On March 20th, Liquor Japan has launched our first Sake trial event successfully together with the Japanese Embassy in Delhi, India!
Although the Coronavirus has posed a huge challenge for the event, with careful disinfection preparation and arrangement, the event has finally come to a successful conclusion.
In this event, a total of 16 kinds of sake were provided for our attendees, and Liquor Japan provided three kinds of Sake which have been strictly selected and highly recommended. These are Junmai Sparkling Nigori, Tsukinokatsura Junmai, Special selection Kohaku Hikari, as well as Bikkuri Gyoten we prepared as the souvenir.
Since there is an attendee number regulation, people who come to join the event have been separated into 2 groups in the morning and afternoon, and each group had a chance to try 8 kinds of Sake. Each group was given 10 minutes to enjoy the sake, and there was also Japanese food like Yakitori prepared for the attendees to better taste Sake. There was a total of 31 people came to the trial event. Among them, some were from the alcohol media background, some were from the media field, some were from the food industry, some were sake lovers and others were officials from embassies of other countries.
Although the attendee’s amount cannot be compared with last year’s trial event due to the influence of the coronavirus, we still received warm feedback from the attendees and are very happy to know that they really enjoyed this event.
Here are some photos from the sake trial event. Have a quick check!
We will try to host another trial event in the near future, so please stay connected with us to see more information!
What is Japanese sake? I’m not good at sake…
For the people who have above worry and doubt, you definitely should not miss the sake called Bikkuri Gyoten breweried by Masuda Tokubee Shoten.
Bikkuri Gyoten, which is produced by the brewery with over 300 years of history that located in Fushimi district in Kyoto, not only has the second fermentation process like champagne within bottle, but also has a low alcohol percentage per volume of 8.3 and can be enjoyed easily as wine.
Liquorjapan interviewed with Junichi Masuda, who is the young brewer at Masuda Tokubee Shoten, about Bikkuri Gyoten.
Q1. We learned that Bikkuri Gyoten is a very special sake compared to other kinds. May I know the developing concept of this sake?
And we noticed that only Bikkuri Gyoten has 180ml package in your brewery. May I also know if there are some special reasons of this?
A1. About 30 years ago, there’s no sparking sake existed in Japan, so we organized the sake producing group in Tohoku area to work on developing the sparking sake together.
Our brewery has developed this sake with the concept of high acidity and pairing well with meal.
The reason why we only pack 180ml for this sake is because if we fill too much sake in, there’s a high risk of explosion of the bottle caused by the sake’s second fermentation within the bottle as well as high gas pressure after the heat sterilization. (Although about 300ml is the limit, we developed only 180ml that is safe enough to avoid this.)
Besides, the design of Turquoise blue bottle for this sake is also attractive and gives you the impression of freshness.
Q2.During the brewery process, what are the difficulties you have faced?
A2. The balance between acidity and sweetness is one of the difficult things to adjust. Also, since we want to keep as much sparking foam inside of the bottle as possible, after the sterilization, temperature management for this sake becomes very strict.
Q3.Who are your expected consumers for this sake?
A3.For women aged between 20-40 years old. Actually, this sake has already received huge popularity among young women consumers.
Q4.What are the requirements for logistic management?
A4. Although it is sterilized by heat just in case, we still recommend distributing it at low temperatures.
Q5.Would you share with us the dish pairing suggestions with Bikkuri Gyoten?
A5. We recommend you to drink Bikkuri Gyoten with Italian and French dishes because it can cut the fat in the dish well. With the image of rice champagne, it can pair well with Western and French dishes. Since the sake has a very fresh taste and can reset your mouth environment, you can enjoy it in gulps without the stickiness to your tongue particularly to Japanese sake.
At this time Liquorjapan will provide Bikkuri Gyoten as a souvenir for people who come to attend the trial event held by the Embassy of Japan in Delhi on March 20th, 2021.
Please take this chance to come to join us and taste the good sake that cannot be found in India easily.
The alcohol percentage by volume in Bikkurigyoten is only 8%, which is lower than the general Japanese sake’s alcohol percentage.
When it is chilled, the refreshing acidity will spread all over the mouth together with the bubbles. It can create joy that you cannot imagine from pure rice sake. Same as champagne, it is produced with the method of in-bottle fermentation and has no carbon dioxide injection.
Sake rice: Gohyakumangoku(made in Fukui)
Rice polishing percentage(Kake rice/Koji rice): 60%:60%
Yeast: Kyokai901 etc.
Founded in 1675, Masuda Tokubee Shoten, with the longest Sake brewery history in Fushimi area, has been seen as the original Sake brewery for Nigori Sake and Aged Sake.
