Monday, February 25, 2013

Of Yeast Patents and Yamahai.

Oba-san (pictured right) and Suzuki-sensei (middle) visited our shuzo today were both kind enough to spend 30 minutes discussing sake with me this Monday afternoon.

It was a very interesting afternoon, as I was in the presence of some brilliant sake professionals and was afforded the chance to share views on sake in America as well as learn something about two fascinating topics, sake yeast as well as a unique yamahai brewing method.


Oba-san; with the participation of Suzuki-san and my toji; Yoko-san; have developed a new proprietoty sake yeast called "Dream yeast #3". Our brewery, Wakatakeya Shuzo, was the very first brewery to brew sake with this yeast. I have tasted sake from the yeast, and it makes a very nice junmai ginjo sake. Our flahship junmai ginjo, called Tani (meaning "valley") uses this yeast. On this occasion, Oba-san was able to bring with him the official certificate of patent which bears the name of Oba-san, Suzuki-sensei, and Yoko-san. A picture of the patent, presented to Yoko-san today:

Yeast is one of four key ingredients in sake, along with rice, water and koji. The word yeast stems from the Greek word "Zestos" (boil) as well as the Sanskrit term yasyati (it seethes). Fukuoka prefecture, through the work of these three sake professionals, continues to demonstrate that there is still room for modern innovation with this ancient beverage.

Yamahai Innovation

I was also able to discuss the nuances of sake brewed in Chiba by Kidoizumi Shuzo, as they use truly unique brewing methods such as deploying high concentration of lactobacillus (instead of lactic acid) and thus brew sake via what is know as the "hot yamahi method". Suzuki-sensei, who used to profess at the prestigious Tokyo Agricultural College, understands this method very well as the toji at Kidoizumi is a former pupil (as is my toji, by the way).

Hakugyokko “White Jewel” from Kidoizumi happens to have been my favorite sake of 2012--and I sampled hundreds, as my friends and bartenders in three countries can attest!

For my friends in Oregon and Washington, you can order “White Jewel” sake through Southern Wine & Spirits. Please inquire with me if you are interested in learning more about this sake and I will direct you. I am fond of the importer's very informative landing page and slideshow:

Long day

I started my shift at 7 AM and I will end it at 6 AM. Sleep is fickle and comes late, not when I ask it, too! Later tonight I will turn the koji rice over with Yoko-san.

You will find me in Japan doing this every brewing season for the rest of my life. Now I need to figure out where I will go and what I will do when I am not brewing sake in the middle of winter. That's the $64,000 question on my mind lately.

Good night and kanpai!

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