“Rubbing Alcohol Manufactured by Sake Producers: Part 3”

By Kosuke Kuji

Since the decision was made to manufacture rubbing alcohol, I still had a concern that left me hesitant. Founded in 1902, Nanbu Bijin since the first-generation owner upheld “quality first” as the family motto and corporate management principle, brewing sake to serve “delicious” sake to customers right up to the fifth generation overseer, myself.
Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, I felt conflicted – not sure if our ancestors would forgive me for brewing alcohol not made for human consumption. Meanwhile, the first rubbing alcohol was completed. Immediately supplied to the Ninohe Medical Association, rubbing alcohol was delivered to homes of families tending to sick children and their caregivers at every opportunity presented. Long used before the coronavirus pandemic to sterilize medical devices such as gastric fistulas or ventilators, the sudden demand for rubbing alcohol in homes nationwide created by the coronavirus resulted in a national shortage.
By the time I visited, the supply of rubbing alcohol was so low that several more sterilizations would’ve easily depleted the supply. Upon delivery, one teary-eyed recipient greeted me saying, “Thank you so much for helping us.”
Although many of our sake customers commented, “This is delicious, thank you” to me in the past, it was the first time in my life someone said to me, “Thank you so much for helping us.” I couldn’t stop the tears welling up in my eyes. I was sad to realize so many people were suffering at the brink of death, and yet, I never knew until now. I felt ashamed, humbled and sorry I never noticed before. Many people are suffering in Iwate prefecture, a rural prefecture in Japan, with many more people suffering nationwide. Meanwhile, I can manufacture rubbing alcohol for immediately delivery to the community.
Perhaps, after the coronavirus pandemic, rubbing alcohol can be manufactured and immediately supplied regionally. I was determined to continue manufacturing rubbing alcohol to help ensure Iwate prefecture will never run out of rubbing alcohol.

「酒類業者による消毒用アルコールの製造 その3」


#Sake #coronavirus


The Taste of Japanese Sake

Sake aroma is difficult to describe in one phrase. However, focusing one’s senses helps to detect the aroma of various plants and food ingredients harmonized together. This issue introduces the below aromas detected in sake.

Summer Aromas
Chestnuts, cashew nuts, peanuts, roasted chestnuts, thin chestnut skin, walnuts, cacao, coconuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, ginkgo and sesame.

Mineral Aroma
Mineral, stream water (mountain water streaming between the boulders), charcoal, stone, oil, mud wall and fossils.

Vegetable Aroma
Watercress, winter melon, gourd, butterbur, Japanese parsley, Chinese cabbage, rape blossoms, daikon radish, carrots, burdock, fern, bracken, butterbur sprout, white radish sprouts and asparagus.

Other Aromas
Marshmallow, milk candy, whipped cream, aroma of the coast, biscuit, cream puff shell, yogurt, candy drops, cottage cheese, peat moss, soymilk, custard, cream, aonori (green laver), kelp, cotton candy, crystal sugar, brown sugar sponge cake, wafer, condensed milk, honey, maple syrup, sherry, dried shrimp, pancakes, ambergris and beeswax.

日本酒物語 日本酒の味






#sake #flavor


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Trip to Niigata Prefecture Part 3)

