What Do the Initials ‘BY’ Signify?

Greetings sake lovers!

I know this is a little sudden, but do you know what the initials ‘BY’ signify? Sakes labelled with these initials and a number, for example, 27BY, is becoming more of a common sight these days. In this article we will explain what it’s all about.

The Meaning of ‘BY’

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First of all its not BY as in the word BY, it is B.Y., as in the initials. Unfortunately, in Japan abbreviations tend to come without full stops.

It is not an expiry date.

‘BY’, is an abbreviation of 「Brewing Year」. It basically tells you when the sake was crafted. Nice and easy right? wrong. If it was as easy as all that, there wouldn’t have been a need for this article.

Things get a tad confusing from here on in. Let’s say, for instance, that, as in the above example, the brewing year is marked with the number 27 — now, this is where you need a little bit of an understanding of the Japanese calendar which couldn’t be any more different from the Gregorian one — the 27 will point to the 27th Year of Heisei, or 2015.

So basically, it means that sake was brewed between January and December of that year right?. Wrong. The brewing year points, not to the calendar year, but a predetermined period between specific dates. An industry standard brewing year will normally run from July of one year through to June of the next.

So, in other words, a sake marked as 27BY has been brewed between July 2015 and June 2016. Incidentally, breweries sometimes also write the words ‘Brewing Year’ in full, which in Japanese is written as ‘酒造年度’ (shuzo nendo).

You would be forgiven for wondering why breweries would want to confuse their customers in this way. Well in actual fact the ‘BY’ stamp was never designed to be shown to the consumer in the first place. Originally, its use was restricted to internal auditing purposes. It is not just sake that uses the ‘BY’ stamp: Mirin, shochu, liqueurs and some Japanese fruit wines all get labelled in this way.

Why Show Anything at All?

The ‘BY’ stamp is no longer confined to the back label. Sakes that scream the ‘Brewing Year’ on the front in massive letters, are on the increase. The vintage sake movement may be partly to blame.

Sake is originally intended to be consumed in its freshest state, i.e. immediately; breweries would not dare print anything to create the opposite impression.

Howerer long-term-aged sake has made its entrance — sakes that have, in some cases, been aged for more than a year to produce depth and clarity of flavour — sake that displays a year of vintage in the same way that vintage wines do, and thus, some kind of labelling to set the fresher sakes apart has become necessary. Alas, ‘BY’ is no longer uncommon anymore.

Alternatives to BY

Just when you thought things were confusing enough, they had to go and throw a load of other ‘BY’s into the mix. Here are a few of the more common ones.

BY=Brewery Year’酒造年度’

1st July – 30th June of the next year

CY = Calendar Year

1st January – 31st December of the same year

FY=Fiscal Year

1st April – 31st March of the next year

RY=Rice Year

1st November – 31st October of the next year

Conclusion

And that wraps up another article. and as simple as that, before you can say “BY is short for brewing year”, another sake mystery is cleared up.Why not look out for the BY the next time you are at KURAND SAKE MARKET. Happy imbibing!

If You Remember Only One Thing From This Magazine, Let it Be This: A Compendium of The Most Famous Sake Rice Varieties Out There!

How much do you already know about the raw ingredient of sake, the rice? In particular, sake rice, or Sakamai, better still, special rice for brewing [Shuzokotekimai]).

You may be thinking, “I know sake is made from a special type of rice, but I probably couldn’t name that many varieties”, you may not even be able to name a single one.

Well, whatever your knowledge, after reading today’s article you will be an expert on sake rice.

* Ever since 1951, all types of sake rice that are deemed ideal for brewing are referred to as Shuzokotekimai (LIT: special rice for brewing). However, in this article, to keep things simple and be consistent, we will use the term Sakamai (LIT: sake rice) throughout.

The Differences Between Sake Rice (Sakamai) and Ordinary Eating Rice

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Sakamai is so called because it is a little different from your average eating rice.

Okay then, how is it different? you ask.

Let’s take a look at the 3 most distinguishing features.

Difference No.1: Exterior (Its Size)

Compared to your average rice, a grain of Sakamai tends to be much bigger in size. The size of a grain of rice is measured by the weight of a thousand grains, or Senryuju. Eating rice weighs in at around 19-24g, whereas sake rice is around 25-30g.

During the preparation stages for brewing sake, the outer husk of the rice is polished / milled away to remove unwanted off-flavour-producing proteins and lipids — a small grain of rice is likely to crack easily under the pressure and friction of this polishing process.

Difference No.2 Shinpaku (LIT: white heart)

Generally speaking, every type of rice contains an opaque white part at the centre of the grain called a Shinpaku (LIT: white heart) which is densely packed with starch.

The Shinpaku is low in proteins but high in viscosity to prevent it from cracking during the polishing process and dissolves easily into the sake mash during fermentation.

In the case of Sakamai, the Shinpaku makes up a larger portion of the rice grain than ordinary eating rice.

* Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, eating rice does have a sort of Shinpaku. In fact, it is possible to produce sake from eating rice which is by no means rare. The Shinpaku tends to be a good deal smaller, so the process is no mean feat: you have to polish the rice much higher and convert more of the starch into glucose during the koji-making stage which in turn produces less subtle and refined flavours.

Difference No.3 Compatibility for Brewing

Phrased another way: qualities that make it easier to ferment. We are normally talking about how easy it is to steam (water absorption ratio), or how easy it is to inoculate with the koji spores etc etc. In other words, a rice that performs in the most critical stages of sake brewing.

That wraps up our run down of the basic differences between Sakamai and normal eating rice.

The proteins and fats of eating rice may taste delicious at the table, but they produce off-flavours and bitter tastes when used to make sake.

Essential Knowledge: Sakamai Top 5

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Well that’s our little lecture on Sakamai over with for today. Now let’s take a look at the Top 5 most famous varieties of Sakamai.


…..At Number 1!


Yamada Nishiki)

Main Growing Area: Hyogo Prefecture
Genetic Parents: Yamada Ho & Watari Bune
Flavour Profile: Feminine,soft, elegant.
Aroma Profile: Melon, apple. Highly aromatic.

