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Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kura Master 2021 Award Ceremony)

By Ryuji Takahashi

The Kura Master 2021 contest for Japanese sake, Shochu and Awamori was held at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris on September 20.
Japan was under a state of emergency at the time due to the coronavirus pandemic, so fewer breweries from Japan attended the award ceremony compared to the previous year. However, the award ceremony was live-streamed on YouTube for anyone to view.
The Platinum Prize is awarded to each division, one President’s Prize, and five Jury Prizes are presented on the day of the award ceremony. The President’s Prize was awarded to Sawanoi Junmai Daiginjo by Ozawa Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Tokyo. Echi Shuzo in Saga prefecture, whom I serve as consultant, won the Platinum Award in both the Junmai-Daiginjo and Junmai Divisions and attended the award ceremony in France.
The Echi Shuzo garnered the Jury Prize, an impressive feat. I was proud a small brewery I’ve worked with for several years won a Jury Prize they can now use confidently as a powerful tool in their PR efforts. Echi Shuzo now stands at the starting line to compete on the global stage for the survival of Japanese sake. I’m very happy for Echi Shuzo, and hope this prize is an opportunity for the brewery to reveal a fresh new business concept in their upcoming sake products. On the other hand, the award ceremony held while Japan was under the state of emergency may have appeared odd to viewers who observed the careful precautions enacted during the Tokyo Olympics.
Participants attending the award ceremony were required to show proof of two COVID vaccinations. Award recipients removed their masks to receive their awards by hand with commemorative photos taken in close proximity. Not to say close proximity is bad, however, viewers were watching the award ceremony online. How viewers around the world perceived this award ceremony through their respective culture and way of thinking is unknown. Perhaps, the organizers might have considered the cautious approach taken by Japanese, and why some award recipients refrained from attending the award ceremony in France considering the timing (socio-political climate exercising caution against the coronavirus pandemic).
Some may claim confidence in the countermeasures enacted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while others may say the threat of infection to the coronavirus is behind us. However, quarantine is required upon returning to Japan. As the state of emergency declared across Japan was lifted, Japanese sake breweries upon their return from the award ceremony in France faced a delayed start to participate in Sake Day on October 1 and Autumn Sake Sale, etc., as restaurants resumed sales of alcoholic beverages. To ensure their timely start upon return to Japan, perhaps more thorough measures to prevent infection were necessary for the award ceremony in France.
Echi Shuzo, a brewery run by a married couple who attended the award ceremony together, also faced delays in their sales plans upon their return. Although some differences are observed between regions in their respective precautions against the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps, it was too soon to exercise minimal precautions during the award ceremony. Next year, I look forward to and pray the award ceremony will see attendees laugh out loud freely as they enjoy samples and discuss business together.



#awamori #contest #covid19 #daiginjo #jizake #junmai #kura #master #paris #sakagura #sake #tokyo

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Purposeful sake-making

By Yuji Matsumoto

I often see breweries and wholesale dealers recommending their sake to local American diners at sampling events, saying, “This sake goes with any food,” “We use 100% Yamadanishiki rice,” “This is Junmai Daiginjo,” and “This is a traditional kimoto sake,” etc. However, most people (including myself) don’t understand what those industry jargon means. In other words, “So what are the flavors of sake, and what foods does the sake go well with?” is my question.
While sake fully utilizes processing techniques to create differences in flavor as a product, wine is largely influenced by the flavor of the grapes themselves, more of an agricultural product. In other words, the flavor of sake can be designed to some extent and adjusted (through the selection of rice, grade of rice polishing, fermentation, temperature, storage method, etc.), while wine is largely dependent on the quality of grapes harvested that year. If that’s the case, the best and quickest way to understand sake and to communicate the flavor is to understand the brewery’s objective for the particular brand (design objective). Isn’t it most important to accurately communicate to consumers the brewery’s “philosophy and objective towards the brand’s flavor?” For example, the brewery’s benefits of hard water should be capitalized upon, and the use of XX rice to pursue the ultimate compatibility with meat dishes, how the sake is created using rice YYY to create a uniqueness that won’t be defeated by wine or shochu, etc., to suggest designing sake that proposes a more narrowed-down qualities to customers.


#breweries #daiginjo #junmai #kura #sake #wie

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Sake Nation “Sake Rice Leftover due to the Coronavirus Pandemic: Part 3”

By Kosuke Kuji

Japanese sake sales suffered due to the impact from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The issue of sake rice inventory left over sparked a movement to encourage “support by consuming the sake rice.” I thought of participating in this movement myself. Speaking to rice farmers however, I learned inventory of rice is also high across the industry due to restaurants reducing their business hours or closing.
Although it’s easy to say, “please consume my sake rice,” the share of sales I attract will only impact the sales of rice, generating a loss for a different vendor.
How do we use the leftover sake rice?
“Sake rice is best used to produce sake.”
However, how do we resolve the issue of limited shelf life for sake products?
Our company decided to produce rubbing alcohol for disinfection early in the coronavirus pandemic. Initially, our plan was to only produce rubbing alcohol during the shortage, and to cease production once sufficient supplies of rubbing alcohol returned to the market. However, we met local handicapped children requiring constant care and their families in Iwate prefecture, where we learned rubbing alcohol was essential to approximately 200 residents in Iwate prefecture alone. We were inspired to continue local production of rubbing alcohol for local consumption indefinitely to ensure sufficient supply for these families.
However, sufficient supply of rubbing alcohol returned to the market by summer. Demand for rubbing alcohol produced by my sake brewery has declined, and will undoubtedly decline for other breweries as well. On the other hand, continued production of rubbing alcohol will require new equipment. I pondered what to do.

酒豪大陸 「コロナで余った酒米 その3」


#alcohol #coronavirus #covid #sake

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Popular “Souboushu” Selections (Sake Brewed in Large Temples)


Souboushu were brewed in many temples. The Souboushu highly rated for their flavors are Bodaisen by Shoryakuji Temple (Nara prefecture) and Amano sake by Amanosan-Kongouji (Osaka city).
Bosaiden was highly acclaimed as a “well-renowned sake nationwide” by the eighth shogun Yoshikazu Ashikaga during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). The way sake was brewed at Shoryakuji is characteristic for placing uncooked rice and steamed rice in the yeast starter mother water, using lactic acid water to grow lactic acid bacteria. This method was completed in the later Edo Period (1603-1867), the prototype of the kimoto method.
Bodai yeast is also referred to as the mizumoto yeast starter, the unique flavor derived from lactic acid bacteria.
Amano sake was continuously brewed until the production volume of Souboushu decreased in the later Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573~1603). Souboushu was known to be preferred by samurai Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
Toyotomi is said to have stopped by the Amanosan-Kongouji Temple and ordered the temple to focus on producing Souboushu. The foundation passed down since this time period for the current method of brewing Japanese sake are the “Shiori Method” and “Tou Method,” both used to enhance alcohol concentration in Japanese sake.
The Tou Method divides and places the sake rice into the yeast starter over several times to enhance and prolong the fermentative activity to enhance alcohol concentration.
Souboushou is made using the Shiori Method; the foundation for the “three-step preparation method for fermentation mash” considered the basis for brewing Japanese sake.


現在の日本酒の作り方は基盤となる方法は、当時より日本酒のアルコール濃度を高める方法として、“しおり方式”と “とう方式”と言う方法があった。

#kimoto #muromachi #sake #shogun #shoryakuji #souboushu #temple

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