By Ryuji Takahashi
This report is a continuation of our trip to Niigata prefecture since the issue before last. Our final destination was Hakuro Shuzo Brewery in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture.
To touch on the history of the sake industry, the four-step preparation of fermentation mash was popularized throughout Japan from Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture, home to approximately 16 sake breweries. The Hakuro Shuzo Brewery we visited is so prestigious, an entire book can be written on their history of various hardships the brand was protected from and survived.
The Hakuro brand was named with the character ‘oak,’ derived from three oaks forming the Makino family crest of the Nagaoka clan. Matahichi Yamazaki saved the Makino family from financial ruins and inherited the Hakuro brand. Stories of the Makino family and Yamazaki family are the most important part of discussing the history of the Hakuro brand.
On the day of our visit to the sake brewery, the Japanese gargoyle roof tile happened to be delivered, which we were permitted to view. I believe this tile would be interesting to anyone knowledgeable about the history of Niigata prefecture. I recommend a visit to the Hakuro Shuzo Brewery to review this roof tile to learn more about the history of the brewery. Our group happened to be very interested in how the brewery underwent changes in modern times. We visited looking forward to hearing from President, Shigeru Osaka how his concept of managing a “sake brewery” changed with the times since the brewery owner changed over time.
Of course, I am fully aware how delicious the sake is produced by Hakuro Shuzo Brewery. Slight seasonal changes in the brewing method and flavors are detectable in the “Sanzui series.” Their classic sake brands are “Hakuro” and “Three Oak.” The brewery also released sparkling sake and a collaborative brand NIIGATA ALBIREX BB. Sake produced by the Hakuro Shuzo Brewery is refreshing to the palate, consistent with sake brewed in Niigata prefecture; yet characteristic for it’s full-bodied flavor, rare for sake brewed in Niigata prefecture. In addition, the “Sanzui series” can differ significantly in flavor, depending on the production year. This is because the “Sanzui series” is still undergoing experimentation and evolving as a series. Already delicious as is, we can’t help but anticipate how much more flavorful the “Sanzui series” will become.
We toured the Hakuro Shuzo Brewery led by Master Sake Brewer, Mitsuaki Shirahara. The brewery was clean and spacious with many young sake brewers working on site. It’s wonderful to see Hakuro Shuzo Brewery raise the next generation of young sake brewers to take on sake production for the next generation. Workers appeared to be cleaning up after the day’s work at the time of our visit, yet we were permitted to tour the koji making room, storage tank, filtration machine and pasteurizer (a device that sterilizes sake with heat). Hakuro Shuzo Brewery seemed modern than most breweries we’ve visited so far. One advantage of sake brewed in a modern brewery is reliable quality.
Especially because of this day and age, sake by Hakuro Shuzo Brewery is enjoyable for its reliable, delicious flavors. Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture is also known for their spectacular fireworks. The firework display, a summer highlight of Nagaoka city, was unfortunately cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. A longstanding tradition since the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), the firework display was held as an ongoing festival to celebrate the city’s post-war recovery. Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, I look forward to seeing the firework display resume in Nagaoka city.


酒の専門的な話になるが、四段仕込法を試醸し全国的に普及させたのは新潟長岡である。そんな長岡には日本酒蔵が16蔵程ある。今回訪れた柏露酒造とは、蔵の歴史を辿れば1冊の社会科の教科書が造れる程、名門でありその反面、沢山の苦労の中で銘柄を守ってきた酒蔵である。この柏露という銘柄は、長岡藩牧野家の家紋「三つ柏」の「柏」の字を取って誕生したとのこと。その牧野家の経営の窮地を救い柏露を譲り受けたのが山崎又七という人で牧野家と山崎家の話が柏露の歴史を語る上で最も重要な部分となる。当日、山崎家の鬼瓦が偶然にも酒蔵に届いたとの事で見せてもらった。新潟の歴史に詳しい人からすると非常に興味のある資料だと思う。是非酒蔵に行って鬼瓦を見て柏露酒造の歴史に触れていただきたいと思う。私自身は、蔵の現代の移り変わりに非常に興味があり、時代の流れの中、経営者が幾度か変わっていく事で「蔵元」という概念とは違う酒蔵運営を、尾坂 茂社長から直接聞けるのを楽しみにしていたのである。勿論、酒の美味さは充分解っている。季節で微妙に製法と味わいが変わる「さんずい」シリーズ。定番「柏露」「三つ柏」。スパークリングや新潟アルビレックスとのコラボ商品も出ている。柏露酒造の特徴としては、新潟らしいスッキリ感の中に新潟では珍しい深いコクがあることだ。しかも、「さんずい」シリーズは年によって味わいが大きく変わる場合がある。なぜなら「さんずい」シリーズは、まだまだ模索中で進化途中とのこと。今でも十分美味い「さんずい」が今後、どう美味くなるのかは期待しないわけにはいかないだろう。そんな酒造りを行っている酒蔵を白原光明大杜氏の案内で見せてもらったのだが、清潔感のある広い酒蔵で、比較的年齢の若い蔵人の姿も多く見うけられた。次世代の酒造りの世界を背負って立つ若者を育てられる酒蔵は本当に素晴らしいと思う。時間的に、片付けを行っている様子だったが、麹室や貯蔵タンク、濾過機やパストライザー(お酒の加熱殺菌をする機械)を見せてもらった。私が今回見てきた酒蔵の中ではかなり近代的な蔵に入る。近代的な酒蔵の造る酒のメリットは、品質に対する安心感だろう。こんな時だからこそ、柏露酒造の酒は安心して美味しく飲める酒であると言える。そして新潟県長岡市で有名なのは、やっぱり花火大会である。夏の風物詩である長岡の花火大会は今年、残念ながらコロナウイルスの影響で中止になってしまった。明治時代から続く、この長岡の花火は戦後の復興のお祭りとしても行なわれる様になったそうだ。コロナウイルスが終息し、その狼煙としてもう一度長岡の花火が打ち上がるのを私は楽しみにしている。

