Share a toast with a brewer – June schedule

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This special event is designed to bring our customers and the breweries that we represent closer together. Every month, on a random basis, we invite representatives from the breweries to come to the bars and share a toast of their sake with everyone. As well as hearing the passion that goes into sake direct from the craftsman/woman, you can also try sakes that have been prepared exclusively for the event. It all adds up to an extremely special event, not the sort that you can experience everyday.

The Allure of Drinking Sake with the Brewer

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“Sake tastes all the more delicious when you drink it knowing who made it and why”.
This is the KURAND concept. To ‘Share a toast with a brewer!’ is to experience sake at the same level, to hear stories that normally don’t get heard outside the four walls of the brewery, and to ask questions. Even your average tasting event does not bring you this close.

For the brewers themselves, this event represents an opportunity to gather feedback about their sake direct from the customer, feedback that leads to quality improvement in the future.

CALENDAR

We have added the above calendar so that you can find out when and where the breweries are going to be, to enable you to plan ahead.

Introducing the Breweries Visiting in June

This where we introduce the breweries who have taken time out of their business trip to Tokyo to pop over to our 4 branches in Ikebukuro, Asakusa Shibuya and Shinjuku and spend time with everyone.

The event calendar shows you when and where the breweries will appear.

Asahitsuru (Chiba Prefecture)

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Asahitsuru is a family brewery in Chiba Prefecture’s Sakura City. The brewing is headed by female master brewer Tanaka Motoko. Situated just an hour from the capital, the brewery runs tours offering the chance to experience a classic brewing atmosphere surrounded by the Yasaka Shrine forests and the rural landscape of the River Kashima. The blessing of the four seasons, rice, and water from a sacred tree gives birth to fragrant beautiful sake that ferments the hearts of the brewer and the surrounding nature. The characteristic of rich dry sake is a sake that is robust with a clean aftertaste. They brew if only but to hear you say that their sake is delicious.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
17/6 (Fri) Asakusa
18/6 (Sat) Shinjuku

Takizawa Brewery (Saitama Prefecture))

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Established in 1863, originally based in Kogawa Town, Saitama, but later moved to Fukaya City in 1900s to get better access to the location’s water and benefits. From the beginning, the focus has been on quality so they use only the traditional small box koji production method. The inner sanctum of sake brewing, the koji room, is made from Fukaya red brick, the same brick used in Tokyo Station. In a historical building, with a traditional production, in just the last few years, they have received high acclaim: national sake championships gold 4 years in a row, IWC gold medal two years in a row. A strong brewery in Saitama that cares about the future of sake.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
10/6 (Fri) Asakusa
18/6 (Sat) Asakusa
24/6 (Fri) Asakusa

Hasegawa Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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Established in 1842, Hasegawa Brewery has carved over 170 years of brewing in Settaya, in 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.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
3/6 (Fri) Shinjuku

Umeda Brewery (Hiroshima Prefecture)

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Established in 1916, Umeda Brewery is located in Hiroshima City’s Eastern quarter. They brew using special rice for brewing grown in Hiroshima, soft water from an underground river that originates in the mountains behind the brewery and ginjo yeast developed at Hiroshima Prefecture’s research institute. Based on the ethos that sake should be enjoyed by people who are not experts about sake, are not used to sake, their sake is smooth with a gorgeous aroma and mellow flavour.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
10/6 (Fri) Ikebukuro

Takarayama Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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Takarayama Brewery is a small brewery that began life in 1885 as regional sake to Iwamuro Onsen,a well-known 300 year old inner parlour in Niigata. In the frozen lands of Echigo, with “harmony among people” as their motto, a team of three including the master cherish every single drop of the brewing process. In a little plot at the back of the brewery the staff grow the variety of sake rice that was developed in Niigata: Echigo Tanrei. From this year, master brewer Watanabe Keita who completed his training in a brewery outside the prefecture joins the team and takes over the reins from 78 year old master Mr. Aoyagi. A new wind is blowing at this brewery.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
17/6 (Fri) Ikebukuro
18/6 (Sat) Ikebukuro
24/6 (Fri) Ikebukuro

Nishibori Brewery (Tochigi Prefecture)

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Retaining the same passion for hand brewing sake as when they were established in 1872, Nishibori Brewery strives to make sake that makes an impact. They use spring water from the Nikko Mountains and superior sake rice. Mongai Futsutsu is a brand born from the rice and water and a love for the region. The brand is made on a very small scale and most of it is consumed within Tochigi Prefecture which is apt considering that it all started with the desire to “make sake that is adored by people in the region”. A local top secret indeed, that conveys the passion of the brewer and provides a taste of Tochigi.
Visit Schedule

Date Branch
24/6 (Fri) Shinjuku

June Schedule (in date order)

Visit Schedule

Date Branch Brewery Name (Prefecture)
03/6 (Fri) Shinjuku Hasegawa (Niigata)
03/6 (Fri) Shibuya Kanbai (Saitama)
10/6 (Fri) Shibuya Kanbai (Saitama)
10/6 (Fri) Ikebukuro Umeda (Hiroshima)
10/6 (Fri) Asakusa Takizawa (Saitama)
17/6 (Fri) Shibuya Kanbai (Saitama)
17/6 (Fri) Ikebukuro Takarayama (Niigata)
17/6 (Fri) Asakusa Asahitsuru (Chiba)
18/6 (Sat) Shinjuku Asahitsuru (Chiba)
18/6 (Sat) Ikebukuro Takarayama (Niigata)
18/6 (Sat) Asakusa Takizawa (Saitama)
24/6 (Fri) Shinjuku Nishibori (Tochigi)
24/6 (Fri) Shibuya Kanbai (Saitama)
24/6 (Fri) Ikebukuro Takarayama (Niigata)
24/6 (Fri) Asakusa Takizawa (Saitama)

Event report – Sake Exchange Tokyo @ The Brewery: Kanbai Brewery, Saitama

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 28/05/16
Venue: Kanbai Brewery, Kuki City, Saitama
Participants: 11
Duration: 4 hours
Theme: Summer Sake

Just a 50 minute or so train ride will take you out of the centre of Tokyo, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital and into a corner of the quieter Saitama, to Kuki Town, where the gold award-winning Kanbai Brewery awaits, a brewery with a young Toji at the helm who is making waves in the industry with his revolutionary style of brewing.