All hail the king of Sakamai! For there can be only one — Yamada Nishiki. It earned its title very simply because It boasts the highest production yield in Japan. 90% of all the Yamada Nishiki in Japan is grown in Hyogo Prefecture. Yamada Nishiki was produced through cross-fertilisation of the varieties Yamada-Ho and Watari Bune. Sake brewed with Yamada Nishiki has both good flavour and aroma, tends to be more feminine, soft and mellow. Daiginjo type sake and competition entry sake is often made with this variety of Sakamai as standard. The much talked about “Dassai” brand is made with 100% Yamada Nishiki. Some rice fields produce such superior quality Yamada Nishiki that they are certified with a Grade-A status. As you might expect, Grade-A status Yamada Nishiki is super expensive and super hard to procure, and sake made with it is equally as sought after.

…..At Number 2!

Gohyaku Mangoku

Main Growing Area: Niigata Prefecture
Genetic Parents: Kikusui & Shin 200 Go
Flavour Profile: Very dry, light, simple.
Aroma Profile: Green fruits, medium-aroma, fragrance of rice.

Gohyaku Mangoku is synonymous with sake made in Niigata. It sits alongside Yamada Nishiki in the ranking as the widely recognised No.2 of Sakamai. It was produced through a cross-fertilisation of the varieties Kikusui and Shin 200 go. Its name translates to 5 million koku (eq.2.25 billion Kg) and refers to the maximum production yield that was achieved in that same year —a milestone by all accounts. Sake made with Gohyaku Mangoku has a light, smooth, clean flavour. It is the type of rice best suited to the climatic conditions and terroirs of Niigata Prefecture, hence that it is where it grows best.

The Birth of a New King?
* In 2004, the above two varieties of rice became the parents of a new breed of rice called Koshi Tanrei. This rice variety is already making headlines in the industry and is expected to cement a future place in this ranking. At KURAND SAKE MARKET, we showcase a number of sake made with this variety.

…..At Number 3!

Miyama Nishiki

Main Growing Areas: Nagano Prefecture, Yamagata Prefecture
Genetic Parents: No parents per se (genetic mutation)
Flavour Profile: light simple, less dry, sharp aftertaste.
Aroma Profile: light, less aromatic, often notes of banana.

Miyama Nishiki was discovered in 1978, in Nagano Prefecture Sake Research Laboratory — as the result of a rather unplanned birth — when zapping the variety Takane Nishiki with gamma rays suddenly caused it to mutate. Despite its Nagano roots, it is fast becoming a favourite in other parts of Japan as well such as Yamagata and Akita Prefecture. It has an almost identical flavour profile to Gohyaku Mangoku, except for the addition of a very sharp aftertaste. When mixed with the higher yeast varieties, it produces a lovely banana nose.

…..At Number 4!

Dewa San San

Main Producing Area: Yamagata Prefecture
Genetic Parents: Miyama Nishiki & Aokei Sake 97
Flavour Profile: All around well balanced, clean finish, short length.
Aroma Profile: A slightly more modest aroma of dry fruits.

Named after the mountain with the same name, one of the many symbols of Yamagata, the perfect choice of naming for such a strong contender, this is Yamagata Prefecture’s answer to Yamada Nishiki: indeed it is very similar in flavour profile and aroma, not to mention the fact that it dissolves nicely into the mash, imparting lots of its ricey goodness as it goes. It was produced from a genetic cross-breeding of none other than Miyama Nishiki and Aokei Sake 97. This rice variety is perfect for making ginjo type sake: it is probably the balance of flavour and aroma that make it so ideal.

…..At Number 5!

Omachi

Main Growing Area: Okayama Prefecture
Genetic Parents: None (purebreed)
Flavour Profile: Bold, earthy flavours.
Aroma Profile: Non descript aroma.

Omachi is recognised as the great grandfather of Sakamai, the oldest variety. It is also one of the only remaining pure breeds. Nearly all varieties of Sakamai including Yamada Nishiki and Gohyaku Mangoku get their roots from this old timer. However, it is a challenge to grow. And an even bigger challenge to use in brewing. For these reasons, it almost went extinct. Fortunately, it was recently revived by a group of brewers in Okayama Prefecture.
It makes a great option for a brewery that wants to offer something a little different. And in today’s Yamada Nishiki dominated industry there is plenty of pressure to do just that. This is ultimately what makes it so renowned among aficionados who will swoon at the very mention of its name. It is instantly identifiable by its earthy bold flavour. It also has more of mellow aroma and body than its prodigee Yamada Nishiki.

And that pretty much wraps up our little compendium of sake varieties, well the current top 5 anyway. What is your top 5? Maybe it differs from ours.

Why not try using the above 5 rices as a reference point the next time that you make your sake selection.

A Prefecture-By-Prefecture List of Varieties

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We end this article with a list of the top sake varieties, showing you in which prefecture they can be found.