#tokyo #sake #jizake #nigata


Japanese Sake and Shochu Cocktail

By Yuji Matsumoto

It's somewhat wasteful to use a high quality local regional sake for a cocktail, but if you use one that doesn't have too much of that full or rich taste when drank alone or doesn't have the distinctive smell of rice that many Japanese sakes have, you can make cocktails by adding fruits or syrups that brings out a surprising deliciousness.
For this issue, let me introduce you to sake and shochu cocktails that are also easy to make at home.

Nigori Sake and Peach Juice
3 oz. nigori sake
1 oz. peach juice (nectar family)
0.5 oz. peach syrup
Mix the above items with ice, and pour into a well chilled martini glass.
Its look will also be pink and popular cocktail with the ladies.

Pomegranate Martini with Japanese Sake
2 oz. Sake
1 oz. Shochu
1 oz. pomegranate juice
0.5 oz. pomegranate syrup
Mix the above items with ice and shake well in a shaker. Pour into a well chilled martini glass. It has the distinctive sourness and bitterness of pomegranate that is a cocktail fit for adults.

Shochu Grapefruit Mojito
2 oz. shochu
1 oz. sake
0.5 oz. yuzu juice with no salt
7-8 mint leaves
0.5 oz. syrup (ratio of 2 sugar to 1 hot water. Stir until completely dissolved and chilled until it reaches
room temperature)
Add the above items and grind down the mint with a muddler. Add ice and pour into a glass and dilute with club soda.
The fresh aroma of yuzu, grapefruit and mint is the characteristic. Caution is needed due to tendency to over drink.



3 oz. にごり酒 
1 oz. ピーチジュース(ネクター系)
0.5 oz. ピーチシロップ 

2 oz. 日本酒 
1 oz. 焼酎
1 oz. ザクロジュース
0.5 oz. ザクロシロップ

2 oz. 焼酎
1 oz. 日本酒
0.5 oz. 無塩ユズジュース
3 oz. グレープフルーツジュース
7~8  ミント葉
0.5 oz. シロップ(砂糖2に対してお湯1の割合。完全に溶けるまで混ぜ、常温になるまで冷ますこと)

#sake #shochu #cocktail #recipes


“Rubbing Alcohol Manufactured by Sake Producers: Part 2”

