Dec 30, 2009

Masuya Rihei

I went around in Saitama prefecture to visit several sake breweries in November as I described in a past article (please see Sake Brewery Stamp Rally). Yao Honten is among the breweries I visited at that time, and I bought the sake "Masuya Rihei" there.

This sake is of my favorite type with a dry and clean-cut but full-bodied taste. The soft ginjo bouquet is pleasant. It is also good to enjoy this sake after heating it lukewarmly.

Actually, I recently learned that Saitama prefecture produces 13,000 kilo litters of sake annually, and this amount exceeds those of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures. Speaking of sake breweries in Saitama prefecture, for several years, I have been fan of Igarashi Syuzou, which is making Tenranzan, and Koedo-Kagamiyama Syuzou, which is brewing Kagamiyama. Recently, I found another favorite, Biwa-no-Sasanami from Asahara Syuzou.

Saitama is a next prefecture to Tokyo, and I want to visit different more breweries in Saitama next year.

Dec 19, 2009

Mystery of Namazake Flavor

I love namazake that has a certain flavor "characteristic of namazake."

The flavor "characteristic of namazake," which I consider to be a right expression, is very difficult to describe by words.

"Tarekuchi" by Taiyo Syuzou, Junmai Muroka Nama "Yuho" by Mioya Syuzou, and Tamajiman Sake-wa-Tanoshiku Nama from Ishikawa Brewery have this flavor. Biwa-no-Sasanami from Asahara Syuzou, which I recently drank, also has this flavor "characteristic of namazake." Oh, I must not forget to mention Kikusui Funaguchi Ichiban-Shibori, aluminum-canned sake, which also has a rich flavor "characteristic of namazake."

I wonder where that namazake flavor comes from or what ingredient of sake causes that flavor. I must continue to drink more types of sake to solve my question.

Dec 13, 2009

Yamasake 4-go Tamura

Tamura Syuzoujou shipped its first brew of "Yamasake 4-go Tamura Namazake" on December 10. Having been making Junmai Ginjo Tamura using the rice named Ginginga, this brewery added a new Tamura, which uses Yamasake 4-go rice, to its product lines in this brewery year.

Yamasake 4-go Tamura Namazake is limitedly produced and sold by subscription, and I needed to order this bottle before its shipment. Recently, the liquor shop brought the bottle to me, and I tasted it yesterday.

The first aroma note is mild but smells like melon, at the same time, it suggests that the taste is clean and dry.

I feel the sake somehow sweetish to my palate, but the sake meter value is actually +5, which is rather dry. The sake also tastes clean. The acidity, by the way, is 2. When swallowing the sake after holding it in mouth for a while, I feel briskness and sturdy astringent bitterness in the deep part of the mouth, which refresh my mouth. A little bit higher alcohol content makes me feel somehow warm in my stomach.

In terms of richness in taste, I am in favor of the Ginginga version, but Yamasake 4-go Tamura is more interesting. This sake has just shipped, and may change in its taste as it is mellowed with the course of time.

Dec 3, 2009

Canadian Enjoys Sake to Her Heart's Content

Ms. Rosina Lau, a citizen of Toronto, Canada, owns a company that sells useful Takui bags.

At the beginning of October, I received an E-mail message from her. She said she read my blog and got interested in sake. She had had rare chances to enjoy sake in Canada, and wanted to visit Japan to experience and learn about the sake world.

As early as 12 of November, she was already in an inn in Kyoto! Then, she visited Fushimi, Saijo city, and Takayama city, which are all famous for their sake. On 21 of November, she arrived at her hotel in Tokyo. She makes her decision and moves really quickly!

I met her on 25 of November. She had come to Japan long way from Canada, and I of course wanted to welcome her. So, I asked Mr. Shimizu, sales manager of Ishikawa Brewery, to show us their brewery and he did so. Then, I took her to an izakaya restaurant, "Shutoan," in Yotsuya in the evening. "Shutoan" carries a lot of sake and it offers good dried fish and oyster.

Ishikawa Brewery started its sake brewing as early as 1863 boasting a history of over 140 years. Measuring 25.2 meters in width, 13.25 meters in height, and 28 meters in depth, the Hongura building, where fermentation process of sake takes place, is the hugest as an existing wooden kura building in the Kanto region. The Ishikawa family, the owner of the brewery, has its house on the premises. In front of the house, stands an old gate with wings on each side. This gate was built about 240 years ago and both wings were used as living spaces for gatekeepers. Many of the building and architecture on the premises, as well as the two mentioned above, have been registered as tangible cultural properties of Japan. So, I wanted visitors from abroad such as Rosina san to visit and see this brewery, and I am happy that I could actually take her to this place.

Then, we were headed from Ishikawa Brewery to Shutoan, which I had wanted to visit for enjoying part of its great selection of sake. This izakaya restaurant is reputed to offer a lot of types of sake (actually it carries 450 types of sake) and good foods especially oyster from different places inside and outside Japan, having been enjoying popularity among sake lovers since its inauguration in September. I decided to go to this izakaya restaurant on my own judgment, but I was sure Rosina san would like it.

In addition to its wide selection of sake, one of the sales points of Shutoan are oysters; they are brought from various places including Iwate prefecture, Miyagi prefecture, and some are from Canada or the United States. The menu shows a list of producing districts of oysters that are available on the current day. Since oyster contains ingredients that are good for the liver such as taurine, it seems to be paired well with sake.

On this day, I couldn't decide what we should drink because there were so many bottles in the refrigerator in the restaurant (they displayed sake bottles in the refrigerator). So, I asked Mr. Takeguchi, owner of the restaurant, to select some bottles for us. We enjoyed as many as abut 10 different types of sake, including Kunpai (君盃), Eikun (英君), Waruno-Daikan (悪の代官), Azumamine (吾妻嶺), Kaze-no-Mori (風の森), Kame-no-Umi (亀の海), Nanbu-Bijin (南部美人), Okunokami (屋守). Personally, I liked Kame-no-Umi, which, I feel, is rich in taste.

Rosina san said, "I drank about 10 types of sake today, and still I have 440 types to try. So, I must come back here." She was very eager to come back to Japan and told me she would go to Niigata next time in March for Niigata Sake Festival 2010 (にいがた酒の陣2010). I, as a sake lover, am very happy to have such an enthusiastic sake friend abroad.