Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Japan's Beer & Sake

You can't spend time in Japan without trying a little bit of sake. In Japan, sake distilleries are like the wineries back in Australia. They are dotted all over japan and they all offer their own unique blend of sake.  During our travels around Osaka, we decided to visit the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery.

For those who don't know what sake is, it's a Japanese rice wine, which is usually around 15% alcohol. Simply, the rice is washed, soaked, steamed, cooled down, mashed and filtered, before storing and left to ferment. The Hakutsuru sake brewery started producing sake in 1743. They have prided themselves on still using the traditional methods of brewing sake, even today. Having said that, Hakutsuru has been willing to adapt to the cultural changes over the years by creating different sake flavours and have modernised their packaging methods but they are still very strict that the production method still remains the same as what it was over 250 years ago.  Much like the Yamazaki distillery, the sake produced here is more than just a drink. It is a Japanese icon, an ancient tradition, which the people of Japan have the upmost respect for. During our time at Hakutsuru we had the pleasure of trying some of their famous sake. It had a very fruity and almost tropical smell. The taste was sweet and cleansed the palette. It was very refreshing and quite easy to drink. Drinking and enjoying sake is definitely a matter of opinion. Just like wine, you may love the various blends of sake or you may not, I’ll let you be the judge.

I was amazed that Osaka seems to be the home of all things food and drink. Aside from Osaka being the birthplace of Yamazaki whisky, and the home to many sake distilleries, Osaka also has Japan’s oldest Asahi brewery. Asahi beer is something that I’ve seen lots of back in Australia and something that I’ve served to many customers too.  So when I found out that Asahi was brewed in Osaka, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go.

Asahi has been around since 1889. They were the first company to introduce an outdoor fermentation process an also the first beer in Japan to be sold in a can.  Today Asahi sells over 400 million beers per year. They have now branched out into the soft drink market, liqueurs, wine and sake.  Asahi also prides itself on being environmentally friendly. Using energy saving machinery and recycled materials was something that the people at Asahi were very proud of.  Despite our entire tour of the brewery being in Japanese, our tour guide made us feel more than welcome. She did her very best to tell us as much about Asahi as she could in English. The Japanese people never want you to leave disappointed, and we certainly weren’t. We had a great time.  After now seeing the Asahi brewery, it was clear why this beer is by far the most popular beer in Japan.  

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