Ask Beau – “Can you taste the difference between machine made and hand made sake?”
That’s a good question Anne R from Telluride, CO. My immediate reply was going to be “sure.” But then I thought about it a second and an image from a brewery called Ohyama in Yamagata prefecture popped into my head. I like the brewery a lot. I like their sake and I like the family that operates it.
I learned a great deal when I visited the brewery, because they are inventors of sorts. The current President invented the automatic koji machine. This massive piece of equipment spreads the koji mold on steamed rice and then keeps it temperature safe for the next two days. Cool, but it’s a machine.
And when I think more about it, there are lots of machine components to hand made sake. And on the flip side, I am having a hard time thinking of a brewery that doesn’t use some form of machinery. Yes, modernization does exist in the sake industry. My dreamy vision of guys (and gals) making sake purely by hand with no automation is just that, a dream. I mean is a hoist a machine?
So back to the question and my almost immediate reply. I was going to throw out the “sure” because I was picturing a sake that is literally made by machine in all phases of the production, from the steaming to the koji, to the shubo yeast starter etc. the entire sake process is automated and produces a lesser quality sake then a hand crafted sake. Those sakes actually make up the vast part of the sake market, because the largest 30 breweries that use so much automation produce over 60% of all the sake sold in Japan
So now after consideration I think in general I can tell a sake that has been fully automatically produced from a sake that has been hand made using perhaps a little less automation. I will definitely put these skills to the test when I go to the IWC in Mid-April in London. Of the 900 sakes that I will taste, I’ll bet 10-15% will be made using more automation!