søndag 6. mars 2011

Sake Sabbatical

Reflections of Nøgne Ø’s Kurabito (Sake Brewer)
Sake is a wonderful drink and brewing it is so rewarding, there is always something new to be inspired by, experience, and savour. I consider myself very fortunate to be a kurabito at Nøgne Ø. Our Head Brewer/Toji, Kjetil, is a Sake purist and is always encouraging refinement and improvement in our Sake brewing. 

My first brewing season at Nøgne Ø was full of challenges and extremely rewarding. It is great to be working at Kjetil’s new brewery to see how his vision has become a reality. And this was my first opportunity to be working with the Yamahai method, an older more traditional way to prepare the moto. The moto is the starter, or the mother, for a batch of Sake and is one of the key parts of Sake brewing.
At the end of our brewing season as fortune would have it I was able to intern as a kurabito at the Daimon shuzo (brewery) in Osaka Prefecture, Japan. I had planned a trip to Japan to take John Gaunter’s Level II Sake Professional Course and Daimon-san generously offered me the chance to do an internship during my stay as well. Yasutaka Daimon (Daimon-san) is the Kura-moto (owner) and Toji (Head Brewer) of Daimon shuzo (English language website http://mukune.com/). Not only does he make great Sake but he also shares his passion with the world at large. 

With a generous spirit he champions its culture, enjoyment, philosophy and brewing. In fact Kjetil and I first met at Daimon-san’s brewery as members of the very first Mukune International Sake Brewing Internship in February, 2009. For the lucky few who were accepted into the program it was an opportunity of a lifetime. 
I was able to work through a full five day brewing cycle (Tuesday through Saturday) and then returned to work another two and a half days after I completed the Sake Pro course. Another Canadian kurabito, Greg Newton, now living in Japan also came to intern during my visit. It was really interesting for us two novices to compare notes about Sake brewing. 

Greg worked for  a whole brewing season at a Sake Brewery in Nagano Prefecture last year and shared many interesting insights. His blog is at http://thesakechronicles.wordpress.com/
I have learned so much at Daimon shuzo. He has a great deal of respect for Kjetil and what he has accomplished in the Sake world......the successful start up of Europe’s first Sake Brewery! This respect for what we are doing in Norway, and a desire to further the enjoyment of Sake throughout the world in part explains Daimon-san’s great generosity. But I think also he is pleased on a personal level that two of his former students have gone on to be Sake brewers.
I brought samples of  Nøgne Ø Sake to Japan and had the opportunity to conduct some tastings. The fact that the latest issue of Dancyu (a high end, high circulation Japanese food and lifestyle magazine) had an article about our Sake only added to the interest in our products. 

Two tastings of a more formal nature were arranged by Daimon-san. Mr. Ueda, current Chief Advisor of the Osaka Division of Technical Support for Sake Brewing (Kanteikan Office) and Takahara Sensei, retired former Chief Advisor from the Kateikan Office and Daimon-san’s Technical Advisor conducted these tastings. We received a lot of praise and positive feedback for our Sake at all the tastings. And when I mentioned that all our Sake are Yamahai, I invariably got the response…..Sugoi!

Informal Nøgne Ø Sake tasting; from left to right Ue-san (Head Brewer), myself, 
Makine-san (kurabito), Yasutaka Daimon (Toji, Kura-moto), Greg Newton 

What it's all about......tasting the freshly pressed genshu!

Inside the Kura (Brewery); at left - old wooden Fune (Sake press), 
background adjoining room - Koshiki (Rice Steamer)