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January 24th Is Beer Can Appreciation Day! Celebrate with Yuzu Lager Can!

January 24th Is Beer Can Appreciation Day!

On January 24, we celebrate Beer Can Appreciation Day in remembrance of the day beer was first sold in cans. While it might seem silly to add this to the never-ending list of “national days,” it is an important day that marks the invention of the light and unbreakable cans, which we now take for granted. And you can never have enough days to enjoy this glorious, thirst-quenching drink!

Canned beer first went on sale in the US in 1935. These cans were referred to as “cone top” cans and combined the shape of a flat can and bottle to create a peaked top. This design allowed brewers to use their bottle and packaging lines to fill cans, and seal them with bottle caps.

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Canned beer production had a pause during World War II, but after it came sweeping back into the mainstream. With more beer brands sticking to canning as opposed to bottling, the need for versatile packaging was less important and cone top cans started fading out. The next modernization of canning started in Pittsburgh, home of aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. Iron City Beer was the first to use the the easy-open can with a pull tab in 1962.

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In 1969, the sales of canned beer surpassed those of bottled beers for the first time. And in 1975, the first fixed tab beer can was produced by Falls City Brewing Company and is used by just about every brewery and soda company to this day.

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Celebrate with Yuzu Lager Can!

This Yuzu Lager is the perfect drink for celebration if you’re looking for something new and unique!

Located in Ibaraki prefecture, Kiuchi Brewery have been producing beautiful sake since 1823. Now they’ve also stepped successfully into the world of beer with their award winning products, such as this yuzu lager.

Hitachino Nest Yuzu Lager is a fruity, citrus forward beer with a deep, bitter edge. On the palate you are greeted by a pleasant maltiness with an invigorating yuzu character. The beer finishes with a subtle hoppy bitterness with the citrusy character lingering throughout. This lager is extremely refreshing and drinkable, and is a must-try for all beer fans!

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Types of Sake Rice: Gohyakumangoku and Its Characteristics

Click here to read the previous article about Yamada Nishiki sake rice!

Gohyakumangoku Sake Rice

Gohyakumangoku was born in 1938 at the Nagaoka Head Office of the Niigata Prefectural Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1944, the strain was named “Kousei No. 290,” but the research was temporarily suspended due to World War II, and in 1956, the first test brew was made, and the following year, in 1957, the strain was named “Gohyakumangoku” in commemoration of Niigata Prefecture’s rice production surpassing 5 million koku (Japanese unit of volume, 1 koku is around 150 kg).

Gohyakumangoku is a fast-growing, early-season variety developed to suit the climate of cold regions. Gohyakumangoku is a smaller grain that is not suitable for high polishing rates, but it has a large shinpanku (starchy heart of the grain) that allows the koji mold to penetrate easily. Unlike the thicker Yamadanishiki and Omachi varieties, Gohyakumangoku is a little harder and has a crisp and clean taste compared to the rich and often full-bodied sake made with Yamadanishiki. It has a strong core and is the perfect rice for brewing the light, dry sake, symbolic of the Niigata style.

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Yamada Nishiki (left) vs. Gohyakumangoku (right)

Nowadays Gohyakumangoku is cultivated all across Japan, with its highest producing regions being in the northwestern prefectures of Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. It is the second most produced sake rice after Yamadanishiki, and is one of the two top sake brewing rice varieties.

Recommended Sake Made with Gohyakumangoku 

Founded in 1754, Tsuji Zenbei Shoten is a traditional sake brewery that has been brewing sake in Tochigi prefecture for more than 200 years. While preserving the history and tradition, they have always adopted the latest technologies, and their Junmai Ginjo is brewed with local rice and water. With the slogan, “homemade taste is possible because we are small”, they aim to brew sake with the unique taste of Tochigi in close contact with the local community.

To experience the crisp and clean taste of Gohyakumangoku, we recommend trying their Junmai Ginjo, a sake with a rice polishing ratio of 53%. The middle part of the sake, which has the least amount of odd flavors, is bottled without any heat treatment. The aroma has a hint of fruitiness, and the palate is crisp, fresh and refreshing. It does not interfere with food at all.

