Friday, March 27, 2009

Old Sake (>_<)

I'm talking about that bottle of sake that you opened about a month ago, you know, the one sitting in the back of your fridge.  The one you can't drink any more, but don't want to pour down the drain because "It's such a waste of good sake!"

Well do not fear, because I present to you:

10 things to do with old sake!
A Few fun uses you may not be aware of.
  1. Cooking sake-  Like a good bottle of wine a good bottle of sake can be used as an accent in many kinds of food.  In fact in my household we use sake in place of white, and sometimes red, wine, for all kinds of dishes ranging from pasta to stew and other meat dishes.  So don't be shy; throw in a splash of sake, and experiment to your hearts content!  Also very tasty in miso soup.
  2. Chocolate-  Sake (even old sake) is really good mixed in with dark, or milk, chocolate.  A little late for Saint V day, but next time you feel like making chocolate throw in a splash of sake!  Good for chocolate sauce for ice cream and the likes too!
  3. Put it on your face-  In our shop we sell a product called "Suppin," which is in essence old Junmai sake.  Slather a little bit on your face before bed, and it's guaranteed "baby butt smooth" skin.
  4. Put it in the bath-  Pour about a cup to a cup and a half of sake into the bath water, and enjoy a bath that will warm you up better and leave your skin smooth and beautiful. 
  5. Dried out cheese-  "Dried out cheese?!" That's exactly what I said too, but if you brush a little sake on that old dried out piece of cheese in your fridge, it will miraculously come back to life!
  6. Rice-  Pour a little sake in the water before cooking, for some killer white rice.  Also, spray a little sake on refrigerated or frozen rice before microwaving for that "just cooked" taste.
  7. Fishy fish-  Soak raw fish in a little bit of sake before cooking to get rid of that persistent fishy smell.
  8. Seafood-  Besides making really delicious seafood dishes, sake can also play an important role in saving seafood for later.  Steam shellfish with a mix of water and sake, then keep them in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.  Make a mix of sake and salt, then soak raw fish in it.  Drain and dry, then freeze for up to 2 weeks.  Unfreeze and eat any time with very little loss of flavor.
  9. Instant Ramen, cup noodle, Yakisoba-  Thats right, put a little sake in your noodles.  For ramen, add a splash right before turning off the heat. For cup noodle a little before you eat.  For yakisoba, a little sake before you sauce it goes a long way.
  10. Meat tenderizer-  That cheap cut of meat you bought at the supermarket, the one you were planning on stewing for hours to make edible.  Marinate it in a bit of sake for a couple of hours, and you'll have tender delicious meat.
This is not to mixed up with "koushu," or aged sake,  which will last a lot longer after opening, and is not good for a lot of the uses above.
Of course there are hundreds of uses for sake that has been open too long, so if you have some uses that are not on my list, feel free to post your own tips, recipes, suggestions, or questions as comments to this post or to your own sake blogs!

That's it for this time folks,
Until next time,


Meishu no Yutaka staff

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kenkonichi Junmai Daiginjo

Here's a little bone for all of you out there who enjoy a meaty full bodied Daiginjo!
Coming from Miyagi Prefecture's Oonuma Shuzo-ten brewery, I present to you:

Kenkonichi / 乾坤一
Junmai Daiginjo Nakadori / 純米大吟醸 中取り
Alcohol: 16% / Polish: 45%
SMV: +2
Brewery: Oonuma Shuzo-ten / Miyagi Prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Light, clean, With sweet fruity notes.

On the palate: Very clean and crisp. Very full bodied with lots of meaty rice flavors, and a nice lingering finish.

Other notes:
  • Oonuma Shuzo-ten is a very small brewery with limited production. This one might be a little hard to find, but well worth the search if you can.
  • The Kenkonichi label, is a line of sake containing: Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, and Daiginjo. The main focus even up to the Daiginjo level is on flavor rather than smell, so don't expect an award winning bouquet. Instead look forward to a Full bodied sake that will match a wide range of foods.
  • My drinking suggestions for Kenkonichi's Junmai Daiginjo are: slightly chilled or room temp.

Meishu no Yutaka staff

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NEW: Gorin Junmai Daiginjo Nama!