By Kosuke Kuji

The spread of the novel coronavirus caused a shortage of rubbing alcohol in the market.
Our company happens to distribute “alcohol,” licensed to produce alcohol as well.
However, Japanese sake is not highly concentrated alcohol. Our license we hold is for brewing Japanese sake, not a license to produce highly concentrated alcohol products.
In the midst of this dilemma, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare issued an unprecedented notice to “permit the use of highly concentrated alcohol products produced by sake brewers to be used as rubbing alcohol by the healthcare industry.”
In addition, the Japanese National Tax Agency presiding over permits for alcohol production issued a notice stating, “Major steps will be taken to relax the regulation of alcohol production as rubbing alcohol.” Further, since highly concentrated alcohol can be seen as hazardous material, the Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency also issued a notice to “ensure speedy and flexible implementation of the Fire Service Act throughout the community,” encouraging the production of highly concentrated alcohol by various Japanese producers of regional sake, shochu, Awamori, and other “national alcoholic beverages” like ourselves for use as rubbing alcohol by the healthcare industry. I’d like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Japanese National Tax Agency, and the Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency, etc., for their speedy decision to relax the regulations.
If someone was in need, I wouldn’t be able to pass by without offering help. Therefore, we immediately announced our decision to “produce rubbing alcohol,” and picked up the ball running.
Although we cannot produce surgical masks or protective clothing for the healthcare industry, we can definitely produce alcohol. Actually, we’re the only ones capable of producing rubbing alcohol.
We immediately launched our production of rubbing alcohol to fulfill our mission of helping those in need of rubbing alcohol to satisfy our responsibilities and mission as a licensed alcohol producer.

「酒類業者による消毒用アルコールの製造 その2」


#Sake #coronavirus


The Taste of Japanese Sake

Sake aroma is difficult to describe in one phrase. However, focusing one’s senses helps to detect the aroma of various plants and food ingredients harmonized together. This issue introduces the below aromas detected in sake.

Herbal and Spice Aromas
Cherry blossom leaves, thyme, lemon balm, clove, licorice, green pepper, cinnamon, mint, juniper berries, caraway, laurel (bay) leaves, estragon, French parsley, vanilla, nutmeg, green tea, rosemary, eucalyptus, Japanese mugwort, ears of rice, matcha, basil, turmeric and ginger.

Fruit Aromas
Lychee, melon, Chinese quince, apple, loquat, pear, banana, white peach, yellow peach, persimmon, muscat, dried fig, muskmelon, Yubari melon, dried banana, akebi, Asian pear (20th Century pear), mango, mangosteen, grape, nectarine, red bayberries, lemon, apricot, pineapple, sudachi, green apple, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, lime, orange, grapefruit, green ume (plum), kiwi, plum and yuzu.

Grain Aromas
Dried ears of rice, glutinous rice flour, freshly-pound mochi, sweet rice flour, adzuki beans, soy beans, rice, Kudzu starch gruel, tofu, soba (buckwheat noodles), bracken-starch dumpling, genmai (brown rice), sakura mochi (rice cake wrapped in preserved cherry leaf), malt, sweet potato, sticky rice, Domyoji (Kansai-style sakura mochi), tofu skin, corn flakes and steamed bread.

Wood Aromas
Green bamboo, bamboo, bamboo leaves, magnolia, new leaves, Japanese cypress, maple, pine needles and pine.

日本酒物語 日本酒の味







Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Trip to Niigata Prefecture Part 2)

