Meet Our Producers
In an era where good quality sake can be found worldwide, Chiyo Brewery strives for more through terroir-driven sake, a concept that may be common in the world of wine yet not so much with Japan’s national drink. Located in Nara prefecture, what is one of the most historic regions in Japan for sake brewing, current CEO Mr. Tetsuya Sakai (pictured) pays homage to his locality at every turn. He made the unique decision that rice used for sake brewing should be grown by his own staff members in the rice paddy fields built adjacent to the brewery in Kujira village.
Chiyo’s two sake brands also expresses terroir – the one reserved for all sake made from Yamadanishiki rice grown in their own rice field is aptly named ‘Kujira,’ while the ‘Shinomine’ range pays tribute to Mt. Katsuragi (which used to be called Shinomine in the past) which looms over the brewery and where all of the brewing water is sourced from. To top it all off, every sake produced is Junmai, a style of sake made without the addition of distilled alcohol, as Mr. Sakai believes that the true essence of sake can only be depicted through this most undiluted style.
While Chiyo Brewery may have limited production capabilities for being small, they compensate with big dreams to continue producing “sake expressive of terroir through utmost time and effort.”
For Mioya Brewery, creating the perfect sake requires one, a brewery method that brings out the umami of rice and koji and two, the respect of their unique terroir that is Noto peninsula, Ishikawa prefecture. The brewery’s central belief is to always strive for innovation while being true to traditions and that “ideal sake-making is attainable only when we explore the possibilities of sake by taking it seriously and listening to its voice.”
Carrying two brands of sake, Homare and Yuho, the latter was created as a passion project by current president Miho Fujita. While being one of the few female presidents of a sake brewery in all of Japan and having had no prior experience with sake brewing coming from a marketing background, Ms. Fujita did not shy away from following her gut when taking over the family brewery, which was that good sake must pair well with any type of food. To achieve this objective, Ms. Fujita found a kindred spirit in current master brewer Mr. Toshiaki Yokomichi, who was brought on board to create sake that respects the umami and acidity found innately in this rice-based beverage instead of subduing these aromas and flavours. Given how this dream team has perfected their craft, look no further than Mioya Brewery when in doubt for the perfect food pairing!
In north western Japan lies Yamagata prefecture, renown as producers of one of the highest quality ginjo sake around, a premium fruity and floral style requiring exceptional craftsmanship to brew. Despite such competition, Sakata Brewery (or ‘Jokigen,’ the name of its house brand of sake that has now become synonymous with the name of the brewery) leads the pack.
The secret to the brewery’s success lies with a certain Mr. Shoichi Sato, the current president and master brewer. Mr. Sato’s predecessors did not care about producing quality but more large quantities of simple sake. Yet with true passion (to this day you can find him helping out in the rice fields himself!) and a scholarly approach to the brewing process (i.e. experimenting with in-house yeast production), Mr. Sato has gained the respect of not only his staff but his colleagues within the sake world at large.
Probably most revered is the breadth of sake-specific rice Jokigen handles with a devotion to locally grown rice, as opposed to the rather limited choices of sake-specific rice other breweries decide to work with. Such avant-garde practices have clearly paid off for Mr. Sato, as evidenced by how the brewery has become a constant feature in national tasting competitions in recent years, taking top honours five years in a row!
Hyogo prefecture is known as the birthplace of sake and it is within this historic area that Ibaraki Brewery continues to push the envelope. From allowing locals to partake in the brewing process hands-on, to paying tribute to locally grown rice, to using innovative flower yeast to produce one-of-a-kind products, the brewery was distinguished as a registered Hyogo Prefecture tangible cultural heritage in 2008.
These efforts to continue the narrative of the evolution of Japan’s national beverage stems from Mr. Ibaraki, the ninth president and master brewer of this family brewery that was established in 1848. Mr. Ibaraki, a young, convivial yet ambitious spirit believes that “the greatest fun in life is chatting and drinking sake with really good friends. Our sake is made with the drink you would have at that type of gathering in mind.” Given this philosophy, the brewery’s house brand, ‘Rairaku,’ means ‘to bring merriment’ to those that drink their beloved sake.
