Theme of Sake in June 2016 "Water" / 2 Breweries Persistent in Water
These 2 breweries are located in different areas, but both of them are persistent to water for brewing.
I would like to explain the importance of water and their water centered brewing style.
80% of sake is water
Do you know 80% of sake consists of water? It means water is one of the most important ingredients for brewing sake.
Moreover, the quality of rice is also defined by water, so that it’s no exaggeration to say that taste of sake depends on the choice of water.
Most of fine breweries say processing materials is the most important step which only human can engage in. Those breweries measure the duration of washing and soaking rice in water in seconds. This fact proves how critical the influence of the water is for brewing.
Besides, it is commonly said that entire amount of water used for brewing is 50 times larger than that or rice.
Water is used not only for main brewing process but also material processing and cleaning up process such as washing, soaking, steaming rice and washing all the tools.
Therefore, many breweries are located in the place blessed with the hi-quality water resources.
Soft water or Hard water
Solidity of water is decided by the amount of mineral.
Water contains less mineral is called soft water and water contains more mineral is called hard water to the contrary. Sake made from hard water tends to be full-body type heavy sake, on the other hand sake made from soft water tends to be light-body type clean and smooth taste.
Most of Japanese breweries use soft water, however there are also some areas using slightly hard water. For example, Hyogo prefecture is one of the most popular area using hard water for brewing. The solidity of water in this area is 6.5 which is one of the highest score in Japanese breweries.
Sake made in this area is called sake of muscle men and the heavy and bold taste attracts people.
If you would like to drink lighter sake, let’s check the sake made in Niigata and Shizuoka prefecture.
The solidity of water in Niigata is 3.0 and their speciality is dryness and cleanness of the taste as you may know. You can find the lightest sake in Shizuoka prefecture. The water solidity is 1.0. You almost feel like drinking mineral water. Please be careful to drink it too much, since the alcohol content is still 15°.
Of course, solidity of water cannot solely define the taste. Please use these information for reference to choose sake.
Condition of brewery water
Suitable brewery water contains mineral.
Mineral here means calcium, claim, phosphate and magnesium.
These components are necessary for yeast to ferment sugar. This is the reason why the sake made by hard water tends to be full-body type heavy taste. Because of its rich amount of mineral, yeast actively work and most of sugar is decomposed.
To the contrary, unnecessary component is iron. Iron makes the color and the taste of sake bad. Brewing with the iron free water is the minimum requirement of hi-quality sake.
Some breweries filter the spring water and get rid of unnecessary components.
100 finest water in Japan
From the other angle, I would like to touch upon how Japanese cherish the water sources.
Japan is very rare country we can drink tap water directly even in the capital city Tokyo. Japanese are rarely suffered from lack of water recently. There are lots of myth related to water everywhere in Japan. It shows Japanese has been taking the best advantage of water and respect the gift of nature.
To protect there precious water resources and inherit to next generation, Japanese government officially selects the 100 finest water in Japan and each local government also defines the finest water represent the area.
It is said that fine sake comes from the place has fine water resources. Your favorite breweries might be located near from the 100 finest water in Japan.
Map of 100 Finest Water in Japan
2 breweries persistent in water
100% domaine is Senkin's brewing style. Brewery owner says "All living things including human never survive without water. Water is the most important component for sake as well. 80% of ingredients of sake is water and rest of 20% is rice. As you may know to grow rice, we need more than 100 times amount of water than other crops."
What he wants to say is sake brewing has to be started from water. They only use the rice grows in the rice field sharing the same water source with our brewery. There must be the invisible good pairing by sticking with domaine style.
Besides, he talks about his philosophy about water. "It is commonly said that yeast defines the key feature of sake's taste. However, we don't want to rely on the power of yeast, so that ingredients are the most important factors for us. Especially we take the water in center of brewing. The clearness is the feature of our brewery water. Expressing this clearness on the taste of sake is the direction of our brewing."
"Don't put any additional ingredients and too much hands of human" is their policy. Brew master talks "We know the nature is greater than human being and sake is the gift from nature. What only human needs to do is organizing the environment to let nature bring their potential out and selecting the rice and water suit with the brewing environment of Gangi. Especially, water is the key factor of Gangi style.
We have experienced a serious problem caused from water, so that we know the importance of water more than other breweries."
In 1955, they suddenly couldn't use the beautiful water of Nishiki River flowing beside the brewery. Salt water mixed into freshwater and the water quality had been degraded. This was caused from the dam built in the upstream of Nishiki River. To maintain the brewery, they wandered everywhere to find the high-quality water. The water they found was apart from the brewery and very tough work to bring the water to brewery.
Recently, they discovered there is a great water source underground of brewery, so that they built the 42m deep well and use the soft and pure spring water for brewing.