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Types of Sake Rice: Yamada Nishiki and Its Characteristics

The Importance of Rice in Sake

The main ingredient in sake is rice. Steamed rice is added to make koji (rice malt) and yeast starter, which promotes alcohol fermentation. Steamed rice is also added when the koji and the yeast starter are combined and fermented to make the unrefined sake, so rice always plays a role in the sake brewing process. It is no exaggeration to say that the type of rice used in sake brewing determines the taste of the sake, so rice is very important in sake brewing.

As with grapes in wine, different varieties of rice impart different characteristics in sake, and wouldn’t it be interesting to get know sake by the variety of sake rice.

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King of Sake Rice

There are about 100 varieties of rice suitable for sake brewing in Japan, and Yamada-Nishiki is considered the “king of sake rice”. Yamada-Nishiki has all the characteristics of rice suitable for sake brewing, including a large starchy core (shinpaku), large grains allowing to withstand high rice polishing rates, low fat and protein content, and easy water absorption.

Yamada-Nishiki was born in Hyogo Prefecture, and one of the reasons for its top production is that the climate and soil of Hyogo Prefecture are most suitable for it. Yamada-Nishiki from the so called Toku A districts (cities of Miki and Kato in the western part of Mt. Rokko) in Hyogo Prefecture is considered the best.

Sake made with Yamada-Nishiki is said to have an aromatic, delicate, and clean taste. Another important feature of Yamada-Nishiki is that it can be used to make high-quality koji, so even when the sake is made dry with a higher alcohol content, the flavor and sweetness of the rice remain.

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Yamada-nishiki (left) vs. Regular rice (right)

Recommended Yamada-Nishiki Sake

To experience the superiority of Yamada-Nishiki is, of course, try sake made with it.

Rihaku Brewery especially focuses of the quality of water and rice. The water used for sake comes from a deep well near the brewery; it is soft water that melts in to the palate, drawing the various flavors with it. Their Junmai Daiginjo is no exception when it comes to quality of rice and water.

Rihaku Junmai Daiginjo is made from Hyogo-grown Yamadanishki polished up to 45%. Fermented in a low temperature for a long period, it has a quiet fragrance for Junmai Daiginjo but the flavour is clean and soft, with a little bit of crisp. A sake that shows the best qualities of Yamadanishki!

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Kurabiraki Is New Sake Season! Celebrate with Eikun 70 Junmai!

 New Sake Season Is Beginning!

If you like Japanese sake (nihonshu), then you know that one of the most exciting times of the year has nearly arrived–kurabiraki season! Kurabiraki is when sake breweries open their doors to visitors and offer free or low-priced tastings of most or all of their sake. Around the end of January to May, each brewery held an event called “Kurabiraki”.

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Also, have you noticed this ball hung in front of Japanese brewery? This is called Sugidama or Sakabayashi. It is not only a decoration but also showing the sign that the brewery is ready to serve new brew of sake. The ball stays up until next year’s sake is ready.

The cedar balls are usually hung in February and March, which is the season for new sake, and the cedar balls serve as a sign that “new sake is ready this year”. The newly hung cedar balls are still lush, but eventually wither and turn brown. The green color (February to June) is for new sake, the light green (early summer to summer) is for summer sake, and the withered brown (autumn) is for hiyaoroshi.

Recommended sake

To celebrate we recommend sake from the brewery in the famous Fushimi sake district in Kyoto. Saito Shuzo, which brews sake brand called Eikun, has set an unbroken record of winning the gold medal for 14 consecutive years at the National New Sake Competition, an annual competition for new sake.

Eikun 70 Junmai is made with the aim to create a during-a-meal sake that does not feel heavy. It has a clear, crisp, and light taste, making it a versatile sake that goes well with a variety of dishes. It is a versatile sake that can be served cold or warmed, showing different qualitites depending of the serving temperature. When served cold, it has a mild dryness and crispness, and when warmed, the rice flavor is enhanced and the taste becomes deeper.

It is great sake for everyday to suit everyone’s taste and cuisine!

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The Best Selling Sake in December Was Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu!

The Best Selling Sake in December Was Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu!

Nakano BC is one the top umeshu producers. The brewery uses a superior quality Nanko ume from Wakayama to make its umeshu. To preserve the delicious flavor of ume, the brewing tanks are managed by a team of skilled workers who carefully check the acidity and sweetness of umeshu, mixing the fruit and changing tanks as necessary.