This time we are going to take a little trip down to Ishikawa Prefecture in Southern Japan.
Our destination, Shata Shuzo, makers of Tengumai and Gorin!
I will be introducing one of their newest sakes, as well as a little bit of fun they call Honey sake.
Then we will take a look inside the brewery to see how they're made!

Gorin (go-rin) / 五凜
Junmai Daiginjo Nama / 純米大吟醸生
Alcohol: 16% / Polish: 45%
SMV: +4
Brewery: Shata Shuzo / Ishikawa Prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Slightly fruity, with lots of sweet rice fragrances. Very fresh and clean, with a bit of yeast, a good Nama-zake smell. Not as fragrant as your average Daiginjo.

On the palate: Very fresh, and slightly fruity. Sweetness from the rice comes first, followed by a slight bite towards the end. Full bodied, with a mouth watering finish that leaves nothing desired.

Other notes:
  • The main goal with the Gorin series (Containing Junmai, and Junmai Dai-ginjo, in both Nama, and once pasteurized varieties), was to create sake that focuses mainly on taste rather than fragrance, and is a perfect match to a wide range of food.
  • Shata Shuzo's main variety of sake is Yamahai, so this is a completely different direction for them, however they do have a Yamahai version of Gorin in the works as we speak.
  • Gorin is made from one of the most popular varieties of rice in Japan: Yamada-nishiki. Widely recognized as one of the best, if not the best, sake rice in use today. It is very easy to brew with, giving the brewers a lot of flexibility, as well as adding a layered fruitiness to the sake itself.
  • Comes in 720ml and 1.8L bottles.
Tenshi no Mitsu (Angel's Honey) / 天使のみつ
Honey sake / みつのお酒
Alcohol: 14%
Brewery: Shata Shuzo Ishikawa Prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Sweet molasses.

On the palate: Sweet lightly fruity, reminiscent of plum and honey.

Other notes:
  • What makes this Honey sake different from just a normal mead, is that not only honey is used for the fermenting sugar. The main ingredients are: Honey and Koji molded rice. The addition of the Koji gives this a little extra boost of fruitiness and depth.
  • Comes in one size: 300ml.

Shata Shuzo Brewery
This is a trip that I made about a month ago. I was waiting for the arrival of Gorin's Junmai Daiginjou in order to give you the full experience.

Shata Shuzo, located on the outskirts of Kanazawa City, is a relatively small brewery. Shata Shuzo's number one policy is quality first. This can be seen in every step of the brewing process.

The first factor, and most likely the oldest, is water. As was explained to me, the water comes from the peaks of Mount Haku, one of Japan's three "holy mountains." The water travels underground for almost 100 years before it reaches the wells at Shata Shuzo. This creates an exceptionally clean and pristine water that is, most importantly, almost completely free of iron (a vital factor in sake making).

The second factor, is the rice. The rice used in most all of Shata Shuzo's sake is a variety of Sake rice (rice that has been specially bred for sake making, and is generally higher in starch and lower in fats and acids than normal table rice), Called Yamada-Nishiki. As I explained briefly above (in the other notes section of the Gorin tasting), Yamada-Nishiki is heralded as perhaps the greatest sake rice in use today. It provides a fruity liveliness to the sake, and because it is relatively easy to make sake out of (as compared to other strains of sake rice, it is still very hard to make sake), It gives the brewers a lot more freedom to refine the sake, than they would otherwise have.

the third factor is polishing. 100% of the rice used in Shata Shuzo's sake is polished on site. This is becoming a rarity in the sake world, mainly due to the enormous price of the polishing machines (there are only two breweries in Ishikawa prefecture that polish 100% of their own rice). This allows them to ensure the quality of their rice polish.





Next we move on to Koji mold cultivation. As was explained to me by Shata Shuzo's master brewer, or Toji as they say in Japanese, about 70% of sake depends on Koji. It seems a little silly that so much can ride on one little mold spore, but after going to the brewery, eating the freshly made koji rice, and the n drinking the sake made from it, there is no doubt to the amount of the flavor and smell, that directly stems from this powerful little fungi.

