Compatibility between Sake and Japanese Cuisine

In this issue, let’s discuss the compatibility between sake and Japanese cuisine.
The flavor of sake enhances the flavors of Japanese cuisine and vice versa, a compatible combination that produces a synergistic effect that enhances both flavors.
Complex in flavor, Japanese sake is easy to pair with any cuisine and optimal as an alcoholic beverage to enjoy during meals.
Sake is compatible not only with Japanese cuisine, but various cuisines worldwide such as Italian, French, and Chinese cuisines, complimenting without overpowering distinct, subtle, and strong flavors or aromas.
Therefore, there are no rules for pairing sake like there are in wine. However, some are compatible in flavors while others are not. What are the guidelines to ensure good compatibility between sake and cuisine?
First, sake and cuisine with similar flavors produce a synergistic effect that enhances the umami flavors in both.
In other words, sweet sake pairs well with cuisine with sweet flavors, while refreshing sake pairs well with cuisine with refreshing flavors.
Second, sake and cuisine with different flavors can combine to create a new flavor. The combination produces a new flavor not present when savored individually.
Third, the sake flavor enhances the flavor of the cuisine, or the cuisine enhances the flavor of sake, where one enhances the flavor of the other. On the other hand, sake can inhibit the oily; bitter flavors in some cuisines while enhancing the preservability of the cuisine, another way that sake pairs well with cuisine.



#french #italian #japanese #sake


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


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


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


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


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Sake Brewed during the Coronavirus Pandemic)


By Ryuji Takahashi
At the time this article was being written, over half of the Japanese population had received the second COVID-19 shot. As the number of cases started to decline, the state of emergency declaration was soon to be lifted in various areas. Restaurants and liquor shops were looking forward to serving alcoholic beverages soon. The state of emergency declaration being lifted does not mean the number of customers returning will go back to pre-pandemic levels. The corporate year-end parties will not be as large-scale compared to the past. Therefore, liquor shop sales will not easily return to pre-pandemic levels either. However, customers can soon gather openly to enjoy sake together in small groups, perhaps even celebrate Sake Day on October 1. The “Hiya-oroshi, Autumn Edition of Draft Sake” should be delicious right now.
In addition to the summertime when Japanese sake does not typically sell much, the coronavirus further hindered Japanese sake sales. More than a few sake breweries had said they would not release limited summer edition sake in magnum bottles for this season. However, the limited fall edition sake “Hiya-oroshi” already released by various breweries were bottled in 720 ml and 1,800 ml (magnum) bottles. General consumers, liquor shops, and sake manufacturers are each feeling the impact from the coronavirus pandemic. In this issue, we introduce the sake “Kanemasu Red Label Draft Sake: Two Summers Over, Limited Autumn Edition Release,” gradually deepening in umami flavor over the last two years while awaiting release in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In this series, we’ve written several times about “Kanemasu Brewery” in Niigata prefecture, characteristic for their expertise in aging sake deliciously. Their representative brand, Kanemasu Red Label, is brewed using the Hashira Shochu Brewing Method from the Edo Period (1603-1867). This shochu brewing method stipulates pouring rice shochu into sake to ensure the sake will not spoil over the ten or more days required for transportation from Kansai to Edo. The Hashira Shochu Brewing Method was officially invented when this practice was discovered to age the sake just right upon arrival in Edo. This is the first shochu brewing method that adds alcohol to sake, like Honjozo. Originally, Kanemasu Brewery distilled whiskey following World War II. Therefore, the pot still distiller in the brewery is still used today to distill rice and sweet potato shochu.
This shochu brewing method was used to add shochu and complete the Japanese sake Red Label. Even the regular sake is aged for a year before shipping. “Two Summers Over, Limited Autumn Edition” is released once very two years. The undiluted sake aged for nearly two years is thoroughly aged with a smooth aftertaste. Industries associated with the sake industry suffered greatly during the last two years. Unfortunately, some restaurants and liquor shops closed their doors and businesses. I look forward to enjoying this sake aged in the brewery during the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years, as I pray for the beginning of a new era for the sake industry and for my sake industry colleagues to resume their businesses.