On their best-selling products is Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu, which is a unique blend of yuzu juice, which was extracted from fruits in Shikoku Island and umeshu liqueur. The acidity of the ume fruit and the refreshing aroma of yuzu are well harmonized to create a pleasantly crisp flavour.

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Since its release in 2006, it has been a long-selling plum wine that has remained at the top of the popularity charts, and is served in many restaurants all over Japan. It has won Gold medal in Liquor and Spirits Category at the Lyon International Competition in 2020 and 2021. Kishu Yuzu Umeshu is the first Japanese plum wine to win the top prize in the liqueur and spirits category for two consecutive years.

Serve it on the rocks in summer, or hot with hot water in winter. You can also enjoy it with soda for a refreshing taste!

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Kojika Shochu: Crafted in Partnership With Farmers, With Rice and Sweet Potatoes Straight From the Distillery’s Own Farm

Kojika Shuzo

Ōsumi Peninsula, where Kojika Shuzo resides is in the southeast region of Kagoshima prefecture. The northeast borders on Miyazaki prefecture, its west faces Kinko Bay and the southeast faces the Pacific. The Pacific coast region is designated as Nichinan Kaigan Quasi-National Park, including scenic site Cape Sata and is blessed with rich nature and the warm weather.

Mountain rain pours on the forest, then is absorbed into the earth and eventually becomes underground water, polished and refined with time. Fresh streams of underground water are constantly bubbling in Gyokusenji Park near Airasanryou, Gyokusen meaning “fountain of jewels” and ji meaning temple. Kagoshima shochu is specifically blessed with pure spring water drawn from a depth of 100 meters (328 feet), rich in minerals and infused with Kagoshima’s southern air.

Kojika shochu is carefully crafted in partnership with farmers, with rice and sweet potatoes straight from the distillery’s own farm. It is made with carefully selected ingredients like groundwater from the foot of the surrounding laurel-forested mountains and sweet potatoes grown just in time for the distilling season.
Sweet potato shochu is produced from September to November, during which time you can tour the distillery while it is in action.

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Kojika Imo Shochu

The standard and most loved shochu in Kojika. Made with fresh, high quality sweet potatoes, the soft aroma and delicate sweetness is suited to enjoy daily with dinner.

It’s best to serve sweet potato shochu warm but oyuwari is less of a hassle. First, pour hot water in a glass. If making a 5 : 5 ratio oyuwari, cool the water temperature to between 80°C to 90°C (176°F to 194°F). Next, pour in Shochu Kojika.  You can use the same temperatures when making 6 : 4 or 7 : 3 ratio oyuwari.

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Kojika Black

Kojika Kuro is a sweet potato shochu made with kuro koji (black koji). The fermentation of kuro koji during the production process is more rapid than that of shiro koji (white koji), resulting in a bold sweet potato shochu. With Kojika Kuro, the brewery has succeded in  completely eliminating the undesirable flavour that comes from sweet potatoes without losing any of the rich, unique flavor. As a result, both the novice and the enthusiast can enjoy the original aroma of this sweet potato shochu.

Recommended served with water and / or on the Rocks. When served on the rocks, adding a little water enhances this sweet quality.

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December 30th Is Miso Day! Celebrate with Kinshachi Miso Lager!

Deceeber 30th Is Miso Day

Established in September 1982 by the National Federation of Miso Industry Cooperative Associations (Zen Ajikoren), which has its secretariat in Shinkawa, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, and collects and disseminates information related to miso.

The date is derived from the reading of “30th day” as “Misoka. 30th day is also written with kanji meaning “New Year’s Eve” and read as “Misoka” or “Tsugomori. New Year’s Eve is the last day of every month, and in this connection, December 31 is the last day of the year, and is called “Omisoka/Otsugomori”.

At the time the anniversary was established, there was a trend toward westernized eating habits and eating out, and the anniversary was established with the aim of halting the accompanying decline in miso consumption.

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Interesting Facts About Miso

miso_awaseMiso is a traditional Japanese seasoning, made by fermenting rice and/or barley with soybeans, salt and a fungus called Kojikin. The result is a thick paste used for soups, sauces and spreads, and pickling veggies or meats.

miso_awaseWhite Shiro Miso is the sweetest, it is yellow in colour and usually takes about a week to make. It is fermented soybeans with rice, salt and water. Tastes sweet with a salty aftertaste. Originally from Northern Japan where there are lots of rice fields.

miso_awaseRed Aka Miso usually takes up to one year to make. It is soybeans fermented with wheat or barley, salt and water. This creates a deeper red-brown colour and earthy salty taste with a sweet aftertaste.

miso_awaseBlack Hatcho miso is the rarest and the most premium miso. It takes a whopping 3 years to make where the soybeans are fermented with salt and water only. It is a thick, dense paste that tastes salty like soy sauce, but actually contains the least salt compared to the other misos.

