Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi – Part 3
I went back to the Kitagawa Honke sake brewery to check-up on the progress of lot no. 18.
This is part 3 of our sake series.
While I was visiting the brewery I was able to see the difference between mash that was just started (no. 20) and mash that was almost done (no. 18) fermenting. I also got to see the pasteurization process for premium, handcrafted sake. I peeked in on the koji production room and got to see 1000 liters of fine sake pumped into a tank for aging.
lot no. 18 Daiginjo
This is posted on the vat, it says the kind of sake that it will be (Daiginjo) and the kind of rice used (Yamada-nishiki). The other notes are; tank no.52, production lot no. 18, 1 ton of rice.
lot no. 18 Daiginjo – inside the vat
Now just a dense froth. The fragrance inside the tank is sweet, pungent and fruity – but lethal. The vat is filled with carbon monoxide, produced naturally from the fermentation. I put my head inside and inhaled deeply. I felt like I have been punched — hard! It took my breath away. (Kiddies, DON’T try this!)
lot no. 20 Daiginjo
lot no. 20 is the same kind of sake, daiginjo made with the same yamada-nishiki rice. Tank no. 53, production lot no. 20, 1 ton of rice.
lot no. 20 Daiginjo – inside the vat
As no. 20 just started a few days ago, it still looks like liquid. The bubbles are naturally produced by the fermentation.
A Bucket of Ice
Next to tank no. 52 is a bucket of ice. This is added to reduce the temperature. Remember, the lower the temperature the better the sake.
Pasteurization of Premium Sake
When I arrived today the kurabito crew was pasteurizing a small batch of Kitagawa Honke’s premium, handcrafted sake. Pasteurization of fine sake involves heating the bottle in a barrel of hot water for a short time and then dunking it in ice water.
Notice in the foreground the bottles that have been placed in the ice water. These are done.
The kurabito on the left is holding a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. The kurabito in the center is holding a thermometer the measures the temperature inside the bottle.
After reaching the necessary temperature, the bottles are gently turned upside down, back and forth several times to ensure complete pasteurization.
The final step it to chill the sake. This premium sake is pasteurized in lots of about 1 dozen 1.8 liter bottles.
This is the one warm room in the entire brewery! Koji needs warmth to grow. Remember, the most important ingredient in the sake production process is koji, so great care is expended in it’s production. After the koji is produced, it is added to the vat with to feed the fermentation process.
Koji Production – cleaning the incubator
Here one of the kurabito is cleaning out the koji incubator. Any koji that remains must be blasted out with pressurized air before the next lot is produced. Notice the kurabito is wearing just a t-shirt. It is very warm here, the rest of the brewery is just above freezing!
Koji Production – the end of the line
Some koji that spilled on the floor at the end of the conveyor belt.
I scooped up koji for a close-up photo. It is soft, powdery white growing on the steamed sake rice. It tastes quite sweet.
Here the kurabito is having a look at the koji as it is being moved in trolleys to the fermentation tank.
Here the sake is being moved from the vat after pressing to the aging tank where it will age for 6 months to a year. This is for larger volume production and is not 100% handcrafted, but very good stuff, never-the-less!
The machinery on the left will heat the sake and pump it up the the second floor where it will be put in a tank to age.
Tashima Toji (Brewmaster Tashima) inspecting the settings and getting ready to start.
The vat on the right contains the sake that will be pumped up to the floor above for storage.
A shot inside the vat. Sake is actually slightly golden in color.
A testament to the cold, I used some boiling hot water coming out of a pipe to warm my feet inside my kurabito rubber boots. It got real warm, real quick!
This is the hose that transports the sake up from the floor below. This was truly an amazing sight! (see next photo)
At the end, the sake becomes water as water is used to push the last of the sake through the hose. The kurabito frantically dips his finger into the sake stream, tasting it as quickly as possible. Just as it starts to taste a little watery, he pulls the hose out of the tank, blasting a few hundred liters of water all over the place (and probably more than a little fine sake too!). Quite a sight!
Taking a sample for the lab. A bottle is dunked and filled to be taken downstairs to the lab.
While shooting a couple shots up here, in just a minute or so I got quite a sake buzz! Why? This sake is hot, the vapors are intense and quickly intoxicate. I remember thinking that I was in a sake steam room! Completely different than sake served hot. It was quite wonderful!
Capping the bottle for the lab.
Aging Sake – sealing the tank
Rice starch glue is being painted on paper that will be used to seal the tank.
Sealing the cover.
Final step, clamping down the cover. Now wait 6 months to a year!
I snapped a few shots of the brewery.
This is a shot from the roof of the new wing of the brewery over looking the old (tile roofs).
The old brewery with the roof of the new wing in the background.
This is what ‘old Fushimi’ looked like.
Learning to Make Sake: Part 1
Learning to Make Sake: Part 2
Learning to Make Sake: Part 3
Learning to Make Sake: Part 4
Learning to Make Sake: Part 5