By Ryuji Takahashi

This article is a continuation of my previous issue about my trip to Niigata prefecture to enjoy ramen and a local sake brewery tour. Niigata prefecture is home to the “Senami Onsen” hot springs in Murakami city. On the first day, we left the Kanemasu Brewery and booked a reservation at the traditional Japanese inn “Taikanso Senami no Yu” with the largest bath at the Senami Onsen hot springs to bathe and relax while viewing the sun set into the Japan Sea. As soon as we arrived, we had our temperature checked.
Initially concerned a high temperature might prevent our stay; we were luckily able to check in without any issues. Of course, we dropped off the luggage in our rooms and headed straight to the hot springs to recover from the long trip. Unfortunately, we went too early to see the sunset from the hot springs, but witnessed the sunset from the dining room while enjoying our dinner course.
Blessed by the beautiful weather, we enjoyed our dinner course while taking in the spectacular sunset. The next day, we left the inn and arrived at the Sasaiwai Brewery in Nishikanku ward, Niigata city; after approximately 2 hours. My hopes grew as I noticed the ambiance inside the Sasaiwai Brewery changed since my last visit.
The entrance of the sake brewery is similar to that of a café, adorned with repurposed sake barrels with a tasting room and display shelves creating a chic ambiance without appearing out-of-date. Sake production was already over by the time we visited. However, walking inside the brewery, I was overwhelmed by many historic architecture and tools that made my jaw drop in awe.
Brewery Master Sasaguchi explained reinstating the authentic regional sake production process in modern times while reorganizing a user-friendly workplace for his sake brewery workers. Still in his thirties, the young Brewery Master seems to be a capable CEO with a clear understanding of both the modern day demands and the future direction of the sake industry.
After a tour of the sake brewery, we asked about the large quantity of pottery lined on a shelf. The pottery was stored inside the storage unit, sold to visitors of the brewery at very cheap prices. Our chef was with me, so we bought small plates for use and a small serving flask for display at our restaurant. Happy to purchase rare antiques, we left the brewery in a very good mood.
We headed to the next sake brewery in Nagaoka. We stopped in for lunch at the ramen shop Koshu Hanten, renowned for their Tsubame Sanjo Seabura Ramen. The recent prevalence of thick ramen noodles in pork soup stock with pork back fat served in Tokyo originated in Niigata prefecture. Pork back fat is served floating on the soup surface to ensure the soup does not get cold in the cold climate of Niigata prefecture, along with thick noodles to ensure the noodles don’t get overcooked and soft before the very last bite.
I ordered 3 vegetable gyoza (dumplings) and a standard ramen. Although Koshu Hanten accepts orders for generous portions of pork back fat, I ordered the regular portion for my first visit. The gyoza was the size of a child’s fist, with 3 pieces sufficiently filling for someone with a small appetite. For the main course, the ramen broth was a bit on the salty side, but sipping together with the pork back fat neutralizes the saltiness to create the perfect harmony of flavors. I was surprised by this newly discovered function that pork back fat plays in the ramen soup stock as I finished the bowl. Full and satisfied, we headed next to another sake brewery in Nagaoka city, to be continued in Part 3.



Pointers for Selling Japanese Sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

For this issue I have put together pointers for restaurants and retail stores to sell Japanese sake and also important points for distributors in differentiation.

Grasp what customers like and offer the appropriate Japanese sake.
You will be able to do this by asking customers what type of alcohol and favorite wine(s) they drink regularly. For instance, for someone who likes bourbon, you can offer a junmai type that is prepared in a cask etc.

For the Japanese sake menu, instead of dividing it into specific class sakes (Daiginjo, Ginjo, Honjozo etc), divide it into taste types and food(s) it matches with.
It is not ideal to have a menu with specific names that do not describe the taste or aroma at all. It is important to taste test and with your judgment, create a menu that matches the taste of sake with the dish.

Offer cross merchandising with seasonal foods that can be used also by retailer stores.
Always point out Japanese sakes that are compatible with the daily dish (food item).

The sake cup; it is no exaggeration to say that it is the 'most important thing in drinking' especially for Ginjo types that have aromas.
Unfortunately there are very few "Japanese type" cups that are suitable with Ginjo type Japanese sakes with aroma, but we think it is a good idea to offer the first drink in a small white wine class as a taste testing for the customers.