(1) Shatta Shuzo's hot room, the temperature in this room is kept uncomfortably warm (Temp varies from Brewery to brewery) with high humidity. The rice is held within long trays, and the temperature, in this case, is controlled by opening and closing the sliding doors beneath the trays. The whole apparatus was hand made by brewery staff.

(2) Koji cooling room, and master brewer Mr. Tokuda. Here the finished koji rice is cooled and readied to be added to the mash.

(3) Close up of the finished Koji molded rice. At this point it is of a hard marshmallow consistency and puts off a very distinctive sweet smell. Personally, I wish they packaged this stuff like potato chips, because it is delicious.

(4) Here is a peek inside the bag of Koji (let go to spore), that is used to seed the new Koji rice. I can't tell you what strain of Koji it is, as it is restricted information that they do not openly share.

Next I will explain a bit about the steps leading into the main mash, or "moromi" in Japanese.
This process happens in several steps over a period of 4 days, and is called "san-dan Shikomi."

Day 1
Step 1: The Shubo, or yeast starter mash, is added to the main fermentation tank.

Step 2 (Soe): Water, rice, and Koji rice are added to the shubo, roughly enough to double the volume. (writing on sign says "Soe")

Day 2
Step 3 (Odori): The Mash is left to sit for an entire day, in order to let the yeast re propagate. The name odori is thought to have come from two sources: 1. the large stair in the middle of a staircase in which you stop to take a rest is called odori. 2. odori can also mean to dance, which is what the mash appears to be doing as it bubbles away.

Day 3
Step 4 (Naka): Water, rice and Koji rice are again added to the mix, roughly doubling the volume again.

Day 4
Step 5 (tome): The last step, water, rice, and koji rice are added for the final time, doubling the volume again.

After step 5, the process is over, and the result is called "Moromi." At this point the main fermentation begins. Fermentation lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks, to over a month, depending on the grade of sake being produced.

Next is the pressing stage which I have explained in a previous post, so I will just breeze over it.
Shata Shuzo has 2 Fune presses, and a large accordion press. most of the press work is done in the accordion press, save for the daiginjo class sake.

Freshly pressed Tengumai Yamahai Junmai. I was lucky enough to get a first hand taste, Delicious!

Lastly we had a tasting of this years sake. going from left to right we have: Tengumai Daiginjo, Tengumai Junmai Daiginjo, Gorin Yamahai Junmai, and a taste of Gorin Junmai Daiginjo's moromi.

Whether it is Tengumai or Gorin, I highly recommend any of the lineup of sake from Shata Shuzo.


Meishu no Yutaka staff

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aragoshi Mikan!

Aragoshi "Mikan" is here!This time I will be introducing another Liqueur.This little beauty is from the fine people over at Ume no Yado shuzo (Recent article posted on Urban Sake
Aragoshi "Mikan" (mandarin orange)
あらごし みかん
Alcohol: 7%
Brewery: Ume no Yado Shuzo / Nara Prefecture
Sake and distilled alcohol base

Tasteing notes:
On the nose: Mikan Juice.

On the palate: Tastes just like mikan juice, save the slight warming feel from the alcohol. The alcohol comes through a little bit on the tongue with a slight bite on the finish, but doesn't get in the way. Lots of pulp.

Other notes:
  • The key point with this drink is it has a LOT of pulp, which creates a really fun and interesting taste. As you drink, and chew, each kernel of mikan explodes with a burst of sweet juice. Definitely a must try!
  • Unlike a lot of Liqueurs these days, "Mikan" is not overly sweet or concentrated, so you can drink this one straight or on the rocks.
  • "Mikan" is just one of a long list of liqueurs put out by Ume no Yado, so look forward to more in future posts!
  • "Mikan" is an unpasteurized liqueur, so keep this one in the fridge.
  • Comes in one size: 720ml.


Meishu no Yutaka staff

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tsuru-Ume "Lemon" is here!

The newest addition to our store's line up is a liqueur with a sake base! A great match!

Tsuruume / 鶴梅
Lemon / れもん
Alcohol: 7% / Sake base
Brewery: Heiwa shuzo / Wakayama prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Very strong sweet lemon, almost a candy lemon, fragrences, Crisp.

