Brewery #2 Hamada Shuzo – Shochu Distillery (part 2)
Our Sake Master, Andre, is going to tell us more about what shochu is and how to enjoy.
Shochu production begins with a two part process, preparation of the koji and preparation of the raw ingredient. This involves the propagation of Aspergillus mould onto rice or barley that has been soaked and steamed. The enzymes of the mould break down the starch in rice or barley into simple sugars so they can be fermented into alcohol. The inoculated koji is added to a tank of water and yeast to begin fermentation that lasts for approximately a week.
The raw primary ingredient (sweet potato, rice, barley, corn, soba etc.) meanwhile has been washed, steamed and macerated. Then comes the marriage, the fermenting mash is blended with the raw ingredient, more water and yeast added and left to enjoy a two week fermentation party. The final moromi is then distilled, aged, diluted, and bottled for our enjoyment!
As if the primary Hamada Shuzu brewery isn’t impressive enough, I am whisked away to another site that is truly impressive. Mr Hamada has a strong personality, he exudes confidence and commitment. He is also a man that thinks big and the second brewery site is a testament to his character. We arrive at a stunning timber building at the foot of a mountain. Hamada San has decided that Kagoshima needs good local sake. The Toji, Mr Akito Takesako brings his knowledge and award winning skills to the project. Sake production is not the norm in southern Japan due to the warm climate but with modern temperature controlled facilities the weather is no longer an obstacle.
It gets better, Hamada San had a brewery building from the other end of Japan deconstructed, shipped and reconstructed, here at the base of this mountain. And thus is born Kinzangura Sake Brewery. But wait, there’s more! After a cursory tour of the sake brewery I’m shown to the main attraction. I walk out onto what appears to be a mini train station. There is a miners train, train tracks and a gaping hole in the side of the mountain into which I am informed we will soon be disappearing! Mr Hamada has bought and spent seven years refitting a 350 year old gold mine into a Shochu distillery that sits almost 1km deep under a mountain! The deep mine provides a perfectly consistent environment for Shochu production and especially aging. Many tunnels and caverns of this amazing underground complex house aging tanks and private bottle collections.
Whilst I generally enjoy shochu on ice, later that night we dine at an excellent Izakaya, Satsumaji and Mr Hamada gives me instruction on the perfect pour: first warm a ceramic mug with hot water for 30 seconds, discard water then add 80ml of Shochu and 80ml of hot (70C) water, bingo!
Andre Bishop is a Melbourne based Sake Professional and is recognized as one of Australia’s leading authorities on Sake. His 12 years of experience in designing Asian and specifically Japanese venues include well know Melbourne establishments Robot Bar and Golden Monkey. He currently owns the 22 year old Japanese dining institution Izakaya Chuji and Sake Bar Nihonshu. He is also co-owner and founder of Melbourne’s flagship Izakaya and Sake Bar, Kumo in Brunswick East. Andre studied Sake in Japan and is the only Australian who currently holds a Level 2 Sake Professional Certificate from the International Sake Education Council.
Andre is available for Consulting on Sake, Japanese Beverage Lists, Sake Staff Training and Sake Equipment. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sake Master Andre’s blog: www.sakemaster.com.au
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Please click here for Sake Master Andre Bishop’s older interview