In 1964, Masuda Tokubee Shoten became the first in the world to work on brewing Nigori Sake, and in the same year, they also released “Tsuki no Katsura” series Sake, which is a popular Sake brand now. The genre of “Nigori Sake” was established by succeeding the secondary fermentation within the bottle, which at that time no one has ever done. It was the moment when the so-called sparkling Sake came to birth.
The reason of Nigori Sake’s birth comes from the question of “why are there many kinds of wine such as red wine, white wine, and sparkling wine instead of Sake? Similar to wine, there should also be different styles of Sake, so why not let the old-fashion “Doburoku*” revive in a modern style”? Junichi Masuda, who is a brewer, mentioned that this was their start point of developing Nigori Sake”.
* Doburoku is the original state of Nigori Sake.
To realize the wish of letting Sparkling Sake be appreciated all over the world, and letting people who don’t like Sake to appreciate the special characteristics and seasonality of Sake, the brewery of Nigori Sake got started.
Now, Masuda Tokubee Shoten is also working on developing the Kyoto original yeast for Sake. They want to research and develop the Kyoto specific yeast to let people in the world enjoy the original Kyoto taste Sake. Meanwhile, they are also working on producing new Sake flavor that can pair well with food by using the mixing method of wine.
In this story, we will unveil the secret of Masuda Tokubee Shoten, who has the longest history and highest technology in Sake brewing, how they make Sake and why they can thrive until today.
First, in terms of the water, Masuda Tokubee Shoten can obtain abundant of water (underground water) from where they are located. It is even not an exaggeration to say that this is the greatest advantage in Sake brewing (you can find detailed information about the water condition in Fushimi area in our other articles).
Second, the Sake rice that Masuda Tokubee Shoten uses mainly comes from local paddy around Kyoto and most of them are cultivated without pesticides. The brewer works together with local Fushimi farmers (producers) from rice planting to harvesting, so they can understand the rice grow environment as well as the climate of each year. Through this, they can not only know the Sake rice quality but also support the local people to cultivate and revive local rice agriculture.
In Masuda Tokubee Shoten, as we learned, the Sake rice they use comes from two ways. One is the home-grown rice and the other is contract-grown rice. There is no difference between the home-grown rice and the contract-grown rice, but normally they use one type of rice to make one product in one preparation.
In terms of the process of Sake brewing, as introduced in the above picture, for different types of Sake, it is the same, but the preparation time differ from type to type depending on the temperature control and fermentation condition.
For example, Tsuki no Katsura pure-rice Sake (Junmai) needs 70 days to prepare from polishing to pressing, however, Nigori Sake (Junmai) needs about 55 days, and low alcohol percentage Sake only needs about 45 days for the same process. In addition, for Sake brewing method, Kimoto zukuri and Yamahai zukuri, the 3-step preparation, the 4-step preparation, sparkling Sake, aged Sake and extra, based on the different Sake types, the production time is different. So, it is hard to conclude the general process of Sake in one simple method as they all have their own characteristics. All the procedures are important and you cannot make tasty Sake if you lack even one of the making steps. Regarding the raw material processing, for example the steaming condition of rice, the next process is determined by how well the process before steaming the rice works.
It is because Sake is brewed while they control the fermentation of microorganisms, and it is difficult to make adjustments or changes during preparation.
“Besides, the temperature control during preparation period is also important. After the completion of pressing process, bottling, sterilization, cooling, logistics control of brewery and deliver to final customers, you should be careful of all process”, mentioned by Mr. Masuda.
Traditionally, it is said that Koji is the most important factor more than mash and brewing. Regarding this saying, it is just paid attention to the final Koji, but overlooked other procedures. We should know that all the process matters the same during or before preparing to make Koji. The rice planting, weather, rice harvesting, rice milling, water preparation for rice washing, rice soaking and rice steaming are all included in koji making process. Therefore, everything is linked together and it is important to make sure all the processes are in good place.
All in all, if you would like to make good Sake, you have to be cautious at each step of the Sake brewing process. In Masuda Tokubee Shoten, each of brewers shares the common goal on Sake brewing. Through this, they have built a cooperative system in the brewery. At the same time, they also pay attention to the health management of all the brewers.
The hygiene of the brewery is strictly controlled by daily disinfection, machine cleaning, and thoroughly sterilization by using an Ozone generator and Ozone water. Most of the Sake are sterilized after bottling and stored under cooling condition. However, if it is for aged Sake, it is normally storing in porcelain jar at room temperature. Mr. Masuda mentioned not only you had to pay attention to the storage environment, but also you had to keep the quality of Sake in order not to be influenced by the environment.
