Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tsukasabotan Brewery “A True Classic”

The 90m long sake storehouse built around 1850.
A Time-Warp Back to the Edo Period
   Walking just a few minutes from the JR Sakawa Station, we noticed a large building with white plaster walls. The sweet, faint aroma of sake drifted over from the open brewery, and it was like we were immersed in the nostalgia of an old film. We were at the Tsukasabotan Brewery, a veteran business founded in 1603. This particular white-walled building is a sake storehouse called “Warehouse No. 1”, and it has around 160 years of history. Chief Brewer Asano said, “Ryoma Sakamoto likely visited this brewery when he left Tosa. Ryoma liked to drink sake.”
Tanrei Karakuchi
   The characteristics of Tsukasabotan’s sake are best represented by their Tanrei Karakuchi. The kanji characters for “tanrei” do not mean that the sake is weakly flavored; they mean that amidst light flavors, there is also deepness. “There aren’t just a bunch of flavors piled on top of each other to make a whole,” brewery CEO Akihiko Takemura told us with passion. “Think of the flavors as being gently woven into transparency. The flavors blossom.” A noteworthy characteristic of Tsukasabotan’s sake is that it complements the flavors of food, and food complements its flavor, so that you can drink a lot without realizing it. Also, sake is surprisingly seasonal. Newly brewed sake from winter to the beginning of spring is most recommended because of its freshness. Tsukasabotan’s newly brewed sake goes well not just with Japanese food, but also with marinated dishes and cream-based dishes.
The very bubbly fermentation process.
Chief Brewer Asano is Picky about Making Sake
   After rice polishing, rice washing, rice steaming, and koji yeast creation, each tank is filled with 3 tons of koji yeast and steamed rice where it ferments for 20 days. We took a peek at one of the tanks in the fermentation room, and the surface was covered in fluffy bubbles. Asano has been using the classic type of bubble-creating yeast ever since he became the chief brewer 11 years ago. Although it takes extra time and work to set up equipment that prevents the bubbles from overflowing the tank, Asano says that it is this bubbly yeast that allows him to make his delicious pure-rice flavors. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the flavor of sake is decided 20% by its ingredients and 80% by its maker’s processes. Although Asano partially utilizes machines in his work, his sake is still handmade by knowledgeable people with experience and know-how. The way Asano spoke about making sake helped us understand his conviction and love for his craft. 
Explanation of flavors
by Chief Brewer Asano.
Popular Even Overseas
   We were able to taste a few products in their antenna shop “Sake Gallery Hotei”, which was created by remodeling an old brewery as per the idea of President Takemura. We just loved their 2nd most popular product: “Yuzu Sake, Yama Yuzu Shibori”! It is made from Kochi yuzu and contains no additives like preservatives. It had a refreshing flavor that would be suitable for after eating or with a main meal. This sake is actually the top-selling sake at a Japanese supermarket in Hawaii, and it enjoys popularity in Europe and the US.

   Every Saturday in February, Tsukasabotan holds tours (space is limited, so reservations are required). They even have an explanation video in English for those who don’t speak Japanese. This is a rare opportunity, so why not go and experience the traditional atmosphere and practices of this veteran sake brewery?
Tsukasabotan Brewery
   Location: Takaoka-gun, Sakawa-cho, Ko 1299
   TEL: 0889-22-1211 FAX: 0889-22-4116

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