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


  1. I was tried a few choice selections of this sake at a restaurant called Uni Murakami. Good stuff indeed.

  2. Look forward to this years release too!
    I had a chance to taste it the other day (doesn't go on sale for another month or so) and this year may be the best vintage yet!
    Will post some tasting notes on it soon!