Prefecture Variety
Hokkaido Ginpu, Suisei
Aomori Kojou Nishiki, Hanaomoi, Hana Fubuki, Houhai
Iwate Gin Otome, Ginginga, Yui No Ka
Miyagi Kura no Hana, Hiyori, Miyama Nishiki, Yamada Nishiki
Akita Akita Komachi, Aki no Sei, Gin no Sei, Miyama Nishiki, Kairyo Shinkou
Yamagata Dewa Homare, Kairyo Shinkou, Kissui, Kyo no Hana, Gohyaku Mangoku
Fukushima Gohyaku Mangoku, Hana Fubuki, Miyama Nishiki, Yume no Kaori
Ibaraki Gohyaku Mangoku, Hana Fubuki, Miyama Nishiki, Yume no Kaori
Tochigi Gohyaku Mangoku, Tochigi Sake 14, Hitogokochi, Tama Sakae, Miyama Nishiki, Yamada Nishiki, Wakamizu
Gunma Gohyaku Mangoku, Maikaze, Wakamizu, Kairyo Shinkou
Saitama Sake Musashi
Chiba Gohyaku mangoku, Fusa no Mai
Kanagawa Wakamizu, Yamada Nishiki
Niigata Gohyaku Mangoku, Ipponjime, Omachi, Kikusui, Koshi Kagura, Koshi Tanrei
Toyama Oyama, Gohyaku Mangoku, Tomi no Kaori, Miyama Nishiki, Yamada Nishiki
Ishikawa Gohyaku Mangoku, Ishikawa Mon, Hokuriku 12, Yamada Nishiki
Fukui Gohyaku Mangoku, Oku Homare, Koshi no Shizuku, Jinriki, Yamada Nishiki
Yamanashi Gin no Sato, Tama Sakae, Hitogokochi, Yamada Nishiki, Yumesansui
Nagano Hitogokochi, Miyama Nishiki, Kinmon Nishiki, Shirakaba Nishiki, Takane Nishiki
Gifu Gohyaku Mangoku, Hida Homare
Shizuoka Gohyaku Mangoku, Homare Fuji, Yamada Nishiki, Wakamizu
Aichi Yumesansui, Wakamizu, Yume Ginga
Mie Isenishiki, Kami no Ho, Gohyaku Mangoku, Yamada Nishiki, Yumi Nariho
Shiga Gin Fubuki, Tama Sakae, Yamada Nishiki, Shiga Wataribune 6
Kyoto Iwai, Gohyaku Mangoku, Yamada Nishiki
Osaka Omachi, Gohyaku Mangoku, Yamada Nishiki
Hyogo Aiyama, Inishie no Mai, Gohyaku Mangoku, Shiragiku, Shin Yamada Ho 1, Kita Nishiki
Nara Tsuyubakaze Yamada Nishiki
Wakayama Yamada Nishiki, Gohyaku Mangoku, Tama Sakae
Tottori Jinriki, Gohyaku Mangoku, Tama Sakae, Yamada Nishiki
Shimane Kairyo Omachi, Kairyo Hattan Nishiki, Kami no Mai, Gohyaku Mangoku, Saka Nishiki
Okayama Omachi, Yamada Nishiki, Bizen Omachi
Hiroshima Omachi, Koi Omachi, Senbon Nishiki, Hattan, Hattan Nishiki 1
Yamaguchi Gohyaku Mangoku, Saito no Shizuku, Hakutsuru Nishiki, Yamada Nishiki
Tokushima Yamada Nishiki
Kagawa Omachi, Yamada Nishiki
Ehime Shizuku Hime, Yamada Nishiki
Kocchi Kaze Naruko, Gin no Yume, Yamada Nishiki
Fukuoka Yamada Nishiki, Omachi, Gin no Sato, Gohyaku mangoku, Jugemu
Saga Saga no Mai
Sagawa Nishi Umi 134, Saga no Mai, Yamada Nishiki
Nagasaki Yamada Nishiki
Kumamoto Yamada Nishiki, Gin no Sato, Jinriki
Oita Omachi, Gohyaku Mangoku, Yamada Nishiki, Wakamizu
Miyazaki Hana Kagura, Yamada Nishiki

Recently, a lot of prefectures have begun to actively seek out their own individual Sakamai varieties.

Just a little knowledge will bring your sake conversation to life.


Celebrate Good Times, Come On! And Why Not Break Open a Barrel in the Process

Greetings sake lover!

Have you ever heard of ‘Kagami Biraki’? It is both the name of a ceremony used at new year which involves breaking open a special type of mochi cake (called Kagami Mochi), and a ceremony where a barrel of sake is cracked open. It’s the equivalent of champagne bottle popping and ribbon cutting in the west. In this article we will take a look at the origins of the ceremony, its significance, and the role it plays in Japanese sake culture, and modern day Japan.

Contents

  • What is the Barrel Breaking Ceremony?
  • What You Need to Perform the Ceremony
  • Interesting Facts

What is the Barrel Breaking Ceremony

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Kagami Biraki originally refers to a New Year’s tradition — performed on the 11th January — which involves breaking open and consuming a mochi rice cake to kick off another year of work and play. Even today in modern Japan, the new year has not officially started until you have made your mochi offering.

The sake industry has its own version of this ceremony. It goes by the same name but replaces the rice cake with a sake barrel. Sake shops refer to the lid of the barrel using the Japanese word for mirror, Kagami. This is unsurprising because the lid bares an uncanny resemblance to the sort of flat round mirror that can be found in households all over Japan. The name Kagami Biraki can be literally translated to “breaking open the mirror”. Sometimes the barrels contain a special sacred sake intended as an offering to the gods. After breaking open the lid, the sake is normally passed around for everyone partaking in the ritual to enjoy.

The origins of this ritual can be traced all the way back, as far back as 300 years, to the Shogun (warring) Era of Japan (1603-1868). It is believed that the 4th Tokugawa general was the first to start performing the ritual to rally his troops before battle. A string of successes soon lead to its widespread use by generals and military commanders all over the country. Some generals even had sake casks made especially for the purpose, engraved with their own unique insignias.

Nowadays, the ritual serves all kinds of purposes: the starting gun for a new departure or race, as a prayer for success and celebration upon achieving it, for prosperity and good health. It is even becoming popular at weddings. So much so that it is now possible to rent out barrels with specially cut out lids so that the ritual can be performed multiple times.

Whatever its purpose, the ritual is believed to bring good luck and good tidings and gets parties off to the right start.

What You Need to Perform the Ceremony

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So what do you need to perform this ritual?

Sake Barrel
Normally an 18L size is used. The idea is that the aromas from the wood seep into the sake and transform its flavour.
Large Size Cutter
Required to cut the rope around the barrel.
Hammer
Required to break open the barrel / remove the hoop at the top binding the barrel.
Crowbar or Pincers
Used to open the lid.

Interesting Facts

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2 Versions

First of all, there is the traditional version where you smash open the barrel in a rush of excitement; the other version is basically the ritual in slow motion where you nonchalantly open the lid using the tools provided. In the case of celebrations, the former will be favoured over the latter but it does have its drawbacks. Namely: you lose a lot of the sake from the barrel in the process and some people get slightly wetter than they had intended.

Consume Immediately After Opening

Cask sake tends to be unpasteurised (nama) sake, so consume immediately after opening.
Attach a small tap called a Nomiguchi to the bottom part of the barrel to extract all the leftover sake at the end. You could even transfer it to bottles for storage: nothing should go to waste!

Conclusion

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Well, that about wraps up our little fact file on the Kagami Biraki ceremony.

Participants of our SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo) events are given the chance to offload a week’s worth of stress by taking part in a mini version of the ritual. Why not come along and join in the fun?

