We have just added the Akita Konno “Special Ginjo” koji-kin to our offerings in the store. This new koji-kin has been developed at one of Japan’s leading koji-kin suppliers specifically for making Ginjo sake.
Unlike most koji-kin available for homebrewers, Akita Konno’s special ginjo koji-kin is specifically for making sake. We provide two 1 gram packets, each of which will make more than 3 lbs. That’s enough for two standard batches of sake.
The instructions provided have been reviewed by Akita Konno to insure the information given meets their high standards.
Ode to the rice farmer, 2011 California Rice Farming
This week I thought that it would be interesting to look at the rice production in the US. This quick look will actually be narrower than the whole of the US in that I am using material exclusively from the Sacramento Valley in California. However, many of the themes will be true for the US and are in stark contrast to what we often see related to rice for sake, our primary interest.
I have been watching the youtube channel RiceNews for a couple of years now and find it to be very interesting. All of the videos here have been selected from their offerings.
While the rice farming families in the US can’t go as far back as those of Japan can, many of those in the Sacramento Valley go back to the beginning of California production.
In the following, I have pulled together views into each stage of rice growing. There was nothing on drying, husking, milling and bagging so that is a missing piece. Maybe I can fill that in some time in the future. Continue reading “Ode to the rice farmer”
New US kura, the “Texas Sake Company” grand opening on Nihonshu no hi!
Today, Nihonshu no hi or international sake day, is not only a day to celebrate sake but, beginning this year, also the opening day for a new kura, sake brewery, in the great state of Texas. Texas Sake Company becomes the 7th currently active US sake brewery.1
Using a strain of organic Texas rice that is said to have a heritage that traces its roots back to rice from a Japanese delegation that came through Texas in 1904, The Texas Sake Company will specialize in local organic ingredients. Yoed Anis, the founder and Toji of Texas Sake is truly excited about using Texas grown rice with roots that go back to Japan.
Texas Sake has actually been operating for some time while getting ready for the grand opening, October 1, 2011. They began at least as early as February to produce test batches of sake which they gave away to their followers in Texas; a nice way to build the following. Their grand opening is being held at the brewery: 5501 N Lamar Blvd, A115, Austin, Texas.
It is wonderful to see a new kura starting up; welcome Texas Sake Company.
I have documented the other US sake brewers here. ↵
Possibly the first ever Bodai moto made outside of Japan!
I have just completed the pressing of a sake made with a bodai moto and while the story is still not complete I think this may be a good time to look at what we have so far. The bodai moto is the original method of creating a moto. As I have written before in this venue, the bodai moto was created from a sake brewing method known as bobaisen. Bodaisen was sake made using the same method used for bodai moto but there is no additions added later. For bodaisen you put all the ingredients together at the beginning and then ferment to the end with no additions. Over time it was found that adding a bit of the mash of a good brew to the beginning of a new brew helped make better sake as well as make it more reliable. As the properties of the sake improved while adding a “starter” from a good batch, this became the norm and even the first batch needed to have a starter and this push for better sake is how the method for making bodaisen became the method for making bodai moto.
Bodai moto is also called mizumoto or water moto. The name mizumoto makes a lot of sense once you begin to look at the method used and what it produces. The outcome of the first step of the method is a special water called soyashi-mizu that contains, along with the water, lactic acid that will protect the moto and the ferments made with this moto. There are also other compounds from various bugs that became active before there was enough lactic acid to kill them off. These bugs and their effect on the moto bring distinctly different contributions to sake. Similar to yamahai moto sake, bodai has its own funk.
To start a bodai moto we need to make the soyashi-mizu. Soyashi-mizu is created in the soyashi process which consists of mixing a small amount of cooked rice with raw rice and water and letting stand until the lactic acid reaches the desired strength. Now I should say that in the original process this is also key to cultivating a good yeast population. Because I will add yeast I am not really looking for this but it may also be a strong contributor to the resulting characteristics. Continue reading “Possibly the first ever Bodai moto made outside of Japan!”
The sake Hadaka Jima (裸島 – Naked Island) – Nøgne ø does sake
Nøgne ø, I believe is the first craft beer brewery in Norway and would make any US microbrewery proud. They, led by Kjetil, have been making outstanding brews. They have been very open with the Homebrew community so much so that Kjetil described how to clone his beers in an interview with the Brewing Network to be made available as part of the “Can you brew it” podcast series. One such episode is on Nøgne ø Porter.
Kjetil and True Sake, in an effort to raise more funds for the Japan relief, put a full flight of Hadaka Jima up to the highest bidder. I was excited to hear about this because Kjetil’s sake is not yet available in the US for purchase and I have been watching his progress from the time he first signed the contract to buy rice from Hokaido. I quickly sent in my bid and sat back for what I expected to be around a month before the bid would be complete. As it turned out, I got lucky and won the bid. Now, with 6 Hadaka Jima in my refrigerator I am ready to see what Kjetil and his team have created. I am really excited.
