Archive for March, 2009

A great week

Well, the week at Daimon brewery has come and gone and I learned a great deal about the saké making process (日本酒の造り方).  I am still processing all I learned.  Over the next few weeks, I plan to make posts about some of the details of the process as I sort through my notes and photographs. 

Here are few photos showing the process of making koji (麹).  In this step, rice that has been just steamed is spread out on a large, cedar bed and allowed to cool and dry for about 8 hours.  Many times during the cooling/drying, the rices need to broken apart into smaller clumps (which is what I am doing below).  Afterwards, the koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) (seen below) is shaken above the rice to allow the spores to colonize the rice.  The rice is then piled together and wrapped in blankets to keep in the heat.  Over the next 24 hours, the mold will send small projections (hyphae) into the centre of the rice grain, secreting enzymes which convert the starch into sugar.  This rice (aka koji 麹) will then be added to the fermentation tank  which will feed the yeast  and allow the sugar to be converted to alcohol.  Interesting, no?

Breaking apart the rice before adding koji spores (the room is 33C, hence the skin)

Breaking apart the rice before adding koji spores (the room is 33C, hence the skin)

The koji spores (Aspergillus oryzae)

The koji spores (Aspergillus oryzae)

Koji inoculation

Koji inoculation

and I will leave you with one haiku, which we were encouraged to write by the Daimon-san, the head brewer and owner:

The summer’s rice crop

Feeds winter fermentation

In spring, celebrate

 

thanks for reading. there will be more to come about the saké making process, stay tuned!

(some of) The brewery staff

I mentioned in my last post how wonderful, welcoming, and gracious Daimon-san has been towards us,  but everyone here at the brewery has been so friendly and helpful.   We are a mixed group of interns in terms of our Japanese ability, and the staff’s English ability is equally mixed, however this has not prevented things from going very smoothly.  We are learning, helping and experiencing sake brewing amongst these dedicated individuals, who really function as a whole, and what they are giving us is immeasurable.

There have been pictures posted of Daimon-san (owner and toji) and Kashira (head of the team) but I wanted to add a few photos of some of the other great people here.

Daimon-san (not-related) and Makine-san

Daimon-san (not-related) and Makine-san

Arai-san

Arai-san

Rice-san

Rice-san

The racoon brothers

The racoon brothers

Joking aside, the rice in the above photo was just steamed and had been spread out and unclumped to allow it to cool down to about 39 degrees Celcius.  It was then used to prepare a new yeast starter (moto). The two racoons carrying containers of sake are located on the Daimon brewery grounds and I think roam around at night, revelling.

The first day in the brewery- great.

After reading the previous interns’ posts, I was really eager to meet Daimon-san and see his brewery with my own eyes. I arrived at the brewery after dark, and as I approached the main gate it felt like I was looking into a mystical gardern. The brewery has an absolutely beautiful courtyard that is lit with tiny spotlights and has a very peaceful feeling (the picture below does not do it justice).

The courtyard of Daimon brewery

The courtyard of Daimon brewery

After I long train ride from Tokyo, I couldn’t help but feel more relaxed as I walked towards the main door. Very quickly, I was greeted by Daimon-san and couldn’t have felt more welcomed. He is a genuinely nice individual and his enthusiasm for this program is tangible. As I was the last intern to arrive, minutes before the first scheduled meeting at 7pm, we assembled in the dining area of the brewery. After introductions and a speech by Daimon-san about his hopes and desires for this program, it was off to a local izakaya for our first group dinner. In summary, the food was excellent, and the 3 bottles of Mukune nihonshu that Daimon-san shared- a nama, lightly cloudy sake (うすにごり生酒), a daiginjo, and a special production junmaishu (特別純米酒)- were also excellent.

Daimon-san sharing his sake

Daimon-san sharing his sake

a lightly cloudy nama sake

a lightly cloudy nama sake

 

a special production junmaishu

a special production junmaishu

a lightly seared bonito salad

a lightly seared bonito salad

All in all, it was a great start to the week. We are just getting are feet wet, literally, in the brewery today. In fact, it is time to go back now!  Thank you for reading.