Find out more via this link

Sake SET VOL 6 PRO : Superior Sake Begins in the Fields

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 20/03/16
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Shibuya Branch
Participants: 20
Duration: 4 hours
Theme:  Rice & Contracted Farming

On Sunday 20th March, we held the professional version of the 6th edition of  SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo). The professional version is structured more like a workshop with a lecture and guided tasting of 3 sakes that have been procured exclusively for the event.

For those who want to adsorb as much sake knowledge as their brains can handle, the PRO version is waiting with open arms.

The Theme

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There is a saying: delicious sake begins in the fields. The saying might seem a tad cryptic at first, but what it is essentially saying is that sake brewing starts from the rice growing. If you know something about the origins and history of sake, this will make complete sense. That is because the first people to brew sake in Japan were not the toji (master brewers), but humble rice farmers for whom brewing translated into a sustainable source of income in the agricultural off-season.

Some breweries are now returning to this principle as a solution to the crisis of the shortage of sake rice, a result of the decreasing population / lack of young people problem that is currently blighting the country.

In the LITE version we looked at the varieties of rice that are used to make sake and to what extent they make a difference to the end product’s flavour. In the PRO version we took it one step further, and learned how rice is grown, what conditions you need to grow good quality brewing rice, the formula for bringing out more of the authentic natural flavour of the rice. We also looked at the recent trend of contracted farming in much more detail.

And if that wasn’t enough to induce information overload, we even threw in a mini lecture about the special brewing rice grading system.

The Lecture

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● Sake in a nutshell
● Makeup of Sake
● Sake Rice: Sakamai & Shuzokotekimai
● Varieties of Special Brewing Rice – The Rice Map
● Rice Polishing
● Rice Grading System
● Rice Growing Season
● Conditions for Growing Shuzokotekimai (special rice for brewing)
● Sake Rice Growing
● Shortage of Sake Rice Problem
● The Old Prinicple that Superior Sake Begins With the Growing of the Rice
● A Return to the Principle of Contracted Farming
● The Formula for Bringing out More of the Flavour of the Rice

Props

In the PRO version, we introduced 3 of our partner sake breweries. One of those breweries is Kazuma Brewery from Noto Prefecture. As well as providing us with a Daiginjo sake for the tasting, they also very kindly lent us some samples of sake rice polished to different levels. It is only when you are able to view sake rice in this way, that you begin to understand the miracle that is rice polishing.

A Professionally Guided Tour Through 3 Sakes Laden With the Flavour of Rice

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Participants were taken through 3 sakes where the rice is playing a central role in determining the flavour and aroma of the end product. There was a sake made with grade-A Yamada Nishiki (the king of sake rice), a sake from Akita Prefecture made with Miyama Nishiki and a sake from Hida Takayama —Gifu Prefecture, made with the special local variety, Hida Homare brewing rice. Each had its own unique characteristics which were born of the raw ingredient. For example, the characteristics of Hida Homare is the perfect balance of all 5 flavours: sweetness, dryness, bitterness, astringency and sourness. Not to mention tons of umami.

Each sake came with a selection of recommended food pairings.

Blind Sake Tasting Game

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Participants then had to guess the identity of one final mystery sake which was one of the sakes they had just tasted in disguise. The first team to get the correct answer won themselves a selection of different nibbles to pair with the rest of the sakes in the fridge.

Congratulations to the lucky winners!!!

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

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A Barrel of Laughs

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This is the part of the event where we allow everyone to offload a week’s worth of stress by hitting a large sake barrel with a hammer. It is of course none other than a miniature version of the infamous “barrel breaking” ceremony that gets performed at weddings, celebrations and even openings and closings all over the country, dare I say world. Is it me or is this barrel getting bigger every time? It really is incredible how strong everyone becomes once they put on their special magic happi coats and sake aprons. That must be where the brewery’s get all their brewing energy from.

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If this event report has tickled your taste buds, there are 4 SET events in April, one for each Sunday of the month. In April the main theme will be aroma. Wine drinkers put a great deal of emphasis on the aromas that eminate from the glass when tasting. Sake is no exception. In April’s events, we will poke our noses into the sake cups to try to discover where those aromas are coming from. If you want to hear an in depth lecture, attend the PRO version. If you just want to meet new people and learn the basic aroma profiles of sake in the process, attend the more casual international exchange style LITE version.

In the PRO version, to coincide with the timing of the event, we will prepare a special cherry blossom viewing sake.

Click here for more information

I look forward to seeing you all there!!

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Kick Back and Relax With Our Simple Recipe for an Indulging Hot Chocolate Made With Sake Lees

The nights might still have a little chill in the air, but fear not! KURAND is here with something to keep you warm.

A recipe for delicious sake lees-made hot chocolate to warm your body up from the core.

The real plus factor of this recipe is the way that the soft flavour of the lees enhances the body of the chocolate.

It is already quite sweet but feel free to add more sugar according to taste.

Ingredients

[1 Person Serving]

A Sake Lees (made into a paste) 1 Tbsp
A Cocoa Power (Sugar Free) 1 Heaped Tbsp x 1 (5g)
A Sugar 1 Heaped Tbsp x 1 (adjust according to taste)
A Milk (can also use tofu milk or water) 1 Tbsp approx
Milk (can also use water and tofu milk) 140cc
Block Chocolate 1 Square

Method

1. Mix the ingredients from A into a fine paste.

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2. Add milk and chocolate to the saucepan and melt together on a low heat.

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KEYPOINT: Heat on a low heat making sure that it does not boil over, mixing as you go.

3. When the chocolate melts, remove from the heat.

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4. Pour into a cup and finish with a sprinkle or two of cocoa powder.

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KEYPOINT: For a smooth drink, filter through a tea strainer.

And that’s all there is to it…. now relax and unwind in front of the TV or with a book, or better still pop it in a thermos flask and join us at KURAND.

If only every day could end in this way!

Why not pair it with a glass of sake?

Ishii Brewery Chou Chou Chou】Muroka Nama Kijoshu

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Kijoshu is a super luxury type sake made with alcohol instead of water. Yes, you read correctly, it is basically sake made with sake. By using last year’s Kijoshu as the base they have created an even thicker, richer well-rounded, sweet & sour flavour. Chou is the French word for ‘cute’. It is pronounced shu. Have you figured out the catch yet? Shu…. Nihonshu… the other pronunciation for sake…. made with 3 x sake as opposed to water…. Hint! Hint !


