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Friday, August 17th was another blistering day and frankly speaking I harboured some reservations on the wisdom to visit a sake brewery in midsummer. But I had decided a long time ago to try and visit breweries at all times of the year to catch the real life of a « kura » (brewery) and its « kurabito » (brewery people).
The first impression that struck me as we arrived in my good Friend Mr. Nagashima’s car was the relative cool temperature pervading the whole area in front of the brewery. It is located just along the man-made elevated banks abutting the Setogawa River. These banks are dotted all the way with centenarian cherry trees offering welcome shade and even sheltering beehives.
I momentarily abandooned my companions to have a peek at the river before calling on the Brewery.
The waters of Setogawa River (which flows unimpeded till the sea in yaizu City) were so clear and clean that I realized why the water used by that particular brewery are famed to be the sweetest in the Prefecture. Birds, insects and fish could be seen everywhere in a capsule of natural environment so enticing that I promised myself to come again end of next April when the cherry trees are in full bloom and the new sake will be ready for tasting!
Shidaizumi Brewery was founded in 1884 under the name of Rajyomasamune Brewery and the present buildings, although restored, date back to more than a hundred years when the village lying by the Mukai Mountains bore the name of Inaba.
The fourth generation, Mr. Yujiro Mochizuki (39) explained that this particular area, not being targetted during WWII, had to stop making sake because of rice shortages. Consequently all the kura (there were more than 25 in Shida Gun, then) were requisitioned by the Army to serve as depots. But when the Japanese government subsidized the Sake industry in 1953, most breweries had to rebuild, partially or entirely, their premises due to oil pollution caused by weaponry and machinery kept there for so long.
Shidaizumi shows a well-balanced combination of traditional and modern thinking and concept.
I was particularly interested in the bottling process which makes use of a fairly complicated state-of-the-art Italian wine bottling system.
Shidaizumi shows a lot of professionalism and research as demonstrated by the variety of rice (goyakumangoku from Toyama, yamadanishiki from Hyogo, Yamadanishiki from Shizuoka, Hyahan 35 go from Hiroshima) and yeasts (Shizuoka No-2, Shizuoka NEW-5, Shizuoka HD-1 and Association No 9) employed.
Interestingly enough their production of « futsushu » (normal sake) amounts to 30%. Mr. Mochizuki explained this amount was needed for local consumption. But I discovered that their « futsushu » was made with rice milled down at least down to an extravagant 65%, I declared (impertinetly, I must admit) it was about time to create a whole new classification only for « futsushu »!
Once the technical visits and explanations done with, Mr Mochizuki offered us to taste some of their new brews including two not on the market until October:
An extravagant junmai made from Asahina Yamada Nishiki rice concocted by their toji/master brewer, Mr. Yukio Tanaka of the Nanbu School, and a Umeshu made with the same sake!
A beauty (two, actually!)!
Melinda and Etsuko, be patient! You will get them in October!
Well, that visit is only a start. Look forward to the next reviews!
426-0133Fujieda City, Miyahara, 423-22-1