Archive for August, 2008

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 4/8: Kumpai Brewery

August 25, 2008


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Kumpai Brewery, a minuscule Kura in Shizuoka City, has recently drawn attention when it won a first prize in Nagoya last year. It is steadily coming up with more, if in small quantities, very select brews such as this one, which is a “Toubin kakoi/斗瓶囲い”, which was conceived for those very special tasting sessions.

Kunpai Brewery: “kunpai Tenka no Senshu”, Daiginjyou, Tobin Kakoi, Unfiltered, Unpasteurized, Genshu

Rice: Yamada Nishiki 100%
Rice milled down to 40%
Dryness: +2.5
Acidity: 1.4
Alcohol: 18 degrees
Bottled in April 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Transparent
Aroma: Fruity: melon. Hints of alcohol
Body: Velvety
Taste: Shortish tail. Smooth. Complex. Fruity: pineapple, vanilla, jelly gum.
Welcome alcohol. Turns quickly dry inside mouth after sweetish first impression.
Almonds appearing with food.

Overall: For all its concept as a session sake, it is eminently enjoyable with food.
Very complex, it would make for the perfect sake to sample in tasting parties.
Being a bit “macho” at times, heavy food would not adversely affect it.

Shizuoka Umeshu: Masu-Ichi Brewery

August 21, 2008


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Every year more local breweries are offering “umeshu” eminently popular in summer when it is most appreciated poured over a few ice cubes!

Masu-Ichi Brewery in Shizuoka City has just entered the fray with concoction called “Denjiro”, which actually is the master brewer/toji’s trade name as he is the second apprentice of Denbei Kawamura, the man who created the Shizuoka Yeast.

It contains less alcohol, 7~8 degrees, as compared to the more usual 15 degrees, making it very easy to drink by ladies and younger people in particular.

Masu Ichi Brewery: “Denjiro”, “Tsuka/Plum Aroma” Umeshu

Alcohol: 7~8 degrees
Plums, sake, sugar.
Bottled: July 11th, 2008

Clarity: very clear
Colour: light red/pink
Aroma: light, dry, plums
Body: velvety
Taste: Shortish tail. Plum taste discreet, not overwhelming. Elegant. Dry.

Overall: Makes for a great light aperitif in hot summers!

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 11/9: Hatsukame Brewery

August 19, 2008


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It’s been some time since I tasted a brew from this old favourite brewery of mine, namely Hatsukame Brewery in Okabe Cho.
This bottle will remind Etsuko that she has been wanting to check that “Tortoise”!

Hatsukame Brewery: Ginjo 500

Rice: Yamada Nishiki 100%
Rice milled down to 50%
Dryness: +3
Acidity: 1.1 (very low)
Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Contents: 500ml (hence the name!)
Bottled in March 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Transparent
Aroma: Fruity: almonds, banana. Alcohol
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Welcome alcohol. Almonds. bitter chocolate, bananas, coffee beans.
Smooth and elegant with alcohol warming up back of the palate.

Overall: Typical Hatsukame Brewery sake.
Refined, elegant, plenty of character.
Great on its own and with food.
Could replace any wine!

Shizuoka Breweries 19: Eikun Brewery

August 14, 2008


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On Tuesday July 29th, another blistering hot day, my good friend Takahiro Nagashima, who is planning his own Shizuoka Breweries Homepage graciously drove me to Yui Cho to visit the small but renown Eikun Brewery.

It certainly was very kind of my friend to drive me there as it is well away from the beaten tracks and going there even by bus would be problematic. For once cycling was simply out of question!

The fifth generation owner, Mr. Yusuke Mochizuki was waiting for us. A solid affable gentleman of 44, whose hobby is running every morning at 5:30 rain, snow or shine, he is the father of two daughters and one son who hopefully will follow his steps one day. Mr. Mochizuki told us he lost his father only four years ago and found himself having to learn a lot all of a sudden about accounting, taxes and all the usual red tape hassle. Fortunately his mother is still here to give him a welcome hand. It is a small brewery as I said with only a toji and his two aides from Iwate Prefecture (Nanbu School) and one full-time employee. I can imagine the work and responsibilities even if the actual brewing takes only 4 months!

Eikun Brewery was founded in 1881 in the midst of a rural community. When you visit the place, you realize quickly how old and traditional it is.

Even so, some important details will reveal the constant search for perfection in this modern world. For example Eikun brewery have acquired their own rice-milling machine as they prefer to mill all their rice which includes Gohyakumagoku from Fukui and Toyama Prefectures, Yamada Nishiki from Hyogo Prefecture and Bizen Ohmmachi from Okayama Prefecture.

They also show a lot of good sense and team work ethics as demonstrated by the water filtering tank (the local water contains a little unwanted iron) they have shared for the last ten years with two other unrelated companies using water collected three kilometres away up in the nearby mountains.

We went on a full tour of the brewery made easy by the fact no sake was being brewed.

For all its old age, the place is spotless clean and easy to move through.

A lot of money and effort are spent on proper storage. I can tell you it costs heaps to keep some storage rooms at a constant 5 degrees Celsius when it was more than 35 degrees outside!

We had a little peak at the “laboratory” where HD-101 (Shizuoka Prefecture) and M310 (No 1%) yeasts were stored. But we did not push our luck too far as we knew that some rooms could not be opened due to the excessive outside heat and humidity.

It was then down to the serious business of sake tasting!
The brewery has an annual output of 60,000 bootles (1.8l) including 2,600 l. of futsushu (the latter absolutely extaravagant, as it is made from rice milled down to 65%!).
Mr. Mochizuki confided us that he brews only sake he likes regardless of trends or orders. He is particularly keen on making brews fit for food, and his personal preference is honjozo style as opposed to junmai style. I have appreciated his sake for a long time as it has a lot of personality found in its refreshing green apples taste.

