Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kikuyoi Brewery in Shizuoka, Japan

A visit to Michizakura

Sake in the spring time.  There really is nothing more wonderful to enjoy than a glass of your favorite anything in the sunshine.  Although, at the very moment it is dreadfully windy and cold here in the City, but spring is here and its not going anywhere.  Thank goodness.
At a recent "picnic" in Novato, CA for the Sunset Party season opener, I took the opportunity to enjoy a bottle of Michizakura Nama Ginjo.  One of
 the few bottles I brought back with me from Japan.  Tucked away in a little town called Fukuoka-cho, Michizakura utilizes some of the oldest equipment I have ever seen.  History and tradition are the foundations of this small brewery of Gifu Prefecture.  One of the 
smallest productions, perhaps the smallest, Michizakura makes only about 200 koku a year.  One koku is about 180 liters.   The earthen walls were cracked and moldy, tools on the walls looked as if they had been there for ages.  Michizakura-san prides himself on the fact that his sake is completely hand made.  Seeing all the mold and wear on the building, it prompted me to ask about yamahai.  Asked if he made any he said that he doesn't believe in making yamahai unless he is using wild yeasts in the process (rather than adding your own.)  This picture here is the door to his koji room.  He wouldn't show us in there for obvious reasons, it would have been cool to see though.  Today most koji rooms are temperature and humidity controlled environments.  Speaking of koji, Michizakura san's koji grows for about 51 hours.  Using a lot of koji at the beginning is called so-haze.  This allows the koji to grow completely into each rice grain producing a whole lot of enzymes which basically means more amino acids.  More amino acids means more umami and more depth to the sake.  
Michizakura san treated us, my father and mother in law, to a tasting of his sakes after the tour.  He gingerly selected 4 different brews for us to taste.  And like all great sake producers, I could feel the commonality between each sake.  His sakes were bright and fresh with supple fruits and an underlying weighty character that wrapped itself 
around the palate, finishing with a touch of nigami or bitterness to balance it all out.
I think what struck me about the whole experience at Michizakura was the balance of old-fashion and modern.  An avid blogger, Michizakura san regularly updates his workings, in fact the only reason I knew about the brewery was because of my husband, a true lover of anything local, encouraged me to visit and more specifically bring sake home to him!  These beautiful dainty blue bottles are made especially for Japan Airlines First Class flight to Taiwan.  The bottle and label design hint of a high production from a young, new brewery, but its just the opposite.  Just some of the nostalgia that keeps me enjoying sake.  How two or three men can take rice and water together with local koji and yeasts and create this divine elixir with sophistication and beauty.  Wonderful.