May 28, 2010

Nishitama Sake Gathering

I attended the 8'th Nishitama Sake and Sake Cup Gathering held in Akiruno City on Saturday, May 22, after attending a kura study tour at a sake brewery in the city.

Before noon, for the kura study tour, I visited Nakamura Syuzou, Inc., which is known for its brand name Chiyotsuru. It is rare that we can see the interior of this brewery, and it was the first time for me to go inside of the brewery.

You do not see the sake of this brewery very frequently on shelves at liquor shops in Tokyo, and they seem to operate their business in a relatively quiet way. However, their sake is rich-flavored and clean-cut and I like their sake. The brewery boasts of its multi-time winning of gold awards at National New Sake Contest. The latest gold awards of this brewery are those won in the two consecutive years of 2009 and 2010, suggesting that the brewery has high brewing techniques.

The master brewer showed us the inside of the brewery, including the rice-steaming room, fermentation room, storage room, etc.

In the rice-steaming room, there was equipment for making streamed rice such as a rice washing machine, soaking tanks, horizontal continuous rice streaming device, rice steaming caldron, in which a coil heat exchanger was placed. These devices and machines are quite commonly found in most sake breweries.

The fermentation room was chilly air-conditioned. There were neatly arranged 10,000-litter thermal tanks in the room. A scaffold was set up between the two rows of tanks at the level of the top surfaces of the tanks. Workers are supposed to move from the scaffold onto a tank on which they perform their work such as stirring of fermentation mash. The tanks are equipped with handrails on their tops for worker's safety. The low ceiling seemed to make the work on the tanks hard for some tall workers since they had to bend over on the tanks. It was fortunate that the master brewer and the accompanying worker were not very tall.

The storage room, a kind of big refrigerator, has a narrow entrance, and I could not find anything special after taking a glance inside. So, I asked several questions of the brewery worker accompanying us to spend time, and the kura study of about 30 minutes ended shortly.

This time, we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the brewery buildings and I have no photos from the brewery to present here. However, we could freely take pictures in the exhibition hall of sake making tools that was established on the premises.

In the exhibition hall, visitors can sample some sakes from the brewery, but on that day, we were going to attend the 8'th Nishitama Sake and Sake Cup Gathering later, and we just tasted their liqueurs, yuzushu (citron liquor) and umeshu (plum liquor). Especially, the umeshu was not very sweet, exhibiting clear taste and an impression of slight citrus aroma. Although some sake lovers tend to keep a distance from sweet liqueurs, but I felt that they might able to enjoy this umeshu.

Then, we moved to an Akiruno Rupia assembly room, where the 8'th Nishitama Sake and Sake Cup Gathering were held from 2:00 p.m.

Nishitama Brewers Club consisting of Ishikawa Brewery, Tamura Syuzoujou, Nakamura Syuzou, Inc., and Ozawa Syuzou prepared their sake, which were known for their brand names of Tamajiman, Kasen, Chiryotsuru, and Sawanoi, respectively.

This time, I tried to carefully taste Chiryotsuru sake, and I felt that the sakes from this brewery were relatively rich in taste compared with the sakes from the other three breweries, and I liked the sake characteristics of this brewery. The provided Chiryotsuru sakes were Krakuchi Nama Chozoshu, Junmai Namazake, and Junmai Ginjo Namazake, which I tried in this order. Of them, Krakuchi Nama Chozoshu was especially nice. In spite of the rice milling rate of 65%, this sake had a fruity aroma, and it had a moderate impression of being "nama."

Also, I renewed the view of Kasen Funeshibori Muroka Genshu. I usually order this seasonally limited sake in December, and drink it soon after the delivery of the bottle. So, it was the first time for me to drink this sake in May. I recognized how this sake can turn from a blunt young sake into a roundly ripen one during its storage of about half a year. It seems that this sake is shipped in April and December by subscription. So, I would like to order this sake also in April next time.

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