On the 28th May, the hum of sake production was replaced by the sound of joyous imbibing and international exchange as the Brewery became the first to host our maiden Sake Exchange Tokyo @ the brewery event. In this new format we have swapped our bars for the brewery and exchanged the all-you-can-taste element for a hands-on, immersive experience that brings participants even closer to the miracle of sake brewing.

Beginners welcome!
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Now, if you have never attended one of our events before or are less than confident in your existing knowledge of sake, you might have reservations about how much you are going to get out of such an experience, but rest assured: all our events start out with the same lecture that runs over the very basics, crossing into the more familiar territory of beer and wine along the way. Our events are compiled based on the assumption that participants will come with next to no knowledge about sake.

Our base camp for the day was a little wooden hut at the back of the brewery. Inside, a small table and some fold-up chairs, a sheet of white cloth to act as a projector screen completed the setup. Once everyone had made themselves comfortable, we fired up the projector and the show began.

The Lecture: Sake in a Nutshell

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In a slight change to a more interactive format, participants were free, no, encouraged to ask questions throughout the course of the lecture — a format that works very well with a brewery that loves to tell a story or two. A raft of very well thought out questions later and we had been on a journey of exploration that flicked through every chapter of the sake story — even finding time to tackle some very tricky questions along the way: how much more difficult is it to grow sake rice compared to eating rice? Does the same variety of brewing rice taste different when grown in different places? Does the polishing ratio affect alcohol levels? Can you tell the difference between Daiginjo and Ginjo? Can you make sake from eating rice? What does it take to become a toji? and many more. Not knowing what question is going to be thrown at us next made for a truly exhilarating ride. We could see this much in the eyes of our hosts.

Lunch: A Bento of Local Delicacies.

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After the lecture, participants dined on a lunchbox of local delicacies paired with  the brewery’s signature Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjos.

The Tour

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After lunch we embarked on the tour. At the entrance to the brewery, shoes were switched for slippers (a custom to prevent the stowaway of any unwanted microbes or bacteria. Mr.Suzuki explained that while today, because we are outside the brewing season a change of footwear would be sufficient, we would normally have to don special headwear and a white coat as well.)
Kanbai Brewery is what we call a “top-down” brewery where the production process flows vertically from the top floor to the bottom floor of the building. The tour took us through the entire process from preparation of the raw ingredients to the fermentation tanks and pressing. We even got to enter that most sacred of places, the koji room. The koji room looks a bit like a sweedish sauna and feels like one because of its high humidity which is set to control moisture levels. This part of the tour is most definitely the highlight, because in most breweries, this is the inner sanctum of the brewery that rarely gets seen by outsiders.

We were very grateful to Mr.Suzuki for giving us access to the Koji room for this tour. The tour was being done out of season, so we weren’t actually able to see any sake being made, but you would be forgiven for caring less; Mr.Suzuki’s narrative was so informative and his descriptions so vivid, that you had only to close your eyes while you were listening to imagine the brewery in full operation.

One thing that makes sake brewing so intriguing is the fact that although the beverage has been in production for over 1000 years — over which time various practices and standards have been established — every brewery tweaks the process in some way or other, adding their own unique stamp on it. It was really interesting to hear the devices that Mr.Suzuki has come up with to streamline his process. It is this individuality that makes every brewery tour an entirely different experience.

It is as this point that we should formally introduce Mr.Suzuki, who without a doubt epitomizes the modern master brewer in every sense of the word: well to begin with he is young; he is now in his 6th year in the role.

Toji Profile

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Mr. Suzuki

Born 14th March, 1984, after graduating from the fermentation faculty of Tokyo University of Agriculture, he trained for 3 and a half years at “Asabiraki” Brewery in Iwate Prefecture before returning to this hometown. After this, he became Toji; this year marks 6 years in the role. When he inherits the brewery, he will be the 8th generation to do so. He strives for brewing that leaves nothing to chance, to achieve a well-balanced, gentle flavour. His sake has twice won the gold award at the national championships; 4 years in a row at the Saitama regional championships including award for best skills.

What makes this Toji’s story so impressive, is the short time in which he has ascended to the role. Most Toji’s will go through years and years of training and even then very few can just jump straight into the role. His story is truly a sign that the times have changed. In the olden days a Toji was a seasonal worker — normally a rice farmer with an exceptionally natural talent for brewing — who could be outsourced by brewery owners all over Japan. The life of a Toji’s apprentice would have started out with cleaning the apparatus and many other less exciting tasks. From there you might get moved up to washing the rice, or if you were very lucky steaming it. But you most certainly wouldn’t get to see the inside of a koji room, let alone be put in charge of the brewing itself until you had earned your stripes. So why has Mr.Suzuki been able to become Toji in such a short period? The fact is that the Toji of the past is a dying breed: they are in extremely short supply. Mr.Suzuki represents a new crop of young brewers who are quite literally throwing themselves in at the deep end — because.. well, they have to; the sons or daughters of small boutique breweries that don’t have the luxury of a whole staff to divide responsibilities among; they are an all singing, all dancing one man band that have to learn how to do everything themselves, taking responsibility into their own hands, in a very short space of time. You can do nothing but admire their courage. When you meet Tojis like Mr.Suzuki the future of sake shines a little brighter.

Buta Koji Making Experience

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Kanbai Brewery is one of the only surviving breweries in Japan qualified in the small-box koji-making-method. Mr.Suzuki told us the story of how he learned this incredibly difficult skill from his peers. He explained that he started out practicing with raw rice because, as he had been told, it is slightly more challenging to do it with this: “if he could handle raw rice, he could handle steamed rice.” they had said. The object of the small box is to bring the rice together in the centre to increase the surface area and even out both moisture levels and temperature. If done properly, you end up with a neatly formed mound of rice in the middle of the box; if done improperly, you end up with a mess. In Japanese it is called Buta Koji. Buta Koji is a bit like that “tilt it!” game where you have to tilt balls into holes and just like that game, a steady hand and balance is essential — something which sadly, most of our participants including the KURAND staff members were lacking. First of all, Mr. Suzuki gave us a little demonstration. As you can see in the sample photo, he made it look really easy. With a look of misplaced confidence on their faces, our participants stepped up for the challenge. So how did they fair? Participants, take it away!