What is the motivation that keeps the brewery thrives for 345 years? — It lies in compassion for the next generation. Mr. Masuda said that the secret is that he devoted himself in constantly innovating on the basis of retaining traditional culture of Kyoto, and he has been thinking about how to pass the culture and technology to the next generation in a valuable way. He also thinks it’s important not to focus on trying to do something special but to enrich their current knowledge and innovate from it.
Mr. Kinichiro Sakaguchi, who was very knowledgeable about Sake, wrote in his famous book, “Japanese Sake”. In this book, he said, “the virtue of sake is that it has rich tastes and exists as natural as water”. Mr. Masuda agrees with this praise on Sake’s simpleness and richness as well as natural existence status. He hopes it’s not only about enjoying the Sake or food, but it’s about letting people’s appreciation and curiosity on sake come out naturally while they drink Sake. He also hopes the Sake he made can help people relax and improve the taste of the food.
It is hard to find Sake that goes well with food and makes people smile. But as a way for people to try it, Mr. Masuda recommend that sometimes you shall find a Sake that pair well with food by yourself like a sommelier.
Even for people who are not familiar with Sake, it is easier for them to drink the low alcohol Sake such as Tsuki no Katsura, Kasegigashira, Hofukuzetto, and sparkling Bikkuri gyoten. But for Nigori Sake, although it has a relatively high alcohol content around 17%, as a beginner of Sake, it has been recommended for women who rarely drink Sake and young people due to its special taste.
In addition, Mr. Masuda insisted that he really proud of the fact that in their brewery, everyone values the “seasonality” and “Individuality “of Sake the most. The “seasonality” refers to Nigori Sake, which is normally made around Nov and Dec and can be drank around New Year. It is the Sake that can let people taste the new Sake the earliest during the year, and thanks to this, Nigori Sake has been seen as the symbol of Sake’s seasonality.
“Individuality “of Sake refers to the specialty of Tsuki no Katsura, such as Nigori Sake, aged Sake, and Sake brewed by special rice. He hopes people who enjoy Tsuki no Katsura feel the specialty when drinking and consider Tsuki no Katsura as a symbol of “Individuality “of good Sake.
He also hopes people drink Sake not only based on other people’s suggestion or comments, but to try different Sake and find the one they can enjoy the most in their own way.
In the long term, Mr. Masuda predicted that there might be an increase of the Sake brewery around the world, and one of the plans he has for the future is they can start Sake OEM manufacture abroad.
Sake is considered to be the easiest alcohol drink in the world to pair with food, so they will keep working to develop new flavors of Sake that can pair well with food from all over the world, and they aim to average the sake exports amount (increase the proportion of exports) and domestic sales. In addition, remodeling the brewery to create an experience-based auberge is also envisioned in their future vision.
With the 345 years of Sake brew history, Masuda Tokubee Shoten has always stick to their original commitment on their Sake brewing. Their Sake includes not only traditional Japanese culture taste, but also Japanese spirit of new era.
We are sure that after knowing the history of Masuda Tokubee Shoten, you might be able to discover a new different taste when drinking their Sake!
One of the Sake series we recommend you this time is called “Tsuki no Katsura”, the manufacture of it is Masuda Tokubee Shoten which locates in Fushimi, Kyoto. As a Sake brew hometown, Fushimi, Kyoto has many famous breweries, such as Gekkeikan, Kizakura, Kinshi-Masamune, and Takara-Shuzo, same as Masuda Tokubee Shoten, they are all listed in the Fushimi Sake Brewery Association, which has been recognized as an important Sake manufacture group.
We all know the basic ingredients for Sake are rice, Koji (malted rice) and water. Among them, water is a major component of Sake. In this article, we will explain why Fushimi is popular in Sake brewing and why it is possible to make delicious Sake from the perspective of Fushimi’s topography and water quality.
Let’s start with the history of Fushimi. Fushimi, as the southern gateway of the ancient capital Kyoto, was the villas area for imperial family in Heian period. In Azuchi-Momoyama period, Fushimi Castle was built and the castle town was formed with it. During Edo period, it was also one of the key points of water transportation. In recent years, the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, which is famous for its Senbon (one thousand) Trii, has attracted tourists from all over the world.
The content of water is also one of the major factors.
The hardness of water is categorized depending on the amount of contained minerals. According to the WHO guidelines of water quality, hardness 0-60 is soft water, 60-120 is slightly soft water, 120-180 is slightly hard water, and 180 or more is very hard water. Based on this guideline, most of the water in Japanese rivers is considered as soft water.