Makes an excellent match for chocolate!

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「KURAND SAKE MARKET(クランドサケマーケット)」はコチラ

Taste 6 of the Brewery’s Best! An Introduction to Our Asakusa Branch’s Monthly Recommended Brewery: Hasegawa Brewery!

Greetings sake lovers!

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET, starting from March, each of our bars will dedicate a corner of their fridge to a different brewery every month to allow you to taste not one, but a total of 6 carefully selected sakes from that brewery’s lineup (we normally don’t include more than one type from any brewery to give all the breweries equal representation). Allow us to introduce the cast that take centre stage in this month’s “Feature Brewery Corner”. In the Ikebukuro branch corner we have Ishii Brewery from Saitama Prefecture, in the Shibuya Branch corner we have Takeno Brewery from Kyoto Prefecture.

And finally, at our Asakusa Branch, it is the turn of the subject of this article, Hasegawa Brewery from Niigata Prefecture.

So, without further ado, we give you the specially selected 6 bottle lineup from Hasegawa Brewery.

A Brewery Run by Women Crafting Sake by Hand

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Established in 1842, Hasegawa Brewery has carved out over 170 years of brewing in Settaya — Niigata Prefecture’s Nagaoka City. Settaya is a charming town with a popular miso, sake and soy sauce production that dates as far back as the Edo Period, and counts 5 breweries that are registered as tangible cultural properties. As one of the breweries that were built in the Edo and Taisei Periods, they brew the sake by hand, in the traditional way using properly maintained antique tools and small Daiginjo purpose tanks to produce a savoury flavour that extracts the best from the rice. A sake that compliments food and brings the whole table to life.

The Chosen 6

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Echigo Sekkoubai Ginjo Hatsugoe (first voice)

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Along with the product “Hatsu Hi Masamune” this is the oldest product in the lineup, with a history that goes all the way back to the latter half of the Meiji period (1868-1912). After a bit of an interval, the brand was revived in all its glory in 2000. Made with 100% contract-farmed Echigo Tanrei brewing rice. A deft dry palate that opens up to reveal a plump ginjo aroma.

A Word From the Brewer

We arrived at a flavour that shares the same nuance as the brand name: ‘the new year call of the bush warbler’, through a process of trial and error. For the sake rice we went from Ipponjime to Gohyaku Mangoku and then to Echigo Tanrei which is what we use now.

Compatible Food Options
Sashimi, Nanohana Hitashi, clams steamed in sake, foil-steamed white fish, carpaccio.

Hatsu Hi Masamune Junmai Ginjo

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A Word From the Brewer

The inside of our brewery was once a treasure trove. One of the storehouses, which housed buddhist statues and antiques that previous generations had collected as a hobby, was once my playground. In the Chuetsu Earthquake this building along with nearly everything in it was reduced to rubble. We did manage to carry out one item. That was the label which had been used for one of our products in the Taisei Era (1912-1926). Hatsu Hi Masamune Junmai Ginjo is the rebirth of that product.

The brand is a motif of the auspicious image of the sunrise on new year’s day. No sooner has the sake made its entrance, it spreads out and releases tons of savoury ricey notes. It has a soft mouth-feel and tickles you with its melody on its way down.

Compatible Food Options
Nikujaga (meat and potato stew), Sansai Tempura (wild vegetable Tempura), Aigamo course, sashimi (tuna etc).

Echigo Sekkoubai Super Dry (+13)

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This product is only 2 years old. Back then there were sakes with +8 SMV dryness — this is what our Toji apparently suddenly came up with one day, after uttering something like, “+8 is characterless; +13 is the only way to go”. One frantic rush to commercialise it later, it is now a signature product.

A dry sake that measures +13 on the SMV scale of dryness, yet with a neat finish. A very easy-to-pair sake to pair with your evening meal.

Compatible Food Options
Chop Suey, raw brats, sauteed scallops, steamed chicken and green onion in sauce.

Sekkoubai Junmai Ginjo Nama

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This year’s new offering! Since, up until now, our products had been based around the concept of sake that you can drink at the table with some nibbles, the lineup has been mainly a dry one. This is a sake that takes its inspiration from a backdrop of increasing diversity.

Although the SMV is -11, the acidity is very high. As a result, the sake is sweet but never cloying. The type that you can sip slowly. A refreshing aroma and sweetness coupled with a crisp finish make this sake perfect for sake novices. We reckon this’ll be the one that hooks you. The label is currently still in production; the current one is just temporary.

Compatible Food Options
Chicken in orange sauce, scallops in a balsamic vinegar reduction, carpaccio, seafood and avocado salad.

Echigo Sekkoubai Honjozo Muroka Nama Genshu

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The power of a 19% alcohol Genshu sake and the refreshing finish of an unpasteurised sake all rolled into one.

Compared to the Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu, this is drier and has more of a finish.

Compatible Food Options
Cheese, parma ham, Shutou, all meat dishes.

Echigo Sekkoubai Hatsushibori (first pressed) Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu

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As a result of bottling new sake in its fresh untouched form,
This is the sake that best conveys the authentic sweetness and umami of the rice.
You could enjoy it chilled to enjoy its umami and body or if it feels a little too aggressive, you could try it on the rocks!! — It is much milder and easier to palate that way.

Compatible Food Options
Buta Kakuni, Karei boiled in soy sauce, grilled eel.

Incidentally….

The Origin of the Brand, “Echigo Sekkoubai”

The brand was apparently christened by the late Mr. Endo Minoru.

Winner of the national award of honour: a symbolic singer / song writer of the Showa Era

His signature works include ‘3rd Year High School Student’, ‘Starlight Waltz’, ‘Teacher’, ‘Spring in the North Pole’, ‘Troubled’.

It is thought that the late Endo Minoru who shares a connection with Niigata was friends with the previous generation of the brewery, the late Hasegawa Nobu. He was said to have made several visit to the brewery. During one of his visits he dedicated a poem entitled: “Sekkoubai- taste of benevolence”. It is currently the brand that drives the brewery forwards.