Rubbing Alcohol Manufactured by Sake Producers: Part 1

By Kosuke Kuji

Due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, the entire world is still fighting the coronavirus today.
Since the Japanese constitution does not allow for a nationally enforced shutdown, the Japanese government declared a nationwide “state of emergency” and “requested” the general public voluntarily stay home.
As the novel coronavirus spreads, the greatest concern is the medical institutions.
With the usual medical services unavailable, the coronavirus spreading inside medical institutions could get doctors and nurses treating the coronavirus patients in the front lines infected, which could halt the medical services provided inside the hospital. The coronavirus did spread inside one Japanese medical institution, where medical services did stop briefly.
Healthcare providers working at these medical institutions are in the front lines fighting the novel coronavirus despite their own risk for infection.
I started to notice the desperate need for supplies lacking among these healthcare providers in the front lines.
“We don’t have enough rubbing alcohol.”
The novel coronavirus can be killed by sterilization with rubbing alcohol.
While healthcare workers regularly use rubbing alcohol even before the coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic caused a shortage of rubbing alcohol among medical institutions.
Despite the best efforts by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to supply rubbing alcohol for medical purposes, meeting the high demand for supply was proven difficult due to the ongoing pandemic.
With insufficient supply of rubbing alcohol in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I wondered how I could help as I questioned myself daily in search of a solution.

酒豪大陸「酒類業者による消毒用アルコールの製造 その1」



Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Trip to Niigata Prefecture Part I)

by Ryuji Takahashi

Just when I was longing for a break, feeling fatigued by daily updates on the coronavirus coming in from both the government and the city of Tokyo impacted by the virus, an end was announced to the stay-at-home orders prohibiting inter-prefecture travel. A chef at one of my client restaurants and his carpenter friend, a regular at his restaurant, asked me to join them “to go have delicious ramen noodles in Niigata prefecture.” Wanting to take a dip in the local hot springs, I decided to venture out on an overnight trip to Niigata prefecture.
I left the rainy city of Tokyo by car around 6:00 AM. The weather started to improve around Akagi Kogen (Akagi Nature Park) in Gunma prefecture. By the time I reached Niigata prefecture, the sky was clear and sunny. First, I headed to ramen shop “Anpuku-tei Kanda Restaurant” in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture to try their Tsubame Sanjo Ramen, prepared from pork back fat and dried sardine soup stock. Much to my disappointment, they were temporarily closed when I arrived. Instead, I headed ten minutes away to Aoshima Shokudo to try their Ginger Shoyu Ramen planned for the following day. Named as one of five renowned ramen representative of Niigata prefecture, the ramen shop was already filled to capacity just past 11:00 AM.
This was my first time trying ginger shoyu (soy sauce flavored) soup stock, a light ginger flavor with a depth very different from the usual shoyu ramen. I finished the bowl before I knew it, but convinced myself it was just as well to start working up an appetite for an earlier dinner than usual at the traditional Japanese inn, and left the ramen shop. Apparently, another restaurant location opened in the Akihabara district in Tokyo, so I planned to stop in there as well. My conclusion was, the shoyu ramen was addictively delicious! Afterwards, I headed towards the Sea of Japan to the Teradomari Fish Market Street.
Here, many fish markets and souvenir shops occupied the area, where I headed after the dinner at the inn to purchase snacks to enjoy with my sake. The area was bustling with visitors just after the inter-prefecture travel ban was lifted, with many vehicle plates from other prefectures. Shop owners were delighted to welcome back their returning customers. Apparently, tourist spots in rural areas took a significant economic blow, so I prayed there would be no explosive spike in active cases.
Next, I headed to the Kanemasu Brewery in Shibata city, producer of sake brands Hatsuhana and Kanemasu. I’ve visited several times before, but this was my first visit with the chef and his carpenter friend, so we started with the tour of the brewery. The chef and I tend to focus on the equipment, tank, and procedure to produce sake. However, the carpenter friend attending helped us enjoy the tour from another perspective, such as reviewing the structure of the brewery ceiling.
Touring a sake brewery with professionals from a different industry is fun! We enjoyed the sake brewery’s proud historic courtyard that drew great interest from the chef, a history buff. Having sparked my friend’s interest in sake was an accomplishment that made this trip worthwhile, considering our friend drinks a lot of sake but never expressed interest in sake breweries or the sake production procedure before. I graciously accepted the Hatsuhana Junmai Ginjo as a souvenir to enjoy back at the inn, and headed to the renowned Senami Onsen Hot Springs with the sun setting on the horizon. To be continued in Part II.



#Niigata #ramen #KanemasuBrewery


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