Try a Lager Made With Miso!

This unique Japanese style Lager is brewed with akamiso (red soybean paste), a specialty of Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Exotic and unorthodox, it has a beautiful bold palate with rich flavour and a sweet scent, created by combining the umami of red miso and malt. The velvety smooth finish and its miso flavour is well suited for this style of beer and is a must-try among beer advocates. And we have just the perfect snacks to go with this unique beer!

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Asobijin Junmai Shochu: From the First Sake Brewery in Kumamoto

Zuiyo Sake Brewery in Kumamoto

Zuiyo was founded in 1867 in Kawashiri, a town that prospered under Hosokawa rule as a place where rice harvests were collected and stored. Zuiyo was the first brewery to make the switch from akazake, the only alcohol being made in Kumamoto at the time, to sake brewing.

Akazake is a kind of akumochizake, a style of alcohol to which ash has been added in order to make it slightly alkaline and prevent spoilage. For hundreds of years, akazake was the only alcohol allowed in Kumamoto and sake could neither be produced here nor brought in from outside. Great changes in Japanese society in the second half of the 19th century, like the Meiji Restoration and the Satsuma Rebellion, led to legalization of alcohols other than akazake, and brewers in Kumamoto began experimenting with sake.

“Let’s make the first sake in Kumamoto that represents Kumamoto”.  Following this idea,  Tahachi Yoshimura was one of the first to start making sake in the 3rd year of Keio (1867). About 20 years later, on the morning of New Year’s Day in 1889, Tahachi opened the door of his sake brewery to let the new year’s light into the brewery, something suddenly jumped out at him. A closer look revealed that it was a hawk that had flown in after a sparrow. The hawk flapped its wings bravely and flew around the warehouse. “A hawk on New Year’s Day… what a happy omen!”, Tahachi felt a great sense of hope. This is how the name “Zuiyo” (literally meaning “good omen hawk”) came to be, and became a sake brand that is celebrated both in name and reality.

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Asobijin Shochu

The Kumamoto Prefectural Sake Brewery Research Institute, which created Kumamoto yeast (a.k.a. Kyokai No. 9),  was born as a part of Zuiyo’s sake brewery, with the determination to expand the brewery and take over the sake that was made regardless of the finish. Zuiyo continues to use this Kumamoto yeast as the main yeast, and after recovering from Kumamoto 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes, the brewery continues to study the art of sake making with sincerity, keep the traditions that need to be preserved, and innovate where changes are needed, while brewing a local sake that fits the Kumamoto climate, and a “gorgeous, full, and well-balanced sake”.

However, sake is not the only alcoholic beverage they are known for. Zuiyo also produces wonderful shochu. And Asobijin shochu lets you taste the best of both worlds – it is scochu distilled from junmai. The water used for brewing is abundant subsoil water from the mountains of Kyushu and the caldera plateau of Aso. It has a neat and soft taste reminiscent of Aso Bijin, this shochu is soft and light flavoured rice shochu, just as the name Asobijin suggests (meaning Kumamoto Aso’s beauty). Enjoy it mixed with hot water, on the rocks, or with plums.

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The Three Great Toji of Japan: Learn About Tanba Toji and Try Its Sake

Click here to read about the origins of The Three Great Toji of Japan and Nanbu Toji

Tanba Toji

Tamba Toji is one of the three major Toji in Japan, along with Nanbu Toji (Iwate Prefecture) and Echigo Toji (Niigata Prefecture). Tanba Sasayama area is famous for its deep fog, with the phrase “Tanba Sasayama is deep in the mountains, but when the fog falls, it is at the bottom of the sea.