One of the first things we did while in Japan was to visit Yasutaka Daimon the owner and Toji of Daimon Shuzo. He is an incredibly nice and warm man who made us feel extremely welcome. During our visit I captured some video that I like but am a little embarrassed by. The quality and choice of where I was pointing and not pointing the camera could have been much better. Well, live and learn. I hope you find them interesting despite the quality.
This first video begins while we are talking about the moisture content of the rice prior to steaming. Yasutaka-san says that they shoot for a moisture content of 32-33% for the rice that will be used to make koji and 28% for the rest of the rice, the kakemai (掛米).
While in Japan I purchased a few sakes that I brought home; for the most part these were all small or tiny bottles. Anyway, I thought that you might like to see what I got. In addition to these, a friend from Kizakura Brewing gave me a bottle of their sake. It is the only standard size (720ml) bottle in the group.
I’ll start with the Kizakura. This was a very thoughtful gift. I had looked for sake from this brewery but had not been able to find one that had not aged too long. It is a brewery in Fushimi in the southern part of Kyoto. Hopefully as the industry here in the US matures issues like having old sake (that is not meant to be old) on the shelf will disappear.
this week, here are some pictures from the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery museum
Well we made it back from Japan this week. Still suffering from jet lag but that is how it goes. I thought that I would continue the description of the trip I started in the last post and add some of the pictures we took. However, this takes a long time the way I am doing it so I will just be dribbling this out to you.
This picture is of a couple of kurabito (蔵人) making a kimoto (生酛) by preforming the yama-oroshi (山卸) process. They do this by mashing the mixture with a tool called a kai (???) that has a flattish part on the bottom of the pole in the kurabitos’ hands. All of this mixing and mashing is done in a hangiri (半切), the half cut barrel.
This picture has a tool, don’t know the name, used to regulate the temperature of the mash. These are stored on a shelf in the back of the picture and a cut out version in the front center showing how it can be filled with hot or cold water before it is placed in the mash to control the temperature.
I am on a trip to Japan. It is really a vacation trip with my family where I can slide in a little learning about sake; well maybe. Other than just passing through Narita International airport, I have not been to Japan for many years. The last time I was here, there was no romaji (Romanization of the street names and such) and very little English spoken from what I could tell. On this trip there is quite a bit of romaji making it so we can get around. It seems like most people have a little English but not enough to do much more than small things. Interestingly, in contrast, it seems to me that more people speak better English in Shanghai than here.
The Osaka area is heavily “trained” and while a little scary and confusing at first we quickly developed our confidence and competence. We made our way on the Hanshin line, through the Nada Go-go (五郷) or Nada five districts, over to Kobe to see the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery museum. Nice museum with two cool fune (large manual sake press) on with a huge (literally a tree trunk 2’ in diameter) lever for pressing down a massive amount of pressure on the bags of moromi in the fune. I will post some pictures of this later if they turn out.
We then went to see the floating garden which is perched high (around the 35th story) between two office towers. I don’t know why it is called the floating garden because I did not see any garden there but it did offer a full 360° view of the entire area of central Osaka. We could see all the way over to Kobe where we had just been and deep into the city on the other side.
In the evening we went to Daimon Shuzo Mukune Tei to meet with Yasutaka Daimon, the owner and Toji. A restaurant above the brewery serves as a wonderful way to highlight their sake in a warm and inviting atmosphere. We tried 4 of Daimon-san’s sake, none of which are available in the States; a nama and two, maybe three, Daiginjo. Vary nice! (Daimon Shuzo has two brands available in the states, Mukune and Tozai) It was great to meet Daimon-san face to face and get to know him better.
Hitting your SMV (Sake Meter Value) – To ameliorate or not
One question that comes up over and over in sake brewing is how to hit the SMV value desired. Puzzling over this question I asked one of the brewers from Yoshi-no-gawa when the opportunity presented itself. This was well over a year ago now, but what he told me was that they monitored the moromi (main ferment) and when it reached their desired SMV value, it was time for Shibori or Joso, that is time to press the lees from the sake. Using an assaku-ki machine (an accordion like press), often referred to as a yabuta, they are able to remove virtually all of the lees and even the yeast. Because this leaves only trace amounts of the yeast, fermentation is stopped and the SMV value is stabilized.
Very nice! However, if you have seen my videos of the pressing process you may be wondering if something is amiss. Well, yes, something is amiss. My pressing method leaves a large amount of the lees in my sake so there is no way I am removing the yeast. This is true for most homebrewers. There are filters used for brewing that may be able to do what is needed. I have one but have not used it yet. In any case to use it I will have to first press and let settle or fine before filtering because the amount of lees would hopelessly clog the filter if the sake isn’t pretty close to clear. So, for now, I can’t use their method.