And that wraps up the introduction of Hasegawa Brewery’s showcase.

Why not come and try the entire 6 sake selection.

More introductions coming soon!!!

Taste 6 of the Brewery’s Best! An Introduction to Our Ikebukuro Branch’s Monthly Recommended Brewery: Ishii Brewery!

Greetings sake lovers!

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET, starting from March, each of our bars will dedicate a corner of their fridge to a different brewery every month to allow you to taste not one, but a total of 6 carefully selected sakes from that brewery’s lineup (we normally don’t include more than one type from any brewery to give all the breweries equal representation). Allow us to introduce the cast that take centre stage in this month’s “Feature Brewery Corner”. In the Shibuya branch corner we have Takeno Brewery from Kyoto Prefecture, in the Asakusa Branch corner we have Hasegawa Brewery from Niigata Prefecture.

And finally, at our Ikebukuro Branch, it is the turn of the subject of this article, Ishii Brewery from Saitama Prefecture.

So, without further ado, we give you the specially selected 6 bottle lineup from Ishii Brewery.

Brewery Introduction

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Ishii Brewery was established in 1840. The brewery was set up at the crossroads of the Onari and Nikko highways, at the time a bustling inn town. The brewery owner Mr. Ishii and master brewer Mr.Wakuta, both in their 20’s, makeup the youngest partnership in the industry. Using their youth as a weapon, in a sake industry often referred to as ailing, they dive into new challenges with a positive attitude, brewing under the motto: “fermentation is people managing microbes with the desire to make drinker’s lives brighter and richer”.

The Chosen 6

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Nisai no Kamoshi Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Genshu

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This is the second edition of the ‘Nisai no Kamoshi’ brand, which was started in 2014 as a brand where every part of the process, from the planning to the production, even the design, features the talents of players in their 20s. From this product onwards, a calligrapher and sake rice farmer have joined the team so that from the rice to the calligraphy on the label, the product really is the work of a group of 20 somethings both in name and in substance.

Compatible Food Options

Yellowtail Teriyaki, avocado and seaweed roll sushi

Sai no Genseki Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Genshu

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This sake Is a collaboration with Kanbai Brewery from the neighbouring city of Kuki
that came about from an Idea to stage a Saitama sake derby between the two breweries. The derby is basically a sort of a taste-off between two young tojis to see who can produce the best sake from the same conditions.

It has body, a little acidity on the tongue, a palate that combines sweetness and umami in the same glass.

A Word From the Brewery
We named this sake ‘Sai no Genseki (LIT: gem of Saitama)’ because it embodies our desires to spread the as of yet unknown charms of Saitama and the hope that we young brewers can be a shining gem of the future.
Compatible Food Options
rolled egg in fish stock

Chou Chou Chou Muroka Nama Kijoshu

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Kijoshu is a super luxury type sake made with alcohol instead of water. Yes, you read correctly, it is basically sake made with sake. By using last year’s Kijoshu as the base they have created an even thicker, richer well-rounded, sweet & sour flavour. Chou is the French word for ‘cute’. It is pronounced shu. Have you figured out the catch yet? Shu…. Nihonshu… the other pronunciation for sake…. made with 3 x sake as opposed to water…. Hint! Hint !

Compatible Food Options
Dried fruits, chocolate.

Houmei Junmai

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The signature brand of Ishii Brewery! An ‘all-Saitama’ sake from the yeast to the Sake Musashi brewing rice. Made with a process that brings out tons of umami from the rice to produce a rich sweet sake.

Compatible Food Options
Yakitori skins, Nikujaga (meat and potato stew)

Gongen Sakura Peach Colour Nigori (Cloudy Sake)

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This sake’s pink exterior might scream artificial colorings, but in fact the colour was achieved by way of a yeast that produces it naturally as a part of the fermentation process. Its gentle mouth-feel and cute pink appearance make it a perfect candidate for your next Hanami picnic.

Compatible Food Options
Strawberry cookie, macaroons.

Hatsu Midori Ginjo 2 Year Aged Koshu

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The brewery took one of their rather more rare dry sakes and aged it at a constant temperature for 2 years. The result is a pleasant vintage aroma and surprisingly mild mouth-feel with a hint of sweetness.

Try serving this sake at all kinds of different temperatures to experience it in different guises.

Compatible Food Options
Smoked Aigamo (duck), Camembert Cheese.

And that wraps up the introduction of Ishii Brewery’s showcase.
Why not come and try the entire 6 sake selection.

More introductions coming soon!!!

Taste 6 of the Brewery’s Best! An Introduction to Our Shibuya Branch’s Monthly Recommended Brewery: Takeno Brewery!

Greetings sake lover!

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET, starting from March, each of our bars will dedicate a corner of their fridge to a different brewery every month to allow you to taste not one, but a total of 6 carefully selected sakes from that brewery’s lineup (we normally don’t include more than one type from any brewery to give all the breweries equal representation). Allow us to introduce the cast that take centre stage in this month’s “Feature Brewery Corner”. In the Ikebukuro branch corner we have Ishii Brewery from Saitama Prefecture, in the Asakusa Branch corner we have Hasegawa Brewery from Niigata Prefecture.

And finally, at our Shibuya Branch, it is the turn of the subject of this article, Takeno Brewery from Kyoto Prefecture.

A Must-Try Brewery

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Takeno Brewery was established in 1948. Yukimachi Yoshiki says that it is a love of sake that is the driving force behind their brewing.

The brewery puts a deal of emphasis on their links with the region, with a view to becoming a locally adored sake. Relationships and networking that extend far beyond just Tango, Kyoto, or even Japan, but to the whole world.

With skills inherited from tradition and the belief that to challenge is to preserve they impart the Tango terroir into their sake. They continue to create new fans all over the world through their sake brewing, setting their sights firmly on the future.

The Chosen 6

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Matsuri Kurabu (1) Nama 2015 BY

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A Word From the Brewery

{Literally: you see the light}


When you watch a festival from a balcony as opposed to ground level, you experience it with a removed third-person, almost tourist-like perspective. In other words, you don’t get any actual sense of participation. And that’s essentially the feeling that we wanted to recreate. You become slightly removed from the world when you are drinking it.

A mild deep type that boasts a robust character — not to mention a pleasant acidity and richness.