On the palate: Great balance of both sweet and sour, like a good lemonade. Very refreshing, but concentrated.

Other notes:

  • The Tsuru-Ume series has a whole line up of Plum wines, Yuzu-shu, Strawberry liqueur, and Lemon. More to come on the rest of the seiries in future posts!
  • The label is something you don't find on many bottles in Japan too. In an attempt to reach a younger croud, Heiwa shuzo's future owner is trying out a series of hip lables.
  • Be careful with this one, because you can't taste the alcohol at all, don't over drink!
  • My suggesting for drinking this one is on the rocks, although I am currently looking into sorbet and popsicles!
  • Comes in 2 sizes: 720ml and 1.8L.

Meishu no Yutaka staff

Friday, March 6, 2009

This years Shizukudori, and the Brewery that makes it!

In this installment, I want to highlight one of Hokkaido's premier breweries.
Hokkaido doesn't have a strong reputation for good sake,
however there are breweries making some pretty good stuff.

Today's introduction is a private label sake that Meishu no Yutaka and about 10 other sake stores have put out called: Hokutozuisou Shizukudori.
It is only available in and around Sapporo in a select few shops, so you will have to come up here to get it.

Hokutozuisou Shizukudori / 北斗随想しずくどり
Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu / 純米吟醸 生原酒
Polish rate: 45% / Alcohol: 16~17%
SMV: +5
Brewery: Kobayashi Shuzo / Hokkaido

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Light, slightly fruity, with hints of rice. The alcohol comes through on the nose, but doesn't over power it. The nose is a little light for the average Ginjo class sake but very clean.

On the palate: Smooth with sweetness from the rice coming up first, followed by the Genshu spiciness, and finally the bite from the high alcohol content. Medium bodied, a little light bodied for a Genshu, but won't let you down.

Other notes:

  • Shizukudori is classified as a Ginjo, however it is more than qualified to be a Daiginjo. This is by choice of the sake stores (actually by the president of our store).
  • This is a Genshu so once again I will remind you to be careful of the high alcohol content.
  • Because this is a private label sake, we the Sake stores have the privilege of having a hand in the production process. We tell the brewery what kind of sake we want them to make, and they brew it. We do how ever Help in the bottling phase each year. Usually we help in the pasteurization phase, although this year we helped by hand bottling the entire batch (well over hundred cases). I was lucky to participate this year, and it really gives me a new appreciation for all of the work that goes into a single bottle of sake.

Kobayashi Brewery:

We were lucky enough to get a full tour of the brewing facilities after helping to label the new batch of Shizukudori. Kobayashi shuzo has one of the longest histories for breweries in Hokkaido, with over 130 years under it's belt. It is run within a series of old brick buildings, which I forgot to take any pictures of (I apologize), which are truly a sight to see. The facilities include the brewing room, several warehouses, an office, a Soba restaurant, and a museum / sake store.

First things first, bottling. Unfortunately most of the pictures I have of this have too many people in them to post to the web, however I did manage to get a couple I could use.

Above are (top) the advanced piece of technology that we used to put the labels on straight, and (bottom) a palate of finished cases going off to the warehouse.

Next was a tour of the brewing facilities starting from the unbottled sake storage area, and the pasteurizing area.

Above: (top) brewery staff regulates the temperature of the Pasteurization tank, (bottom) Huge 1,000+ liter storage tanks full of sake awaiting bottling.

The next stop was the Koji cultivation area (I love the smell of fresh Koji). We were not able to go inside the cultivation area, because of potential contamination, but i did snap a picture of the Koji cooling area.

It was quite an interesting setup, as the cooling room was just a tarped in area at the doorway to the hot room.

Next is one of my favorite areas, The brewing room!

(top) The brewing tanks as seen from the upper platform, used when brewing and caring for the sake. (bottom) A look into one of the tanks, this one has been brewing for a while and has settled a bit.
Kobayashi Shuzo uses closed tanks instead of the open topped tanks you see most used these days. There are no real changes made to the sake it's self, however open tanks are easier to clean, where as closed tanks keep things from falling into the tank better and are safer.