Visitors willing to come all the way to the brewery will be pleased to discover bottles there otherwise almost impossible to buy once out of Yui Cho!

Simply looking forward to my next visit!

Eikun Brewery
421-101 Ihara Gun, Yui Cho (soon to become Shizuoka Shi, Shimizu Ku, Yui Cho), Iriyama, 2152
TEl.: 054-375-2181
Fax: 054-375-4304

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 26/6: Eikun Brewery

August 12, 2008


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This particular brew by Eikun Brewery in Yui Cho is a “limited edition” for the summer.
For a ginjo, it has a comparitively high alcohol amount.

Eikun Brewery: Natsu Ginjo (Summer Ginjo)

Rice: Gohyakumangoku (Fukui Prefecture)
Rice milled down to: 50% (milled on site)
Dryness: +7
Acidity: 1.2
Alcohol: 17~18 degrees
Bottled in July 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Transparent
Aroma: Fruity: apples, almonds, melon.
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Complex. Fruity: green apples, bitter chocolate, melon. Coffee beans appearing later.
In spite of its announced dryness, drinks smoothly, almost sweet, especially with salty food.
Will turn slightly drier with food with alcohol warming up the back of the palate.

Overall: An elegant sake designed for quality food.
Fruity and very complex.
A brew representative of Eikun Brewery.
Eminently enjoyable with any food.
Will reveal many facets according to food variety.
The kind of sake you want to boast about!

Shizuoka Izakaya: Bu-Ichi (revisited)

August 8, 2008


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Bu-Ichi Izakaya in Shizuoka City has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately I do not go there that often as it is reserved for my nights out with the Missus (well, too many people know me there, too!)!
Incidentally, the picture above was taken quite some time ago. The Oyakata tends to be dressed in white these days, but last night I told him I preferred him in his blue garb!
Apart of the great Shizuoka Sake list, a customer will find all the drinks he might want, including wine and Okinawa Awamori. Melinda, Etsuko, don’t worry! I’ll take you there!
But the main attraction is of course the food:

Tempura and Anago/Conger Eel are two Japanese delicacies known all over the world, but when the two are combined in such delicate, crunchy, succulent manner one just shoud not bother about seasoning or even decoration!

Bu-Ichi acquired its fame because of the superlative seasonal sashimi such as “ainame/greenling or rock trout, a rarity brought all the way from Fukushima Prefecture.

Local fish is represented by “sanma/mackerel pike”. Bu-Ichi serves it in what I think the best way to savour it: thin slices with grated ginger, chopped thin leeks and myoga. The Japanese say “abura ga noote iru”, meaning they are fat. I would translate by “juicy”. The fish just melts in your mouth!

Whenever possible, Bu-Ichi serves local produce such as this beautiful round orange zucchini grown by a farmer in Miwa Cho, Shizuoka City. Which reminds me I have to interview this gentleman who has made Zucchini growing his specialty. Rowena, you would not believe it! Incidentally, have you ever thought of selling shiso in Italy? LOL

They were included in the next Tenpura order. To the Missus’ utter dismay I just ate them with my fingers without bothering about the salt and dip sauce provided!

Despite the heat of the day, we could not resist from ordering a bowl of “Gyu-suji-ni”/Beef joints simmered with miso and vegetables and served with a chopped leeks topping. Foodhoe would scream for it!

Although we did have dessert in the form of “matcha tea ice cream”, we usually have “tamagoyaki/Japanese Omelette” at the end of a dinner in a good izakaya. Big Bill should see the sheer artistry involved in making such a seemingly easy dish! And the taste! I can guarantee you you would be hard put if you had to choose between a second helping and a dessert!

Bu-Ichi
420-0032 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryogae-cho, 1-6-10, Dai 2 Matsunaga Bldg. 2F
Tel.: 054-2521166
Closed on Wednesdays
Reservations advisable

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 26/5: Eikun Brewery

August 7, 2008


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Eikun being a comparatively small brewery, a lot of its brands are mainly sold very locally.
I found this particular bottle in their own minuscule shop.

Eikun Brewery: “Oninama” (Goblin Unpasteurized) Honjozo

Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Bottled in April 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Light. Complex and fruity: apples, vanilla
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail. Fruity: green apples, bitter chocolate. Smooth on palate. Complex.
Very soft in spite of its “nama”/unpasteurized nature.
Pleasant and elegant.
Almonds making an entry when drunk away from food.

Overall: Surprisingly smooth for a “nama”/unpasteurized sake. Light and feminine in character.
Complex and gentle.
Perfect with food, especially sashimi and vegetables.
A sake for all seasons.

Shizuoka Sake Tasting 26/4: Eikun Brewery

August 4, 2008


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I just had the opportunity to visit Eikun Brewery perched in the mountains away from any main thoroughfare in Yui Cho (soon to be part of Shizuoka City). Although it has already made itself a name outside the Prefecture this is a small brewery, so I make it a rule to grab whatever interesting stuff I happen to take sight of!
Melinda and Etsuko will learn that once again I found another great “futsushu” of ridiculously high value!

Eikun Brewery: Suruga no Bishu, Futsushu

Alcohol: 15~16 degrees
Rice milled down to 65% on site (absolutely extravagant)
Bottled in April 2008

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: Light. Fruity: Apples, almonds.
Body: Velvety
Taste: Short tail (especially for futsushu). Light alcohol. Apples, almonds, vanilla, licorice. Very smooth on tongue and palate. Turns drier after a few sips.

Overall: A sake fit for food.
I tasted it at room temperature, but should be interesting lukewarm.
Drinks so easily. Deep and pleasant taste.
Simply extravagant for futsushu!
Can be drunk at all times of a meal.


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