sake.

Written by Sake Lecturer Kitayama Hideto