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Sake Tasting

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It was at this point that we realised that we were running a whole hour over schedule… well, they do say: time flies when you’re having fun.

As we went into extra time, we ended this event with a tasting of over 5 different sakes from the Kanbai Brewery line-up, a number of which had been prepared exclusively for us: such as, an award-winning Tobin Kakoi sake which we got to taste just before they diluted it with water in preparation for shipping. And in keeping with the theme for this event, there was a summer-themed sparkling sake. The highlight of the tasting though was without a doubt, the 9 year and 11 year aged Chocolate pairing Yamahai, a new KURAND original product. Well at least, it would have been if Mr.Suzuki did not have something else up his sleeve in the form of a completely new product in development which we were honoured to taste for him. The product is strictly under wraps until its launch so we can’t divulge too much about it; all we can say is that it is going to be a winner, one way or another. Think unadulterated levels of Umami in a cup and that’s pretty much what we have here.

If you want to be the first to taste amazing sakes like these, then you know what you have to do…. join our events of course.

And that wraps up a day at Kanbai Brewery with international exchange!

It’s always sad to part ways with such an endearing brewery, but I am sure we will be back.
Participants were presented with a doggie back of souvenirs to take home with them, to forever remind them of the experience they had had at Kanbai Brewery.

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

More details coming soon….

Break open the bubbly! “Craft Sparkling Sake” from KURAND has arrived!

As summer pokes its head around the corner, we have just completed production of our own take on a summer-classic: hand-crafted sparkling sake. The project is a collaboration with Takizawa Brewery in Saitama.

Available now at all our branches for a limited period only. (one bottle will be made available per day).

Even though sparkling sake has been in production at some breweries since before the second world war, it is not until recently that it started to attract any real attention; traits like lower alcohol, a pleasant aroma and mouth-feel are attracting a less-seasoned, and in some cases female drinker.

It is precisely that demographic that we were aiming for.

About “CRAFT SPARKLING SAKE”

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CRAFT SPARKLING SAKE” is an authentic sparkling sake made by a small local brewery. Every part of the production process is carried out by hand; the gas itself is a natural bi-product of a second fermentation and is produced by the yeast (this is the same technique used to make Champagne). In addition, the leftover sediment called Ori (a mixture of rice, yeast, koji and other particles, learn more about Ori and the filtration process called Oribiki in this article) is left in to give it an authentic feel on an aesthetic level: a slightly milky white appearance. For all its classic/ modern nuances, it still retains all the charms of a traditional-craft born through conventional production methods, polished to bring them up to date.

Product Specs

Product Name CRAFT SPARKLING SAKE
Type Junmai
Volume 750ml
Raw Ingredients Rice、Koji
Rice 100% Sake Musashi (Grown in Saitama Prefecture)
Rice Polishing Ratio 60%
Alcohol % 12%
SMV -40
Acidity 4.8
Amino Acids 1.4
Gas Pressure 1.5-2.0Mega Pascals(20℃)*Roughly equivalent to that of most beers
Participating Branches KURAND SAKE MARKET All Branches
Product URL http://kurand.jp/product/12818/

About Takizawa Brewery

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Established in 1863, originally based in Kogawa Town, Saitama, but later moved to Fukaya City in 1900 to get better access to the location’s water and benefits. From the beginning, the focus has been on quality so they use only the traditional small box koji production method. The inner sanctum of sake brewing, the koji room, is made from Fukaya red brick, the same brick used in Tokyo Station. In a historical building, with a traditional production, in just the last few years, they have received high acclaim: national sake championships gold 4 years in a row, IWC gold medal two years in a row. A strong brewery in Saitama that cares about the future of sake.

Why not come and enjoy a bottle of our bubbly sake !

 

Steak & sake 101!

! Warning ! This post will have you drooling throughout!

Hi everyone, its Ui here. I am one of the editors at KURAND.

In May, we introduced a new KURAND original product into the fridges. Its the one with a big number ’29’ on the label. Have you had a chance to try it out yet?

At first, its naming might have seemed a bit of a mystery, not only to non-Japanese speakers but also native Japanese speakers alike. You see it is in fact a bit of a play on words. When abbreviated in Japanese, the number 29 is pronounced the same way as the Japanese word for meat ‘NIKU’. Its not so obvious that your average Tanaka in Tokyo is going to twig straight away. The naming is no coincidence because we actually designed this sake to pair with meat. But just how good a match does it make? We decided to put it to the test.

On the day of product submission, we dispatched 3 of our most avid carnivores for the task at hand; they ploughed through their work that day at a much more eager pace that usual I can tell you !

As luck (or fate) would have it, it just so happens that our Shinjuku branch is located just a few blocks away from the “Ikinari Steak (LIT: Out-of-the-blue Steak) Shinjuku branch” — and so we ordered some steak to go.

Steak & NO.29

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No.29 was produced in collaboration with Funasaka Brewery, which is located in the beef-hinterland of Japan, Gifu Prefecture’s Hida Takayama. The sake is a product of the ability of a brewery that pairs steak and sake together like its their day job (well it kind of is)!

More Details About the Sake

A relaxed savoury touch to an otherwise mellow palate. There are two aspects that we added to ’29’ to increase its compatibility with meat: 1. a body that doesn’t lose out to the glutamic acids of the meat and a finish that leaves the mouth clean of any oily tastes; 2. a modest aroma that doesn’t tarnish the flavours of the meat. Additionally, we decided to take the risk of going with the unfiltered style that leaves behind the natural flavours of the sake; a gamble that has paid off with a balance that is the perfect match for most meat dishes.

Rice Hida Homare (Superior rice for brewing)
Polishing Ratio 60%
Alcohol % 18%
SMV +5
Acidity 1.6
Amino Acids 1.4

Steak That’s Out of the Blue!

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The Japanese on the sign reads: Steak, you can take-out (please ask one of our staff).