On the other hand, underground water has a hardness of around 80 and belongs to slightly soft water. It has little iron content with good balance of Kalium, phosphorus and magnesium by natural filtration.
In Japan, tap water is safe enough to drink, but especially in urban areas, in order to keep the safety on high position, activated carbon is added and water is purified by ozone treatment. This treatment removes minerals and makes the water tasteless and odorless. If the amount of mineral content in Sake brewing water is high, yeast works actively and Sake becomes dry. On the contrary, if the mineral in the water is inadequate, alcoholic fermentation cannot be performed well, so it can be said that the hardness of water related to the contents is one of the most important factors.
Underground water, as we mentioned above, has little iron content that can cause loss of the aroma and flavor of rice. On the other hand, it contains an appropriate amount of minerals, which lets the fermentation process happen smoothly, and produce the Sake sweet and mild. This is the best requirement for Sake brewing.
Naturally, in order to continue to ensure the best conditions of Sake brewery, it is necessary to protect the surrounding environment as well from the perspective of water quality conservation. Sake breweries carry out the inspection about water quality every year and the quality standard of underground water is stricter than that of tap water. Masuda Tokubee Shoten, which is famous for “Tsuki no Katsura”, also uses underground water to make Sake, and they take great care of the wells that pump underground water.
If you have opportunities to visit Japan, you should be also interested in the quality of the water, taste the water and enjoy the Sake which made from clean water in this area.
－Ground Water Artery Beneath the Surface of the Earth for a Thousand Years Sleeps in Kyoto Underground
Nigori Sake is a special kind of Sake among Japanese Sake, and is favored by many people due to its special texture. In the first part of this article, we are going to give you a very detailed introduction on the brew process on Japanese Sake and Nigori Sake.
Generally speaking, alcohol can be classified into brewed liquor, distilled liquor and mixed liquor. Same as wine, Sake is recognized as brewed liquor, which is normally made by fermenting raw materials with yeast. However, the process is different from wine, the Sake brewing is a more complicated method than beer and wine, below is a general process for Sake production.
Since the raw material rice does not contain sugar, the first step is to realize the saccharification of sediment contained in rice and the second step is to make the fermentation of alcohol being carried out at the same time of saccharification in the same container. Such brewing method is called parallel double fermentation and this is peculiar to East Asia. By performing parallel double fermentation, it can boast the highest alcohol content of any brewed liquors in the world, and this is a remarkable technical featured in Sake brewing.
Japanese Sake is made by steaming rice after polishing, washing and soaking. Steamed rice is used in making koji, yeast mash, moromi, which is raw unrefined Sake. By putting moromi into a Sake bag, squeezing the bag with pressure, and then separating the Sake lees and liquid. The liquid is the original form of Sake, after the filter process, liquid becomes clear and it forms the ordinary Japanese Sake. Nigori Sake is made by using rough Sake bag, it will remain amounts of sediment in the liquid in separating from Sake lees. Then the sediment will turn to the cloudy status and the liquid becomes “Nigori Sake”.
Below is a detailed chart of Sake production.
There are about 20 types of Amino acids contained in Sake. Lysine, tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine and histidine are essential amino acids and cannot be generated by our body itself. Alanine is needed during exercise. Arginine, tyrosine and serin can adjust the function of internal section and circulatory system, and stimulate secretion of growth hormone. Glutamic acid can maintain immune function and retain digestive organs.
Sake has a charm point which cannot be found in the distilled liquor nor the same brewed liquor, wine. This is “Umami”. Compared with beer and wine, the content of Amino acid, which is the main Umami ingredients exits 80% in Sake, while in wine and beer it is only 10% and 30% respectively. Sake, especially Koji, which is the main component of the sediment in Nigori Sake contains the richest Amino acids and Vitamins. This makes Nigori Sake more appealing than other Sake as amino acid is necessary for human body.
The amino acids that consisted in the human body can help increase the production of immune cells. By strengthening their functions, it is very helpful to enhance immunity and build a body that is less susceptible to disease. Especially the three amino acids, glutamine, arginine and histidine can help to restore the immune system which tends to collapse. It is said that almost 20% of human body are made from amino acid.
In terms of taste, Nigori Sake has a thick and lactic acid feeling, it can coat the spice stimulus on the tongue and remove the fat with acid. Although due to the second time fermentation within the bottle, it’s hard to control the quality of Nigori Sake. But Nigori Sake can pair well with sour and spicy dishes since it has carbonic acid taste as well as the sweet and fruity taste thanks to the second fermentation.
Beer and wine have lots of charm points, but sake also has many interesting features.
So why don’t you dive into the world of Sake?