Wednesday, November 14, 2007

11/8/07: Day 7 in Japan Part II - Harushika Brewery Photo Essay

I was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Takano knew someone in Harushika Brewery; even more pleased when Mr. Sakurai of the brewery was able to take time out of his busy schedule to meet with me and provide tour of the premises on less than one day notice. Mr. Sakurai has worked in many capacity of the brewery, and he is currently focusing his efforts on marketing and logistics. While he was working on production side, he was involved in product development, including the sparkling Tokimeki. I couldn't have been blessed with a better guide!

Harushika is located in the heart of Nara

Innovative Mr. Sakurai with one of his creations

Machine used to polish rice. The rice is sent up by a belt to the top, and it falls down towards the bottom to be milled by two milling stones. It's a slow process - to polish down to Daiginjo-class, it takes 48 hours.

Harushika's steaming facility (left) and cooler/conveyer (right)

This is a four-level machine used to maintain Koji Rice.

Day 1 of Shubo, the saké starter. Note the very chunky nature.

Shubo, Day 2.

Tanks in Harushika. They are about twice the size of Dassai, over 9,500L.

This is a coil used to help maintain temperature of the tank. Cold water passes through the coil to lower temperature.

Most of the sakés are pressed using Yabuta.

Some of the higher quality selections are pressed using Funé. Yaegaki "Mu" Junmai Daiginjo uses this Funé as well.

This old cask was purchased in order to produce saké in the style made several hundred years ago. If it didn't go well, it would have been used as a bath tub... More on this later.

Storage area. At Harushika, they bottle about 8,000 bottles on a busy day. The biggest surprise was that with their brand recognition in the States, I actually expected a much larger operation!

After the grand tour, it was time to try some selections. Mr. Sakurai brought out four selections, which were diverse in style. First selection was the familiar "Chokara" (SMV: +12, Rice: Yamadanishiki/Shinriki, Seimaibuai: 58%) What was different was that Japanese bottling is milder than the US version, to accomodate for taste preference of each countries. Second was the "Hiyaoroshi" Junmai Ginjo Nama (SMV: +2, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaiuai: 60%) with its liveliness and balanced Ginjo flavor and mild earthiness.

The next selection was the rare Kioké-Saké "Yamahai Junmai Nama Genshu" (SMV: -9, Rice: Hinohikari, Seimaibuai: 70%), created in traditional method and aged in the wooden cask noted earlier. This had rich and sweet approach somewhat like Umé-shu, before taking on the flavor of fresh mushrooms. Mr. Sakurai was rather philosophical when it came to coming up with the label for this saké. He believed that by studying tradition, we can learn something new; thus, he wanted the label to reflect "modernness." The label notes website for this particular saké, and the center design is like a UPC code, where consumer can scan it with their cellphone and receive all the information about the saké. (Yes, our cell phone technology is in Stone Ages...)

Lastly, Mr.Sakurai poured Junmai Daiginjo Nigori (SMV: +2, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 50%), which was light, lightly effervescent, and pleasantly dry.

At this point, the President of the Brewery Mr. Imanishi joined us, and we talked saké, covering global marketing, future of saké, and saké and dining in the New York market. He also mentioned one hat-wearing American saké enthusiast, who is everywhere in New York saké scene, and even visited Harushika riding his folding bicycle. Mike C, Mr. Imanishi sends his best regards!

For further information about Harushika, please visit:

Harushika (English)
Harushika (Japanese)
Harushika Event Blog (Japanese)
Harushika Gourmet Blog (Japanese)
Kioké Saké

A BIG thank you goes to Mr. Imanishi, Mr. Sakurai, and staff at Harushika Brewery!!!

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