From the menu our tasters chose ‘Top Rib Steak’, ‘Fillet Steak’, ‘American Angus Sirloin’, each in 300g portions — that is when they had finished drooling at the steak being cooked in front of them. They were certainly glad of the close proximity of the steak shop to the Shinjuku store which meant that their agonising wait would be soon be over.

Let the Pairing of Meat & Sake Commence

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Which type of meat provided the best match? Let’s find out!

Top Rib Steak

The juicy fat of this meat alone is likely to get most mouths drooling. In the mouth its the richness of the savoury flavours from this fat that take centre stage, being washed away at the end in a very matter-of-fact way by the sake’s finish. I would recommend this pairing to all those who have a hard time chewing the fat so-to-speak.

Fillet Steak

This is a steak that with its leaner, meatier demeanor tells you: you are going to get your fill of it. All the ’Umami’ condensed inside the red meat is enhanced by ’29’. Neither the sake nor meat becomes annoying or tiresome; its the sort of meat that you could go on eating forever. A definite one for the ladies to try!

American Angus Sirloin Steak

A beautifully marbled steak that stamps its authority at the table. Its soft and super juicy. The balance of this marbling and all that red meat is a perfect match for our ’29’. If you don’t try this pairing, you’ll never know what you’re missing.

Our carnivores all unanimously chose Angus Sirloin as their favourite out of the 3.

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The next time you feel like a bit of steak, pop over to KURAND SAKE MARKET and let your condiment for the meal be No.29.

Gourmet delicacies, music, dance, comedy & 100 types of sake ! – Shibuya in the Park 2016 event report

Written By Chris Hughes

Event: KURAND Shibuya Sake Festival 2016
Date: 14/05/2016
Turnout: 2800 People

Against a backdrop of beautiful sunshine and the buzzing of cicadas (not to mention the frequent passing of the Yamanote line) we held our third sake festival in the corner of Shibuya’s urban sprawl that is Miyashita Park; its actually less of a park and more of a sports recreaction area that includes among other things, a climbing wall, footsal and basketball courts. For the benefit of those of you who have never attended this sake fiesta, or any sake festival for that matter, before, we have decided to provide a sneak preview of the highlights below.

First of all, the thing that makes the KURAND sake festival different from all the other sake related events, festivals etc out there is that as well as providing over 100 different types of sake to taste from regional breweries from all over Japan, for just 3000 yen (in keeping with the system that we run at our bars), we also throw in music, comedy, dance and a little learning as well.

Most other sake festivals start out with the right intentions but quickly turn into a drunken party of people falling over the place; we wanted our events to be less of a regretful experience and more of an enjoyable one; one that lightens the mood and offers a little something for everyone, regardless of whether you actually like sake or not. Think of it as a massive party aimed at celebrating all that is great about sake through different mediums with a drop of light education thrown in for those who wanted to learn more.

Let’s look at the different elements in more detail.

Sake

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Let’s start with the line-up of brewers. This year we were joined by no fewer than 25 breweries hailing from across Japan who had taken time out of their busy brewing schedule to come all the way to serve their sake. From the far reaches of Saga Prefecture in the south to the slightly colder climbs of Aomori Prefecture in the far north — and included both young and female brewers. Each brewery brought with them a selection of various different sakes for participants to taste. Judging by the scenes that I saw, the brewers were having just as much fun as their patrons, if not more so.

Entertainment

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As well as DJ’s spinning tunes, there was also Brazillian Samba and traditional Japanese style dance. But the highlight of this year’s program was the sake workshops: a mix of comedy and sake knowledge. I was very honoured to be stepping up into the role of teacher and joining the Manzai (traditional Japanese stand-up comedy) duo Nihonshu, the Laurel and Hardy of sake, to host these workshops. The workshops were incredibly popular. So much so, that by the third session, the tent was overflowing — with people who could not secure a seat peering in from outside. The workshops were performed in Japanese with English interpretation for non-Japanese partipants, of which there were more than a few.

Gourmet

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There was no need to worry about drinking sake on an empty stomach —something even aficionados try to avoid —
because there were food tents dotted around the venue waiting to serve you up grilled squid, yakitori and other delicious delicacies from the North of Japan.

If all that sounded like fun, why not join us next year!

I look forward to seeing some of you there.

The comedy duo will be joining me from June to help me host the WORKSHOP version of Sake Exchange Tokyo.

 

Delicious water brews delicious sake! A shortlist of Japan’s Meisui (Remarkable Waters) that are used in sake brewing: Part 2

This is the final part of our two-part article on Meisui. See part 1 here

Gokosui (Nara Prefecture)

1024px-Gokosui_Water_Gokogu_Fushimi_Kyoto_JPNSource:Wikipedia

Gokosui is a highly fragrant type of Fukuryusui found in the Fushimi area of Japan. An area that, ever since the Heian Period, is well-known for its underground channels of high-quality spring water; so much so that it used to go by the name: “the land of hidden water” (Fushimizu). Water from Momoyama Hill forms a living, breathing vein underground that transports the water all the way to the base of nearby mountains where it bursts out from the surface as springs. It’s a water world that is synonymous with sake brewing.

Sake Breweries That Brew With This Water

The responsibility of brewing high quality sake from the water of Fushimi is shouldered by the Fushimi Brewing Association. More than 23 breweries strong, the association counts in its ranks none other than two of the most experienced breweries in the industry: Gekkeikan and Kizakura. The association’s size alone is a statement of just how important a role Gokosui plays in creating good quality sake.

Miyamizu (Hyogo Prefecture)

nadasyuSource:wikipedia

Miyamizu springs up in a region located on the south-east side of Nishonimya Shrine, in Nishonimya City, Hyogo, and continues to be a brewer’s favourite ever since the late Edo Period. It won over their hearts with its favourable levels of Phosphorus — more than 10 times higher than your average sake brewing water — calcium and potassium; potassium and phosphorus are the two minerals that help drive yeast propagation.

Sake Breweries That Brew With This Water

As we proclaimed at the start of this article, where you find good quality water, you find breweries of equal caliber. In the area where Miyamizu can be found, you will find, among others, the brands “Kikumasamune” and “Hakushika”. It’s really not difficult to see why this is regarded as the number one sake brewing area in Japan. The majority of these so-called “Nada (old name for the area) sake” brewers need no introduction and they lead the rest of the pack with not only their history and skills but major advancements in brewing.