Compatible Food Options
Grilled duck, grilled fish, grilled chicken with a marinade.

Kame no O Kurabu Nama 2015 BY

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A sake with a sweet, refreshing nose. This one’s for all the sake virgins and novices out there, who are not yet so accustomed to sake’s somewhat-rougher edges. That being said, It makes for a great introduction to the beverage, whatever your previous experiences.

How the Brewer Tells It

Picture a female office worker visiting a sushi restaurant with her boss. Left up to the mercy of his ordering, this is the first sake that touches her lips. “Sake is much tastier than I thought” she cries.

Compatible Food Options
Subtle dishes like white fish sashimi.

Iwai Kurabu (2) Nama 2015

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Kyoto is the birthplace of the brewing rice “Iwai”. The rice is polished to 70%, in line with the judgement of the brewery that this is a superior rice that doesn’t need polishing to shine. It has a solid dry flavour and good posture. It is a must-have ice breaker at drinking parties everywhere. It is a sake that doesn’t want you to try it just once, but have your fill of it.

Compatible Food Options
Yakitori

Asahi Kurabu Nama 2015

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Made with organic-certified (pesticide free) rice, this is a perfect sake to bring to the table of any cuisine, Japanese, Western or otherwise. It won’t get in the way of whatever you pair it with and will happily bring out the subtle flavours of sushi as well —it begs you to pair it with sushi.

Compatible Food Options
Sushi, shellfish steamed in sake.

Kame no O Kurabu Namazake 2015

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Produced in a different tank to Kame no O Kurabu No.2, but essentially based on the same blueprint. Even though the ingredients might be the same, with a different hand in the mix, the result is a complete different concoction. *Such is the nature of sake brewing, there is no such thing as an identical sake anyway.

No.4 Kame no O offers up a much more subtle sweetness than its brother.

A Word from the Brewery
No ingredients produce the same sake. And that’s what makes sake so interesting.
Compatible Food Options
Wafer thin raw ham.

Nanamaru Nama

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A Junmai type sake made in the Yamahai brewing style (see this article for a lecture on Yamahai sake). The main goal of this sake is to release as much umami from the rice as possible. The rice it is made with comes recommended in Kyoto: “Kyo no Kagayaki” (LIT: “the brilliance of Kyoto”. Warm up to increase its brilliance and flavour.

Compatible Food Options
Smoked foods, deep fried seafood, sauce-type Yakitori.

And that wraps up the introduction of Takeno Brewery’s showcase.
Why not come and try the entire 6 sake selection.

More introductions coming soon!!!

 

How About a little Warmth to Bring the Best out of Sake?

Greetings sake lovers!

It finally feels like we have felt the last of winter’s chill doesn’t it! — at least for this year anyway.

Compared to wine, beer, spirits and other libations, sake can be enjoyed at a wide range of different temperatures. To just drink sake in the same old boring chilled way all the time is a waste! We thought we would teach you how to warm sake using what you have to hand. Don’t worry if you think you have read a duplicate of this article already on KURAND website, this one is a much more in depth version: previous versions skip over the heating methodology.

How Many Temperature Variations are There?

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Sake comes with a myriad of different temperature zones to challenge.
The Warmed Sake Temperature Guide (the term in brackets is the Japanese term)

Sun Bathed(Hinata Kan) 30°C A nice gentle warmth. Enhances faint aromas.
Body Temp (Hitohada Kan) 35°C Warm to touch. Brings out ricey (nutty / herby) flavours or sakes with a fullness.
Warm / Shower Water Temp (Nurukan) 40°C Lukewarm. Brings out aroma.
Heated (Joukan) 45°C You should see a few wisps of water vapour. Opens up tense flavours.
Hot (Atsukan) 50°C Should be lightly steaming. Hot to touch (take care!) Adds a crispness to the finish / sharpens the aroma.
Piping Hot (Tobikirikan) 55°C The vessel it is in is hot to handle. (take care! please take care!) Sharpens aroma. Amplifies dryness.

A Quick Spin in the Microwave

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Method

[One 180ml serving at 500W]

Heating from chilled (just removed from the fridge).
Hitohada (35°C) 60 seconds
Astukan (50°C) 90 seconds
Heating from room temperature
Hitohada (35°C) 40 seconds
Atsukan (50°C) 70 seconds
KEYPOINT
We recommend heating from room temperature. This can quickly be achieved by popping the sake in a Tokkuri (special flask for sake), filling to about a 7th of the way up) and covering with foil.

Probably best to avoid heating on a too high wattage.

Pop in a Saucepan

Method

1. Fill a Tokkuri up to about a 9th of the way up and cover with cling film. (this stops the aroma from escaping).

2. Boil some water in a saucepan. (don’t put the Tokkuri in just yet!) to cover half of the Tokkuri.

3. When the water boils, turn off the heat and pop in the Tokkuri.

4. Although it will ultimately depend on what the Tokkuri is made of, it should be possible to reach about 45 degrees in 2-3 minutes. (when the bottom is slightly hot to touch [be careful!])

Adjust the immersion time depending on the desired temperature, e.g. longer time for hot or shorter time for cooler.

CAUTION
Avoid boiling the sake. Past 60 degrees, sake loses all its flavour, character and aroma, i.e. you’ll just end up boiling it to death.

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET, we use a warming machine (Shukkanki).

1. Pour your desired amount into the silver cup called a Chirori.

2. Insert one of the special sake thermometers provided. Leave it to do its job.

The thermometer readings (see this post’s header photograph):
The blue zone = Nurukan
The colourless zone in between = Joukan
The red zone = Atsukan

3. Remove when it reaches your desired temperature. Pour from the Chirori into your desired receptacle.

KEYPOINT
When at KURAND SAKE MARKET, why not ask our staff for their recommendations.

Mushikan (steaming method)

Method

1. Pour the sake into a Tokkuri and insert into a steamer or steaming basket.

Remove when the sake reaches the desired temperature.

This method is recommended for real imbibers because it does a really good job of maintaining the alcohol aroma.

Direct-Heating Method

Method

1. Prepare a saucepan or kettle.

2. Pour the sake into the saucepan and apply to the naked flame.

3. Remove once you achieve the desired temperature and turn off the heat.

Food that Tastes Better with Atsukan

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With warm food, drink warm sake; with chilled foods, drink chilled sake; it is recommended not to mix different temperatures.