Baird Brewing Company
Baird Beer was destined for success from the day husband and wife team Bryan and Sayuri Baird quit their jobs back in 1997 and headed to the Pacific Northwest, ground zero for the U.S. craft beer renaissance, to study brewing. Co-Managing partner John and wife Yumi travelled the journey with the Bairds from the very beginning, from when Bryan, back in Japan, was putting everything he learned into practice through a small brewing kit on his back porch.
When the Bairds opened the smallest licensed brewery in Japan and their very first Fishmarket Taproom in 2001, they were met with dislike or at best, indifference from their local community, as they did not serve their beer ice cold like how every other Japanese consumed the beverage. Fast forward two decades later, it is safe to say Baird Beer has proven the virtues of staying true to their craft brewery dream regardless of the obstacles thrown at them along the way.
From exclusive use of whole flower hops and other minimally processed ingredients to utilizing all-natural carbonation captured during fermentation to prioritizing a traditional practice known as ‘dry hopping’ to produce that exquisite bouquet characteristic of the brewery, the list goes on in why Baird Beer is now recognized as a trailblazer within the craft brewery scene throughout Japan and the world over, from the United States to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Singapore, and now London, UK!
Beer Hearn CEO Mr. Manabu Yano (pictured) is a generous man whose kindness simply seems to exude out of him, along with his undeniable obsession with beer, of course! He is also a profound loyalist to Shimane prefecture and its capital city of Matsue which he calls home, and his brewery is a testament to his devotion.
It is a mystery why Shimane, stretching along the western coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu, is not overflooded with tourists given its abundance of seafood and breath-taking shoreline scenery varying from sandy, secluded beaches to rugged precipices to lush greenery (clearly we should be relying more on divine wisdom as in myth, Shimane is said to have been the gathering place of ancient gods)! Mr. Yano hopes to brew beer people can fall in love with so that through the fruits of his labour, more people can become better acquainted with the culture, food and people of his cherished home. Additionally, the name and logo of the brewery are tributes to Matsue history as it is taken from Lafcadio Hearn, a 19th century author that emigrated to Matsue city and was one of the first foreign nationals to become a naturalized Japanese citizen.
As an extremely small brewery without much automation doing their very best to meet increasing demand, Mr. Yano finds any spare time to attend various beer festivals throughout the country to express first-hand the unique traits of his diverse beer portfolio. He is ecstatic to be expanding his Beer Hearn family all the way over to London, U.K., as it will be the brewery’s first debut onto the world stage, and hopes that the flavours of Beer Hearn can entice you to explore a part of Japan you haven’t been introduced to as of yet!
Since 1720, Okuhida Shuzo has held their steadfast belief that while anyone can have access to rice and yeast, exceptional sake making is born from good water and craftsmanship.
Nestled in the mountains of Hida-Takayama in the middle of Gifu Prefecture, this family-run brewery prides itself in utilizing clear spring water while finessing and protecting brewing traditions for centuries, in order to create premium sake that reflects their terroir.
50 years ago, the brewery added the production of vodka to their portfolio, if only a few thousand bottles per year. As a nod to their sake-making roots, only the finest rice cultivated specifically for sake production is used for their top-class craft vodka.
Tatsumi Distillery is perhaps the most craft of any Japanese craft gins and absinthe on the market. Each batch is handmade with tender loving care by Mr. Tatsumi alone in his namesake distillery in the heart of Gifu Prefecture.
Situated in the foot of the Japanese Alps, water is sourced from these pristine springs. Brewing techniques remain true to traditional practices and materials, using a copper pot still and a kabutogama still. The latter is a distillation method originally developed in the Edo Period and was widely used until the late 19th century, although it is only used by a handful of producers in present-day Japan given its small production capacity. However, Mr. Tatsumi is committed to reviving this method through his dedication to the virtues of patience and expertise to create authentic and one of a kind artisan spirits.