Sake Souls - Making Sake With Her Soles!
I just so happened to have the same drinking pace as a woman wearing a t-shirt and work pants. I could tell right away that she was a brewery worker of some sort - and since the tasting took place in the heart of the brewing region known as Fushimi - I was fairly confident that she was in the biz. Her tasting skills were also front and center - this woman knew what she was drinking, and I could tell that she was breaking the brews down for her own reasons. My tasting partner asked this "focused" sake drinker what she liked, and then we were introduced.
Truthfully, when I taste - I don't like to talk. (Is this anti- social? I dunno, but do surgeons chit chat when doing their job? Am I a surgeon? No, but my point is that I am pretty focused when I am in the midst of so much wonderful brew! But, she was intriguing and I was guessing that sake from her brewery was at least within the very near vicinity. Then she said that she was a toji (head brewer) for a local kura. Cool - I love that! I love female head brewers? Why? Why should I care? Well - the industry used to be very "male" in scope, and I know how hard it is to get to the level of head brewer - even for a man! So for women - well - let's just say that I wish that it would be more of the norm, rather than the exception.
So there I was speaking to Maho Otsuka - the head brewer for Shoutoku Brewery in Fushimi proper - and of course I had to ask: "Okay where is your sake?" Without missing a beat she said "#270." (I think she was expecting the question) "I entered my kimoto sake." I said great as I am a big fan of kimoto sake. "But this is a different kind of kimoto!" Huh? What do you mean different? "I made it with my feet!" NICE! Rather than pole ram the steamed rice, she used her feet to pound out the lactic acid. "I made it like wine!" She said this for the visual effect I believe. In any case I was very stoked and immediately went over and tried her foot juice! How cool is that?
Proper technique is to always say that a sake is amazing when the maker is standing there watching you taste their efforts. "Amazing!" But this time I meant it. What a wonderful rich and vast brew. I didn't want to go on and on - still had 200 sakes to taste - so I played it cool. But inside I really wanted to pick her brain and ask the reasoning as to why she chose that method, what the shortcomings are, does she do other types etc?
Now membership has its privileges - isn't that the slogan? - and as a charter Sake Samurai member the guys who organized the event asked me if I would like to take a bottle with me when the event was over and the room cleared out. Ummmmmm- Sure! So I ran and grabbed the rest of good ol'#270. Before the end of the event - Maho and I took some pictures together and she told me that she liked the brew served at the luke-warm "nuru-kan" temperature point. I was excited to play with the last few ounces. But would do so back in the States.
I had so many questions to ask Maho but realized that she was so busy. But that never stops me - so I produced a lengthy email asking her all sorts of questions - technical and non - thinking that she would sort of reply! Boy was I wrong - herewith is an email exchange with her at the start of her brewing season - I am so honored that she took her valuable time and applied it to educating a sake freak in America:
Herewith is my email to her:
|"As I needed to give my liver a little break from drinking so many sakes in Japan - I waited until tonight to taste your brew: A very deep and impactful kimoto with layers of rice, grains, wood, and earthy elements with a solid "roasted" vein that carries all of the moods. It has a very nice body, well-rounded, and the richness is one part umami - one part earth tones - and one part rice goodness all balanced out by a very high acidity and an extremely high amino acidity - which to me makes the sake drink plump and alive! A very solid and "attitude-driven" kimoto - by foot!
|Thank you very much for your enthusiasm tasting impression to our Kimoto.
This product is very special for me, because when I became Toji, I proposed to my owner to try brewing Kimoto and it started. Till that time, our company didn't brew Kimoto so nobody know how to brew Kimoto, but I wanted to try because I felt Kimoto of another Kura like Daishichi, Hurousen...etc. have very rich and deep tastes and clearly different to normal Sake. I loved the deep tastes. When I try to brew Kimoto at first, I studied old text book and also took advices from some Toji, engineers and I assembled those to my own way. During brewing Kimoto at 1st year, there were difficulty and some troubles but I enjoyed because the taste of seed mash (Shubo) was very delicious and it changed little by little, every day. Kimoto is very special for me for such a memories. And fortunately, Junmai Kimoto Genshu of 19BY is awarded to Trophy of Kimoto-Yamahai category of International Sake Challenge2009 (http://www.sakechallenge.com/). (The product Kimoto you brought to SF is the blend of 18BY and 19BY, and added water a little.)
Now, let me answer to your question.
If you would like more information on the brewery check out their website.
And yes - you can click the "English" button.
This - I have a feeling - will be a long lasting relationship - one that may just see their products here in the US - (Hint Hint)