Food Pairing Recommendations

• Stews : (boiled tofu etc), simmered dishes (yellowtail and daikon radish in soy sauce, sardines in soy sauce), flame-grilled dishes (samma (Pacific Saury, Shishamo), steamed dishes (Chawan Mushi [savoury steamed egg in custard], Dobinmushi (food boiled in an earthenware pot).
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to pair with fishy dishes; the Atsukan style mitigates fishy aromas.

• Sashimi (tuna, white fish, shellfish), flame-grilled dishes (samma (Pacific Saury, Shishamo), boiled fish (simmered sea bream head, sardines in soy sauce etc), sake delicacies (salted fish entrails, shutou [a dish of slipjack tuna entrails mixed with honey, soy sauce, mirin, onions etc]).


Being able to enjoy sake at so many different temperatures, in so many ways is just one of the many charms of sake. ♪

Why not give it a try, move out of your sake comfort zone —and get the most out of your sake life here at KURAND SAKE MARKET

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A Rice For Every Part of the Brewing Process

Greetings sake lover!

Some sake back labels may display two rice polishing ratios instead of just the standard one. For example, 60% / 40%. You may even see two completely different rice varieties displayed along side each ratio (although this information probably won’t be in English). So what’s the story?

Well the fact is that sake is made with not one but a total of 3 different batches of steamed rice.

Each of these batches is destined for a different part of the brewing process and the preparations differ accordingly.

Let’s take a look at each batch in a little more detail.

Kojimai

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The word ‘koji’ in the name of this batch of rice is a pretty big clue as to its purpose. Yes, you’ve guessed it, this is the batch of steamed white rice that forms the base for the koji malt. The word ‘mai’ in the world kojimai is another way of reading the Japanese character for rice. Kojimai normally makes up 80% of all the rice used in the brewing process. After steaming, the rice is laid out on bamboo mats to cool before being transferred to a special room called the koji room (kojimuro) where, after cooling for a further 5 hours or so, the koji spores are set loose onto the rice to start the saccharification process.

The koji room is like a giant sauna heated up to above 30 degrees to create a super humid environment like, well, like a sauna in fact. Thrust into this environment the koji behaves just like any human being would: it gets thirsty and goes looking for sources of moisture. Armed with this knowledge, the brewer uses the moisture like a carrot on a stick to lead the koji into different parts of the rice grain. The rule is simple: wherever there is moisture, the koji will go.

We will save a more detailed lecture on koji making for another lecture, but the key point is that the moisture levels of the kojimai will purposefully be calibrated differently to that of other batches of rice.

The preparation process of this type of rice also differs accordingly.

    • Kojimai is allowed less time to cool: normally less than a few hours. Furthermore, it is normally cooled by hand on bamboo mats.
    • Kojimai is soaked for a much longer time so as to absorb more water.
    • The steaming process for kojimai may also vary depending on the brewery and the type of target sake.

Does the type of sake rice make a difference?

The answer: absolutely. In fact, there are plenty of brewers who swear by their choice of kojimai rice. In general, with very few exceptions, the rice for kojimai is shuzokotekimai because that is the type of sake rice with the biggest concentration of starch. The best variety is believed to be Yamada Nishiki, but any question about how much difference the variety of shuzokotekimai makes will likely be met with a more vague response. At the end of the day, this kind of question takes us into slightly geeky territory — you can relax because we are not going there today. Considering that the raw ingredients rarely counts towards more than 20% of the end product’s flavour, this kind of concern is in danger of giving the rice way more attention than it deserves —and if we pry any further, so too is this article.

Kakemai

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Which brings us to the second batch, which is of course the batch of steamed white rice that is used to fuel the mash. The kakemai normally accounts for 20% of all the rice used. This type of rice does not need to absorb as much moisture as the kojimai. After steaming, the batch is cooled and dried. This is normally done on conveyors as opposed to bamboo mats. Some breweries even cool their rice outside.

More often than not, a slightly lesser type of rice will be used for the kakemai. In some cases, a none sake-type rice may be used. The choice of rice will also depend on the target variety of sake. In a nutshell, it is all a question of how much rice you want to dissolve into the mash. This in turn is what determines other attributions such as acidity levels, body, flavour and aroma. In the case of a more full bodied, more acidic, rich sake like a junmai, a soft rice with a good concentration of starch, that is going to dissolve easily into the mash producing high levels of amino acids, is generally the weapon of choice. On the other hand, if the objective is light flavoured aromatic sake, a harder rice prepared in a way that is going to take longer to dissolve and produce less acidity is the best bet.

The preparation process of this type of rice is as follows:

  • The kakemai is normally polished less to expose less of the starch centre. A higher polishing will make the rice dissolve easier into the mash; a lower rice polishing is often more a case of cost saving.
  • Kakemai is soaked for a shorter time so as to absorb less water.
  • A longer steaming may be used to evaporate more moisture or to make the rice softer. Again, this all depends on the target sake.
  • The rice is cooled on conveyors or outside. In general, it is given more time to cool because the target temperature is different from that of the kojimai.

Shubomai!

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The third and final batch is destined for the mother of sake, the shubo / moto (yeast starter).

Ratio of Usage Breakdown

Batch Ratio
Kojimai 20 – 23%
Kakemai 70 – 73%
Shubomai 7 – 10%

Trivia

Incidentally, making sake with white rice (polished) rice did not become the norm until the Heian era, an era which is largely associated with the advent of modern sake. Furthermore, there are two versions of the modern day white-rice method: the Katahaku method which uses white rice for the kakemai batch only and Morohaku which uses white rice for both the kakemai and kojimai. Morohaku did not become the convention until much much later; most breweries simply lacked the skills and equipment required for polishing that are almost taken for granted today.

Conclusion

So there you have it, another intermediate article that makes something that already sounded very complicated even more complicated. That is the nature of sake brewing: just when you think it couldn’t get any more confusing, it does. Rest assured, there will be more brain busting articles like this in the very near future.

Your drinking experience just developed another dimension.
Why not come and decipher some of the labels on the sakes here at KURAND SAKE MARKET. Failing that, you could just come and enjoy the sake.