Aso Springs (Kumamoto Prefecture)

1024px-Mt.Aso_and_caldera01Source:Wikipedia

Originally intended for drinking, the spring water that erupts from the outer crater of the sacred Mt. Aso, in Kumamoto Prefecture, is a pristine fukuryusui with a long history of application as a perfect ingredient for brewing. The mountain is ‘sacred’ in that, since ancient times, the god of fire and god of agriculture who thirsts for land reclamation, are thought to have made peace in its vast caldera.

Sake Breweries That Brew With This Water

The sake brewed by Yamamura Brewery Unlimited Company, Reizan is made with this water. The sake takes its name from the mountain. Their authentic shochu, aged for 30 years, is also very popular.

Mt. Futago Fukuryusui (Oita Prefecture)

両子山伏流水Source:Wikipedia

Mt.Futago is a 720m high mountain range located on the Kunisaki Peninsula, in Oita Prefecture’s Kunisaki City. The summits of this and a number of other volcanic ranges dominate the skyline of the region. In the winter, cold air from the Sea of Japan brings harsh, cold conditions and plenty of snowfall inland that slowly melts into the ground to form free-flowing rivers of Fukuryusui.

Sake Breweries That Brew With This Water

The Matsu no Tsuyu brand of Kunisaki City’s Yano Brewery is made with this water. It’s a brand that with its consistent, hand- crafted brewing — the brewery itself playing the role of toji — and a focus on locally grown rice like Hinohikari is more than worthy of the Jizake (regional sake) label. And then there is Kayashima Brewery Ltd’s Nishi no Seki brand. Similar to Matsu no Tsuyu it is also made in this region with the famed water source. Almost 60% of the breweries that call Oita Prefecture home use Hinohikri rice to make their sake; the remaining breweries use brewing rice from Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Hyogo such as Hattan Nishiki, Yamada Nishiki etc.

End

If we have proved anything with this article, it’s that a land rich with good quality water is a land rich with breweries brewing sake that is adored by the local people. The next time you have a glass of sake, try peering into the transparent liquid before you. And who knows, you might find yourself departing on an ‘alice-in-the-looking-glass’ type journey to one of the many brewing water oases that we have introduce in this article. Although, if that does happen, it’s a sure sign you drank too much.

Delicious water brews delicious sake! A shortlist of Japan’s Meisui (Remarkable Waters) that are used in sake brewing: Part 1

This article forms the first part of a two-part article.

Good water brews good sake. Now, this might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, because well, yes, it is, but out of the key elements identified in brewing good sake, the “water” is the one that gets the least attention, losing out to say: the rice for example, but something that makes up as much as 80% of the end product cannot hide in the wings forever.  It’s time for the water to take centre stage.

There is an old saying: “where ever ye finds good quality water, ye finds delicious sake too”. That might seem a little presumptuous, but it is anything but:
the rich natural environment of Japan is dotted with treasure troves of excellent quality water — and there you will find breweries that use them as their water source for brewing.

Some of these water sources are even listed in the Environment Ministry’s Meisui Top 100 (Meisui Hyakusen), a 100 strong list of the most remarkable waters in Japan. We decided to compile a list of some of the most talked-about Meisui, the breweries that brew with them and the prefectures where they can be found.

The Top 100 Meisui Ranking

The Meisui Hyakusen is a ranking that was set up by the Environment Ministry in the 60th Year of Showa (1985) with the aim of rediscovering and promoting Japan’s serene oases to its citizens.

It is stated that the definion of Meisui is not so much water that “is delicious to drink from the source”, but water “that is well looked after by the residents of that region etc” and “has a favourable conservation status”.

At present there are over 200 Meisui; this includes the ones that were added in the Heisei Period (20’s). In the ranking, the respective terms “Showa Discovered Meisui” and “Heisei Discovered Meisui” are attached to indicate which period the water belongs to.

In 2016, the “Meisui Hyakusen General Election” was held where people voted for their favourtie Meisui based on 4 categories: “tourism”, “scenery”, “unchartered territories” and “taste”.

Details about the contest and the results can be found here: Here

PART 1

Himekawa Headwater Springs (Nagano Prefecture)

800px-Himekawa_River_headwatersSource:Wikipedia

The Himekawa Headwater Springs refers to clear water that gushes out from a small gap in a ravine located in Hakuba Village (a winter sports hub and key location in the 1998 Winter Olympics), in the Kita Azumi area of Nagano Prefecture. The springs feed the river of the same name. The spot even gets a mention in a legend that appears in the Kojiki (Japan’s oldest historical record) as the place where the divinity Okuninushi from Izumo — in the south of Japan — courted with Princess Nunagawa, the member of a very powerful family that ruled the Itoigawa area (area that borders with Niigata). It is this legend that gives the river its name: Himekawa = Princess River.

 

Sake Brands That are Made With This Water

One of the many breweries that brews with Fukuryusui (aromatic spring water) from the Northern Alps is Daisekkei Brewery.

The brand Daisekkei, which ever since its founding in 1898 has always been driven by an aspiration “to make an even more delicious sake that is loved by the people in the region”, embodies a tireless depth of flavour, a perfect application of the delicious water and cold climate that the region provides.

Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fujinomiya City Springs (Shizuoka Prefecture)

静岡県富士宮市の湧き水Source:Wikipedia

Shizuoka Prefecture’s mountainous topography makes it one of the most prominent Meisui regions in Japan. Fujinomiya City is home to one of them; its position at the south side of Mt. Fuji is rich with springs where water completes a long, slow journey from the mountain.

Sake Brands That are Made With This Water

Located at the base of Mt.Fuji, Makino Brewery combines the soft spring water of Mt.Fuji with time-honoured sake-making skills to produce delicious sake that performs at a range of different temperatures, from hot to cold. Their signature brands such as “Shiraito” (White Thread) and “Fujiyama” are all named after the surroundings.