この記事を書いている時は、日本は2回のワクチン接種完了者が国民の半数を超え、感染者数が下がり始め、各地の緊急事態宣言解除が目前となり、飲食店や酒販店は、間もなく訪れる酒類提供の時を今か今かと待ちわびている最中である。もし解除になっても全ての飲食店の客数が元に戻るわけではない。年末の忘年会も今まで見たいな大規模なものは行われないだろう。それに伴い、酒販店も簡単には売り上げは元に戻らないだろう。しかし、少人数なら堂々と飲食店で日本酒が飲めるようになり、10月1日の日本酒の日を迎えることが出来るかもしれない。そして、今最高にうまい酒は「ひやおろし」だろう。夏はただでさえ日本酒が売れない時期に加えコロナで、一層日本酒が売れなかった。今期の夏酒に関し一升瓶は出しませんという酒蔵も少なくなかった。しかし、既に各蔵で発売が始まっている秋の季節酒「ひやおろし」は皆、通常通りの4合瓶と1升瓶を発売している。一般消費者も酒販店もメーカーもコロナ禍の終了を感じているのである。今回は、この2年続いたコロナ禍の中、密かに旨味を蓄えながら発売を待っていた酒「金升 朱(あか)ラベル 二夏越え ひやおろし」を紹介したい。何度か、この場で紹介させていただいた新潟県の酒蔵「金升酒造」。この蔵の特徴は熟成の上手さであり、代表銘柄の金升朱ラベルは、江戸時代の製法である柱焼酎仕込みで造られている。柱焼酎仕込みとは、酒を腐らせない為に、日本酒の中に米焼酎を入れ関西から江戸に十数日かけ酒を運んだ際、江戸に到着したら程良く熟成し非常に美味しい酒に変化していたことをきっかけに生まれた製法である。いわゆる、本醸造の様なアルコール添加酒の最初の製法だ。元々、戦後ウイスキーも造っていた酒蔵なので、蔵内にポットスチルという蒸留器があり、上手い米焼酎や芋焼酎を現在も造っている。この焼酎醸造技術を生かし完成したのが、米焼酎添加の日本酒、朱ラベルである。この酒は、通常商品でも1年は熟成させてから出荷する。そして2年に一度、「二夏越え ひやおろし」が発売される。二年近く寝かした原酒は、しっかり熟成感が有り、まろやかで後味がスッキリしている。この2年で酒関係業界は非常に苦しんだ。残念ながら店を閉めた飲食店や酒販店もあった。廃業や休業に追い込まれた酒蔵もあった。コロナ禍の2年間を酒蔵で見続けてきたこの酒を新たな酒の時代の幕開けと沢山の酒関係の仲間の再起を祈り、この秋は飲みたいと私は思う。  

#contest #covid19 #jizake #kura #master #nigori #sakagura #sake #tokyo


To avoid being on the “losing team”


By Yuji Matsumoto

This is a trend I’ve recently noticed in the last two to three years, but I’ve noticed a widening division between the winning vs. losing brands of sake and shochu.
The reason is as follows:
• The selling products vs. those that don’t are clear at the storefront
• At restaurants, labor costs food ingredients, and especially variable costs for fish and seafood, and fixed rental fees are increasing while the cash flow is tight
Especially on site, because the retention time directly influences the cash flow, future tasks includes how to increase merchandise turnover.
While there is no problem as long as the merchandise is turning over, it’s likely that restaurants are considering that perhaps, it’s better to rotate cheap Japanese sake (if not, it’s a dangerous sign) rather than having expensive Japanese sake worth 500 dollars sit in storage (with a retention period of 2~3 weeks).

