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.
An old enemy of Sake and the sake brewer is Hiochi-kin or hiochi bacteria that spoils sake as it grows and reproduces. Unlike most bacteria (bugs for short) hiochi-kin does not mind alcohol and some even like alcohol. So as most Lactobacilli, which are heavy lifters in Kimoto and Yamahai moto styles of sake, will die off as the alcohol levels increase hiochi-kin does not. The other factor that usually keeps the bugs out is low pH levels like those found in sake which are a result of acids created in or added to the moto. However these hiochi-kin also like low pH, highly acidic environments.
As it turns out, hiochi-kin is a lactic acid bug or more specifically it is one of two bugs Lactobacillus (L.) homohiochi and L. fructivorans (a.k.a. L. heterohiochi). These are the “true” or “obligate” hiochi-kin and need hiochic Acid (more commonly known as mevalonic acid) for their growth. Other hiochi-kin or sake spoilage bugs are referred to as “facultative” and include: L. fermentum, L. hilgardii, L. casei, L. paracasei and L. rhamnosus.
Koji produces the needed hiochic acid. The fact that “true” hiochi-kin need hiochic acid implies that these bugs are highly adapted to sake production. Thus they have few other environments in which they can grow. Hiochic acid is an intermediate compound in the biosynthesis of many other compounds so it is not normally seen in a stable state (i.e., not part of a biosynthesis process). The chemical makeup of hiochic acid follows.
OK, so I have finally pulled together a complete page on making koji for sake brewing along with the videos. As with the videos for brewing sake there is nothing amazing here but that may, in fact, be the amazing thing. When it comes to making koji, like brewing sake, it is all very doable.
I believe the text for the koji making page is very readable and stands on its own without the videos. However, the videos may help to solidify what is said in the text. All in all I hope you find the page useful and enlightening!
Oh, FYI, I have linked the koji making page into the top of the Recipe page for convenience.
Today as I am making a test batch of koji that I am working on as a new offering (Special Ginjo Koji-kin), I am led to thinking about the aroma of the growing koji. What is that smell? Where does it come from? Well it seems that the answer, at least at the level I can discuss here, is not that complicated.
The aroma of a fresh batch of koji is often described as being chestnut like. This aroma was noticeable during my check of the growing koji at 20 hours into the process, not strong but definitely there. As the time goes by the aroma is strengthening. I am not sure if I would equate the smell of koji with chestnuts but I find the smell nice and even comforting. So what is making this aroma?
It seems that the aroma is coming from a combination of phenylacetaldehyde, 1-octen-3-ol and 1-octen-3-one. Production of phenylacetaldehyde seems to stop at around 40 hours into the process while the production of 1-octen-3-ol and 1-octen-3-one continue and can even double their concentration during the final stages of koji production (hours 44-50). However, as 1-octen-3-ol and 1-octen-3-one concentrations overwhelm those of phenylacetaldehyde a more mushroom like aroma becomes noticeable. Individually phenylacetaldehyde and 1-octen-3-one have a rose like and a mushroom like aroma respectively. Continue reading “Aroma during koji production”
Ontario Spring Water Sake Company – Canada’s third Sake Brewery!
As of April 29th 2011, the retail doors of the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company have swung open bringing a third Sake Brewery to Canada. The first The Artisan Sake Maker and second Nipro Brewery Co., Ltd. are both in the Vancouver, BC1 area while Spring Water is in Toronto, Ontario.
For Ken Valvur, the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company is his second business with his first being Bento Nouveau, a sushi business. He has been very successful with Bento Nouveau and it appears that he is going all out with Spring Water as well. For example, he has consulted with Miyasaka Brewing Co., Ltd. in the development of the new brewery, his general manager is steeped in the sake business from working with Gekkeikan and training from Gekkeikan and Miyasaka. Ken has also employed a lady toji, a member of the Saku Toji Kai guild as consulting master brewer. In addition Spring Water is the first Canadian member of the Brewing Society of Japan.
The new brewery will have around 2000 square feet for brewery, retail outlet and tasting room. To start they will make and serve only Junmaishu – Pure Rice Sake – but will eventually experiment with higher milling rates for finer quality sake.
Welcome Ontario Spring Water Sake Company.
I have documented the other non-Japan, non-US sake brewers here. ↵