Hakusan Fukuryusui Springs (Ishikawa Prefecture)

1024px-百四丈滝Soure:Wikipedia

Hakusan Fukuryusui is the generic name given to water that gushes out around the area of Mikawa, in Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture; the source of which is a sacred mountain they call the Hakusan Mountain Range; over many decades, the water makes it journey below the delta of the Tedorigawa River.

Sake Brands That are Made With This Water

Established in the Edo Kyoho Era (1716-1736), Kobori Brewery brews sake with water from the Hakusan Fukuryusui Springs. You may have heard of their signature brand “Manzairaku”; a brand that takes its name from a type of  jovial court entertainment that has been around since ancient times; a brand that is loved for its connotations of good fortune.

Yoshino Springs (Nara Prefecture)

gorogoro1Source:Dorogawa Onsen Tourism Association

The Yoshino area of Nara Prefecture is another spring-water rich area. Some of the more famous include the “thundering waters” and “spring forest” of  the Dorogawa River, in Amagawa Village. Preservation of the water quality is handled by the region itself. The “thundering waters” in particular were awarded the Meisui title for their appearance in not 1, not 2 but 3 separate rankings: the Environment Agency’s “Meisui Hyakusen”, Japanese National Land Agency’s “Mizu no Sato 34 Sen (Top 34 Water Hamlets)” and Nara Prefecture’s own “Yamato no Mizu” ranking.

Sake Brands That are Made With This Water

Located in Shimoichi Town, Shimoichi, in the Yoshino area of Nara Prefecture, Fujimura Brewery’s sake counts this Meisui among their ingredients; the other being superior rice for brewing that the owner him/herself has visited farmers in person to procure — a sake that is the sum of the condensed skills and trials and tribulations of the craftsperson. They also sell liqueurs made with fruit grown in Yoshino. All this makes for a brewery that is cherished among the locals.

To be continued……

The final part of this article will be released on Friday.

Just where would you find the most sake breweries in Japan — A ranking of the top 5 sake-brewery-populated prefectures

Just how many sake breweries do you think there are in Japan? Go on! have a guess!

Recent reports put the figure at around 1500. But just which prefectures are the most populated?

We decided to put together a ranking of the top 5.

* The following ranking is based on the National Tax Bureau’s 2015 fiscal-year analysis.
https://www.nta.go.jp/shiraberu/senmonjoho/sake/shiori-gaikyo/seishu/2014/index.htm

1. Niigata Prefecture (89)

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The top dog in our ranking needs no introduction. It is of course, none other than Niigata Prefecture. With its terroirs —abundant with excellent rice and water—it is quite simply a place where sake is part of the landscape. Whenever people think of clean-dry sake called Tanrei Karakuchi, they think of Niigata. That is because the clean-dry boom of the 70’s was centered there.

2. Nagano Prefecture (81)

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In second place is Nagano — home to the Alps of Japan and blessed with oasis after oasis of ideal water for sake brewing. Even if you are just starting out with sake, you might already have stumbled across regional sake from the Shinju region of Nagano.

3. Hyogo Prefecture (74)

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In third place, it’s Hyogo, famous for, among other things, Yamada Nishiki rice. It’s another one of those regions awash with sake brewing meccas. One area in particular, Nada-Gogo, achieved fame for spots where high quality mineral water literally springs up from the ground.

4. Fukushima Prefecture (66)

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In fourth place, it’s the jewel of the North East: Fukushima Prefecture. A major gear in the sake research machine; one of their many exploits being the development of original varieties of superior rice for brewing (Shuzokotekimai).

5. Fukuoka Prefecture (58)

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The prefecture in fifth place is a bit of a dark-horse in many respects, for it is in fact none other than the shochu producing Fukuoka Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. Make no mistake, most people would be more likely to associate it with Shochu, but sake brewing is just as prosperous there as it is in any other prefecture, in fact more so —and with a vast number of drinking holes to prove the point. For this reason, the locals will tell you that Fukuoka was once the Kyoto (at its zenith, Kyoto was home to over 500 breweries, the most in Japan) of the South.


Bonus Entries

The prefecture with the least number of breweries — although you might be surprised enough to hear that there are any at all — is Okinawa prefecture. Yes, we kid you not, there is a sake brewery in Okinawa prefecture: Taikoku Brewery.

Well that wraps up our little ranking on the most sake-brewery-populated prefectures. No doubt there were some welcome surprises, as well as the usual suspects. A mere 5 prefectures is certainly not the entire story, so why not go out and discover the others yourself. Shimane, Yamagata and the lesser known Saga prefecture make a great place to start and Hida Takayama in Gifu Prefecture must surely win the award for offering the most breweries on one street.

Now is as good a time as any to begin that sake pilgrimage!

Share a toast with a brewer – May schedule

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This special event is designed to bring our customers and the breweries that we represent closer together. Every month, on a random basis, we invite representatives from the breweries to come to the bars and share a toast of their sake with everyone. As well as hearing the passion that goes into sake direct from the craftsman/woman, you can also try sakes that have been prepared exclusively for the event. It all adds up to an extremely special event, not the sort that you can experience everyday.

The Allure of Drinking Sake with the Brewer

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“Sake tastes all the more delicious when you drink it knowing who made it and why”.
This is the KURAND concept. To ‘Share a toast with a brewer!’ is to experience sake at the same level, to hear stories that normally don’t get heard outside the four walls of the brewery, and to ask questions. Even your average tasting event does not bring you this close.

For the brewers themselves, this event represents an opportunity to gather feedback about their sake direct from the customer, feedback that leads to quality improvement in the future.

CALENDAR

We have added the above calendar so that you can find out when and where the breweries are going to be, to enable you to plan ahead.

Introducing the Breweries Visiting in May

This where we introduce the breweries who have taken time out of their business trip to Tokyo to pop over to our 4 branches in Ikebukuro, Asakusa Shibuya and Shinjuku and spend time with everyone.

The event calendar shows you when and where the breweries will appear.