What must the sake and shochu industry do in order to remain competitive “winners” in the industry?
-Are you effectively communicating and impressing the quality of your products to customers?
This is the first consideration to be made. The use of materials and verbal communication does not necessarily equate to effective understanding by customers.
For example, do you offer limited promotions?
On site, table tents and creating new menus require already limited time and manpower, with very few restaurants actually able to make such offers. Thus, help from sake manufacturers and wholesalers are greatly appreciated by onsite staff.
Also, more involvement in staff training and study sessions are helpful.



#japanese #restaurants #sake #shochu #training


The Muromachi Period (1336-1573) - The Evolution of “Souboushu” (sake brewed in large temples)

Souboushu (sake brewed in large temples) saved temples from financial difficulties, and was gradually consumed among the ruling class.
The production of souboushu started during the Heian Period (794-1185), when temples with shoen (manors with land managed by the temple) started producing sake from rice collected as annual tributes for shrine rituals. Buildings referred to as sake shops existed in the Todai-ji and Daigoji Temples.
Temples started selling commercial sake from the late Kamakura Period (1192-1333) into the early Muromachi Period (1392-1573).
In farming villages where riots broke out repeatedly, the economic base was unstable. Sake sales were started to ensure a source of revenue for temples.
Despite the common belief that monks are prohibited from consuming sake, alcohol was prohibited in principle only.
Until the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Buddhism was not clearly distinguished from Shintoism, thus Buddhist temples were commonly built adjacent to Shinto shrines. Therefore, sake for festivities as offerings to Shinto gods was produced in Buddhist temples, and despite sake being prohibited according to temple rules, sake was commonly consumed in low volumes.


#muromachi #sake #souboushu


Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kura Master 2021)

By Ryuji Takahashi
Recently, the Japanese sake contest “Kura Master” held annually in France for French competitors announced the 2021 winners of the “5th Kura Master.” The sake contest held annually in France since 2017 is judged by judges based in Europe consisting of members holding the prestigious title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (MOF) bestowed by the French government, top sommeliers and bar men of first-class hotels across France, members of the “Le Club Des Cavistes Du Japon” (an organization of independent liquor shops directly importing wine, champagne, and food products from foreign production regions without importers acting as a middleman), culinary school associates, and professionals from the hospitality and food industries.
Kura Master is a sake competition offering an opportunity to pair sake entries with various food products, to promote Japanese sake products to France and the European market through contests, sampling events, and various events; and for small sake breweries to find new sales routes. In pursuit of such opportunities, Echi Sake Brewery of Shiga prefecture (whose operation I help manage) submitted entries in the Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai categories. This brewery with hardly any brand recognition won the top platinum award in both categories with 5 entries selected, the highest number of entries selected in both categories. Echi Sake Brewery’s path to victory was not an easy one.
Echi Sake Brewery visited my sake shop approximately three years ago and consulted me about how to revitalize their business and what type of sake to produce to enhance their brand recognition despite not having any budget to develop new products or sufficient help. As I listened and sampled different categories of their sake products, I gradually started to wonder if the sake brewery was not aware of the high potential of their own sake products. Their sake products stored for years started to produce a sophisticated umami flavor they were not aware of. I suggested they rebrand and promote their sake products in storage and to verbalize their sake flavors, which took three whole years to accomplish.
Changing the brewery’s logo also took time. The brewery required some time to get on board with the decision to change their long-established logo. The brewery’s sake was resold as premium sake targeting their intended pinpoint demographic. Also, I convinced the Echi Sake Brewery interested in jumping on the fresh sake bandwagon to verbalize and promote their delicious aged sake flavor and their local long-established reputation, which took three years to accomplish. These efforts helped to sell their sake in storage and the brewery to win the highest recognition in 2 categories of this year’s Kura Master competition. I feel Echi Sake Brewery is finally standing at the start line. I wish for the brewery to please keep working hard to survive the market. As soon as one gives up on a challenge is when one’s dream ends in my opinion.