The history of Tamba Toji is very old, and in the book “Tamba Toji” published by the Tamba Toji Association, it is written that the first Tamba Toji appeared in 1755, in the middle of the Edo period.  By the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), about 50 Toji were recorded. Tamba toji were originally farmers who traveled to the sake-brewing region of Nada to earn money during the off-season winter months. In the 300 years since, they created nearly all of Nada’s most famous sakes. In the Tanba Sasayama Dekanshobushi song (folk song that accompanies bon dances in the summer), the lyrics say “Who makes the famous sake of Nada? Tamba brew masters, the pride of Sasayama.” Around 4,100 Tamba toji are said to have been active across the nation at their peak, creating many different types of regional sake.

Sake is the product of 300 years of history, tradition and mastery. The exquisite taste, aroma and colour of the sake are brought out only by the top quality rice and water, together with the Tamba Toji who have been training sake brewers.

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 Kotsuzumi Junmai Ginjo Hana Fubuki 

One of the famous breweries in Tanba Sasayama is Nishiyma Shuzojo, founded in 1849. Nishiyama is a classically modern brewery, respecting its history while forging ahead with new styles for the future. They are located deep in the heart of Hyogo, one of the great sake regions of the country, and blessed with the best conditions to grow premium sake rice, which they are able to do in the areas surrounding the brewery. They also limit production to remain sustainable and to maintain their resources and outstanding quality.

Kotsuzumi Junmai Ginjo Hanafubuki is a beautiful clear blue bottled sake, which goes well with delicate Japanese dishes such as sashimi, sushi, vinegar flavored dishes, etc. It is restrained and versatile sake that begins with a delicate light nose of melon rind and young green fruit, with light texture that creates a balanced and transcendent sake.

In Japanese, hana (花) means flower and fubuki (吹雪) means snow storm. So, hanafubuki literally means ‘flower snow storm’ – or more commonly, ‘cherry blossom blizzard’. It happens once a year when the sakura petals begin to fall. In the haiku world, “hanafubuki” is synonymous with spring, as the appearance of cherry blossoms falling in the form similar to snow is characteristic of the spring season.

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The Three Great Toji of Japan: Learn About Nanbu Toji and Try Its Sake

What Are Toji and Toji Groups?

The term Toji refers to the person in charge of the production of sake at a sake brewery, who supervises and controls the sake brewing staff. Toji is the person responsible for the production of sake, while kuramoto is the owner or manager of the brewery.

The modern Toji system is thought to have been established in the Edo period (1603-1868). Until that time, sake brewing was the responsibility of women who worked in the government offices called miki no tsukasa, which were responsible for brewing sake for the imperial court. However, as sake became more popular in the Edo period, it became necessary to brew large quantities of sake at a time. The industrialization of sake meant that the brewing of sake became more of a labour-intensive task, and men took over. There was a time when women were forbidden from brewing sake, in order to maintain public morals in the brewery, but today it is not uncommon to find women toji and brewers.

The Toji system eventually led to the formation of Toji groups. The purpose of these groups was to hold competitions and workshops, to exchange information and to improve their brewing techniques. Toji groups exist all over Japan, but the most famous are known as the “Three Great Toji of Japan”. The three most famous are the Tamba Toji in Hyogo, the Echigo Toji in Niigata and the Nanbu Toji in Iwate.

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Nanbu Toji and Their Sake Characteristics

Nanbu Toji is a group of toji (master brewers) who originated in the town of Ishidoriya in Iwate Prefecture. It has the largest number of members in Japan, with 3,200 members at its peak in 1965. The excellence of Nanbu Toji techniques has become famous through out of Japan, and many of them has been invited to sake breweries all over Japan as sake brewing masters. The essence of their techniques is creating well-defined aroma with sharp finish in its sake with lower temperature and longer-term fermentation techniques using the merit of cold Northern weather in Iwate.

One of the sake breweries that has inherited the traditions and techniques of the Nanbu Toji is Asabiraki Sake Brewery, founded in 1871. Asabiraki’s Nanburyu Series is a series of sake brewed with rice, water and people from Iwate Prefecture. Asabiraki Nanburyu Denshozukuri Daiginjo is a sake that allows you to experience all the skill of the Nanbu Toji.

The best time of year for sake brewing is the cold season, and this sake is carefully brewed using the techniques handed down by the Nanbu Toji. This Daiginjo has a gorgeous aroma that spreads in the mouth and a crisp, dry taste that is in perfect harmony. Enjoy it cold or at room temperature.

Next time, we will be introducing Tamba Toji in Hyogo, so stay tuned for more info!

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