Next we took a look at a couple of Shubo tanks (yeast starter mash, written as 酒母, literally translated it means "sake mother").

(top) this batch had just been started the day before, but was already starting to go at it. It was really warm, and already starting to put out some CO2 gas. (bottom) This batch was about 4 days old by the time we saw it and it had a nice foam on the top with enough CO2 gas build up you couldn't stick your face into it. The temperature had dropped by this time, and It was really starting to smell like sake.

The final stop on the tour was the pressing room. The main pressing is done by a series of large accordion presses, but they also have about 10 Fune presses as well (see picture), that unfortunately they are not using at present.

(top) This is your standard accordion press used in just about every brewery in Japan. It consists of a series of fabric balloons into which they pump the unfiltered sake. They then slowly apply pressure to the balloons, lightly squeezing the liquid sake out, leaving behind the Kasu (leavings). This process takes a great deal of time as too much pressure can damage the sake.
(bottom) This is the series of Fune presses I mentioned above. it is an older styled press which is much more labor intensive, and is still used in many breweries today, mainly for Daiginjo sakes. It requires the unfiltered sake to be poured into fabric bags by hand or by pump, and then loaded into the press tub by hand. Most of the pressing is done by gravity, only at the end is pressure from the press applied.

The final product is Shiboritate, or Fresh pressed sake! Not much tastes better than the sake scooped from the nozzle of the press.

Well that's it for today. I hope that you have found this interesting and informative. Please feel free to give me feedback and suggestions!

Meishu no Yutaka Staff

Monday, March 2, 2009

English blog Launched!

Welcome all to the newly launched English weblog for Meishu no Yutaka. My name is Carlin, and I am creating this blog in the hopes that I can share a little bit of the knowledge I accumulate in my sake studies with other sake enthusiasts.

I find myself a long way from my former home of California, as I start my new life in Japan as an employee and future part owner of the biggest specialty sake store in Hokkaido. I have been working in Meishu no Yutaka off and on for the last 2 years and became a full time employee in Dec of 2008. I am in no way a sake expert, however having the privilege of being in a position so close to the heart of the sake world, I thought that it would be fun to share some of my experiences with those who may not have the chance to see the sake world first hand.

Well that's enough of the formal stuff for me. Lets move on to the fun stuff.
As a staff member of a sake shop it is part of my Job to taste all new sake that comes into the store (all work and no play make Carlin a dull boy). Together with the sake that I drink out-side of the shop, I get to taste a fair amount of sake. My intention with this blog is to post Tasting notes on as muc
h of the sake as I can (although unfortunately there are some brands of sake that I am not allowed to post to the Internet), Any and all trips that I make to sake breweries, and as much insider info as possible about the inner workings of the sake world.

That being said, what better way to kick off a new sake blog than to post tasting notes on one of my favorite sakes, from one of the most sought after Breweries in Japan: DENSHU!

Denshu 田酒
Tokubetsu Junmai Shiboritate Nama Genshu
Polish rate: 55% / Alcohol: 18%
SMV: +2
Brewery: Nishida Shuzou / Aomori Prefecture

Tasting notes:
On the nose: Sweet, fresh, clean, with a lot of Koji and rice fragrances. Not a lot of the yeasty unpasteurized characteristics that you get from a normal nama-zake.

On the palate: Dry with good acid balance, strong bite on the finish coming from the high alcohol content. Full bodied with a lot of sweetness from the rice carried through on a nice bed of spiciness you get from a good Genshu.

Other notes:
Denshu tokubetsu Junmai Shiboritatte Nama Genshu comes in one size: 180ml.
Because it is a Genshu it has a relatively high alcohol content, so be careful not to drink too much.
Nishida Shuzou is a small brewery so their production is quite limited.
This sake is very hard to find in Japan, let alone the rest of the world, so if you find it else-where, I take my hat off to you my friends.
If you can find it, I highly recommend drinking this little beauty, or any other sake under the Denshu label.

This is a new endevour for me so please feel free to give me feedback and suggestions on the Blog. I want to make this as fun and informitive as possible! Also please excuse my long windedness this time around, I promise the posts to come will be a little shorter.


Meishu no Yutaka staff