Asahitsuru (Chiba Prefecture)

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Asahitsuru is a family brewery in Chiba Prefecture’s Sakura City. The brewing is headed by female master brewer Tanaka Motoko. Situated just an hour from the capital, the brewery runs tours offering the chance to experience a classic brewing atmosphere surrounded by the Yasaka Shrine forests and the rural landscape of the River Kashima. The blessing of the four seasons, rice, and water from a sacred tree gives birth to fragrant beautiful sake that ferments the hearts of the brewer and the surrounding nature. The characteristic of rich dry sake is a sake that is robust with a clean aftertaste. They brew if only but to hear you say that their sake is delicious.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
13/5 (Fri) Asakusa
27/5 (Fri) Shinjuku
28/5 (Sat) Ikebukuro

Umeda Brewery (Hiroshima Prefecture)

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Established in 1916, Umeda Brewery is located in Hiroshima City’s Eastern quarter. They brew using special rice for brewing grown in Hiroshima, soft water from an underground river that originates in the mountains behind the brewery and ginjo yeast developed at Hiroshima Prefecture’s research institute. Based on the ethos that sake should be enjoyed by people who are not experts about sake, are not used to sake, their sake is smooth with a gorgeous aroma and mellow flavour.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
13/5 (Fri) Shibuya

Takizawa Brewery (Saitama Prefecture))

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Established in 1863, originally based in Kogawa Town, Saitama, but later moved to Fukaya City in 1900s to get better access to the location’s water and benefits. From the beginning, the focus has been on quality so they use only the traditional small box koji production method. The inner sanctum of sake brewing, the koji room, is made from Fukaya red brick, the same brick used in Tokyo Station. In a historical building, with a traditional production, in just the last few years, they have received high acclaim: national sake championships gold 4 years in a row, IWC gold medal two years in a row. A strong brewery in Saitama that cares about the future of sake.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
21/5 (Sat) Shinjuku

Hasegawa Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

motoyawata_hasegawa

Established in 1842, Hasegawa Brewery has carved over 170 years of brewing in Settaya, in 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.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
27/5 (Fri) Asakusa

Takarayama Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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Takarayama Brewery is a small brewery that began life in 1885 as regional sake to Iwamuro Onsen,a well-known 300 year old inner parlour in Niigata. In the frozen lands of Echigo, with “harmony among people” as their motto, a team of three including the master cherish every single drop of the brewing process. In a little plot at the back of the brewery the staff grow the variety of sake rice that was developed in Niigata: Echigo Tanrei. From this year, master brewer Watanabe Keita who completed his training in a brewery outside the prefecture joins the team and takes over the reins from 78 year old master Mr. Aoyagi. A new wind is blowing at this brewery.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
13/5 (Fri) Ikebukuro
27/5 (Fri) Ikebukuro

Kanbai Brewery (Saitama Prefecture)

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Established in 1821, Kanbai Brewery is located almost dead centre of the Kanto plains in Kuki which is a good location for both water and rice. The brand name Kanbai comes from the line in a famous Chinese poem: “the bloom of winter just before spring”. The owner of the brewer has now taken over the role of master brewer as well and focuses all his attention on a small production that it is as attentive as possible and leaves nothing to chance. With the ethos “to provide delicious and fun moments” he strives for sake brewing with personality that attacks the task head on with sincerity.

Visit Schedule

Date Branch
20/5 (Fri) Shibuya
27/5 (Fri) Shibuya

Ichinomiya Brewery (Shimane Prefecture)

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In the Shimane Prefecture World Heritage Iwami Silver Mines, in the National Park Sanbesan lies Ouda City, with its 120 years of brewing history. It is here that Ichinomiya Brewery (est 1896) is based. While following sake tradition, they also put a lot of energy into product development for the new age which in recent years has included a number of liqueurs and sparkling type sakes. 2 years ago, Asano Rika who was training at Tokyo University of Agriculture, joined with the role of master brewer in her sights. The rice and raw ingredients for the liqueurs are all grown locally in Ouda City. A Sake with oodles of sincerity and love.
Visit Schedule

Date Branch
13/5 (Fri) Shinjuku

Kazuma Brewery (Ishikawa Prefecture)

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Kazuma Brewery was established in 1869 in the Agricultural Heritage Noto. With a heartfelt desire to brew sake that soothes the soul, build a company (house) that is bright and cheerful, make Noto prosperous, and with a focus on locally sourced water, rice and skills they brew sake that is entwined with the region. At Madrid Fusion 2014, the pinnacle of the culinary event calendar which brings together the finest chefs from all over the world, they were awarded 4th best brewery in Japan. Kazuma Brewery’s spirit is the passion that has been handed down through the generations: the soul of Noto. The main brand Chikuha is a clean dry type sake with woody notes. Visit Schedule

Date Branch
21/5 (Sat) Shinjuku

Nishiyama Brewery (Hyogo Prefecture)

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Located almost slapbang in the centre of Hyogo Prefecture, in Hyogo Tanba City, an area surrounded by mountains and greenery. The brewery’s home town of Ichijima is an organic, agricultural hamlet that started growing rice organically around 40 years ago. A brewery that prides in supplying sake that is as close to the fresh taste of just-pressed sake as possible. In order to achieve that desire they brew all year around. The origins of the famed kotsuzumi brand can be traced all the way back to earlier generations of brewers, all of whom studied under the famous poet Kyoshi Takahama. One brewer in particular became his right hand man and it is he who received the kotsuzumi verse as a poetic gift from the lauriat, a gift that his descendants protect to this day. A smooth, soft, well-rounded sake.
Visit Schedule

Date Branch
20/5 (Fri) Shinjuku

Nishibori Brewery (Tochigi Prefecture)

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Retaining the same passion for hand brewing sake as when they were established in 1872, Nishibori Brewery strives to make sake that makes an impact. They use spring water from the Nikko Mountains and superior sake rice. Mongai Futsutsu is a brand born from the rice and water and a love for the region. The brand is made on a very small scale and most of it is consumed within Tochigi Prefecture which is apt considering that it all started with the desire to “make sake that is adored by people in the region”. A local top secret indeed, that conveys the passion of the brewer and provides a taste of Tochigi.
Visit Schedule

Date Branch
28/5 (Sat) Shinjuku

April Schedule (in date order)