先日、毎年フランスで行われる日本酒のコンテスト「Kura Master」の2021年の受賞酒の発表があった。このクラマスター、2017年から開催されているフランスで行うフランス人の為の日本酒コンクールで、フランス人を中心としたヨーロッパ在住の審査員で行われる。フランス国家が最高職人の資格を証明するMOFの保有者をはじめ、フランスの一流ホテルのトップソムリエやバーマン、カービスト、またレストラン、ホテル、料理学校関係者など飲食業界のプロフェッショナルで運営されている。コンクールや試飲会、各種イベントを通して、マリアージュを体験する機会を創り、フランスをはじめとした欧州市場へ日本酒などをアピールする場を酒蔵などに提供してくれるので小さい酒蔵としては新たな販路を見出すチャンスを貰えるコンクールと言えるだろう。そんな、チャンスを求めて今回、純米大吟醸酒部門と純米酒部門に酒を出品したのが、私が運営を手伝っている滋賀県の愛知酒造である。お世辞にも日本で知名度があるとは言えないこの酒蔵がなんと今回、両部門で最高位のプラチナ賞を受賞し尚且つ、2部門とも最高の5本に選出された。この受賞に至るまでは簡単な道のりでは無かった。3年程前に、私が経営する酒販店に蔵元が訪れ、どうやったら酒蔵に活気が出るのか、どの様な酒を造って行けば認知度が上がるのか相談され、新商品を造る予算も無いし、人手も足りないとのことだった。サンプルを数種飲ませてもらい話を聞いていくうちに、蔵元自身が自分の蔵の酒のポテンシャルに気付いていないのではないかと思う様になった。売れていない数年在庫となっている酒に味が乗り始め複雑な旨味が生まれていることに気付いていなかったのだ。私からの提案は、在庫をリブランディングしてアピールする場所を変える事と、自社の酒の味を言語化出来るようにしましょうという事だった。それには丸3年かかった。蔵のロゴの変更にも時間がかかった。長年使ってきたロゴの変更には蔵元もなかなか決断が出来なかった。酒も特定名称の変更をして再販売し、ピイポイントで狙い撃ちの販売を行った。そして、フレッシュ酒の流行りに乗りたい蔵元を説得して蔵の熟成の上手さを売りにする事と昔からの地元評価を大事にしつつ、それをちゃんと言語化してPR出来るようになるまで3年かかったのだ。しかし、そのおかげで在庫として蔵に眠っていた酒は売れ、今回のクラマスター2部門で最高の評価を得ることとなった。やっとスタートラインに立つ事が出来たと私は思っている。生き残るには動き続けよ。挑戦を諦めた時点で、夢は終わるのだと私は思っている。
#contest #covid19 #jizake #kura #master #nigori #sakagura #sake #tokyo


First and foremost, get people to sample

By Yuji Matsumoto

Many people have never tried Japanese sake, and even if they have, the most they’ve tried is hot sake. Hardly any will remember the brand name., say “This is a great, try it” and offer a sample with a smile. And once a customer appears interested, take the opportunity to simply explain the information pertinent to support why the beverage is delicious. Therefore, how to create the first opportunity will be the key to success.

Deciding who to communicate the information to is important
Is sufficient training being conducted to servers and bartenders? Offering samples alone to customers will not be sufficient to understand the appeal of Japanese sake to customers. Why is this sake delicious…? This point needs to be thoroughly understood by staff members. Also, because sampling alone will not be sufficient to understand the flavors of the sake brand, always pair the sake with food for sampling. It’s important for customers to taste the drastic change in the sake flavor with their own palate.

To get the customers to try sake
Find things to say to the customer’s to get them to react, “Oh, really?” For example, “How about this dry, refreshing sake brand AAA from Niigata prefecture, that goes great with sushi?” Or perhaps, “would you like to try brand BBB from Akita prefecture, which goes great with teriyaki because of it’s full body?” During sales pitches, explain to customers in simple terms that entice the customer’s interest.





#japanese #nigori #niigata #sake #shochu


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