Visit Schedule

Date Branch Brewery Name (Prefecture)
13/5 (Fri) Asakusa Asahitsuru (Chiba)
13/5 (Fri) Ikebukuro Takarayama (Niigata)
13/5 (Fri) Shibuya Umeda (Hiroshima)
13/5 (Fri) Shinjuku Ichinomiya (Shinjuku)
20/5 (Fri) Shibuya Kanbai (Saitama)
20/5 (Fri) Shinjuku Nishiyama (Hyogo)
21/5 (Sat) Asakusa Takizawa (Saitama)
21/5 (Sat) Shinjuku Kazuma (Ishikawa)
27/5 (Fri) Ikebukuro Takarayama (Niigata)
27/5 (Fri) Asakusa Hasegawa (Niigata)
27/5 (Fri) Shibuya Kanbai (Saitama)
27/5 (Fri) Shinjuku Asahitsuru (Chiba)
28/5 (Sat) Ikebukuro Asahitsuru (Chiba)
28/5 (Sat) Shinjuku Nishibori (Tochigi)

Event report – Sake SET VOL 8 Party : The Life-Force of Sake: Water

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 08/05/16
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Shibuya Branch
Participants: 33
Duration: 4 hours
Theme: Water

Photography Contributions by Gregor Mcgregor

Here in Tokyo, the sun is out and the temperature is rising. It might sound a bit like the intro to a very moody pop song, but it is actually what we lovingly like to refer to here as the “gateway to summer”. This is the best time of year to be in Japan because it is not yet too hot and the wind has died down. So, you might be thinking: the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine? You certainly wouldn’t want to be cooped up indoors drinking sake on a day like this? Right!?

Wrong!

Well at least we managed to persuade 33 people to come on down and enjoy another Sake Exchange Tokyo: international exchange with a glass of sake in hand.

Once again we were graced with a whole host of different nationalities and sake tastes.

This month’s event also marks the first outing of our newly styled ‘PARTY’ SET. Please see this article and the FAQ of the SET events page for more details about the format and the thought processes behind the change.

The Theme

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Water; a gift from mother nature and the life-force of sake. But just how important a role does water play in sake brewing. The answer: an understatedly important one. I may refer to the role as the life-force of sake, but I would not be exaggerating in the slightest. Water is to sake, life. Good quality water is essential for brewing sake. If you still doubt this fact, just go and check out a brewery — any brewery — website and peruse the page where they tell you about their sake. Without exception, they will mention the water. There is a saying: “whereever you find a good source of water, you will find sake breweries”. In fact the truth is that many breweries started out with the discovery of a good source of water somewhere or other. My interpretation of it as a life-force came about during one of my many brewery visits. There I was standing in the centre of a brewery — and I could feel / hear the water trickling around me as if it was a vein in the brewery pumping the heart and keeping it alive. That is what I mean by life-force.

The Lecture

● Sake in a nutshell
● The ingredients: rice & Koji
● Water: the life-force of sake
● Good water for sake brewing
● Sake water sources and location – water map
● Water’s influence
● Water sources of KURAND SAKE MARKET Breweries

International Exchange with a Sake in Hand IMG_1510

Participants were then free to work their way through the sakes in the fridge, comparing as many as they like, while making new international friends in the process.

For those who wanted to discover more about the different aromas of sake, I had prepared a special flight of sakes with different aromas to study.

Hard vs Soft

One of the most interesting water-based comparisons you can try is the difference between sake made with soft water (so-called feminine water) and hard water (masculine water). On this occasion, we had prepared two sakes from Tochigi Prefecture, from two completely different breweries, located very near to each other, but making sake with different types of water.

Hard Water

Sugita Brewery, Tochigi

Soft Water

Nishibori Brewery, Tochigi

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Eyes Down! It’s Bingo Time !

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What internatonal exchange event would be complete without a round or two of bingo?
But not just any Bingo! Oh noooo, sake bingo — with an added twist or two: sake bingo!

How to play SET BINGO

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This version of bingo comes with an extra special rule.

Normally bingo is played with 24 numbers.

Well, this version of bingo is no different. However, participants are given the opportunity to collect an additional two numbers with which to play with. They do so, by going around the room asking other people for their sake recommendations. You may be thinking: how on earth does getting a sake recommendation from someone give you extra numbers to play bingo. Well in actual fact each of the sakes in our fridge is allocated a number. The number is display on a tag around the bottle neck.

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Each participant notes down the number of the sake in the fridge they have been recommended followed by the name of the person who recommended it to them. A maxium of two recommendations can be collected. The two numbers collected become jokers or spares which can be used in the bingo game to increase a person’s chances of winning.

Look at the examples below. In the example A, the person is waiting for two numbers, ‘4’ and ’11’ to complete the first vertical line. Those numbers don’t get called. However, the two spares, ‘2’ and ’44’ do. The person can now claim a line using the spares as substitutes for the numbers they are waiting for.

In example 2, the person needs just one number to complete a line. That doesn’t get called. However, one of their spares does. They can use the spare that got called to claim a line.

In each of these two examples bingo has been achieved.

It might take a while sometimes to realise that you have won, but that’s part of the fun.

The best part about this extra rule is yet to come….

In the event that a spare helps you to win, the person who recommended you that number sake wins a prize also.

bingo_game_examples

How to Ask For a Recommendation in Japanese

Part of the reason for adding this extra rule is to offer more opportunities for participants to interact and break the ice. It also makes a great excuse to practice your Japanese. We provided a little script that explains how to ask for a recommendation in Japanese to help you along the way.

Osusume wo onegai shimasu
(oh-sue-sue-may owe o-nay-guy she-mass)

How to Give a recommendation in Japanese

___?____ wo susume shimasu.
(___?___oh-sue-sue-may she-mass)

For the lucky winners there were prizes.

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Pretending to be a Brewer!

Ever wanted to pretend to work in a brewery? I promise you it is much harder work in reality. Still getting a feel for the tools of the trade makes you appreciate the end product even more. The tools you see in the photograph have all been very kindly donated by our participating breweries.

Our participants certainly look the part! A great photo opportunity wouldn’t you agree?

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If this event report has tickled your taste buds, the workshop version is this Sunday. And beyond that there will be a new theme and another sake exchange party in June.

Click here for more information

I look forward to seeing you all there!!