When Yellow meets Gold

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Located in a basin surrounded by relatively high mountains, the town of Saijo in Hiroshima Prefecture enjoys cold temperatures highly suitable for fermentation control during winter, and abundant clean spring water. With its eight breweries nested within a few hundred meters from each other, it is not a surprise that it remains one of Japan’s most important brewing centers …. and a great sake tourism destination. Its emergence on the national sake scene is “only” about a century old though, and occurred after local brewers had developed the necessary skills to brew superior sake from very soft water, which limits yeast’s activity and reproduction in particular. A key contributor was the Satake company, which developed the first power driven “four mortar rice milling machine” in 1898, and is based …. in Saijo of course. I was lucky enough to be able to visit them a couple of years ago. Kamotsuru was the first sake brewer to test such machines and claims it became the first company to sell ginjo and daiginjo sake (polishing ratios of 60% or less and 50% or less respectively, expressed as “seimaibuai”, ie. residual mass of the grain after milling, compared to its initial mass). “Kinpaku” or “Gold leaf”, a daiginjo, is one of their leading products, with an original bottle, and the presence in the sake of two small gold flakes. Asian consumers in particular seem to like this auspicious sake, but I have not had confirmation of how much President Obama liked it, when he was served some by PM Abe during his 2014 visit to Japan. What prompted me to write this article though is not sake today, but the nice “dorayaki“ confection kindly brought to me by Hiroshima Prefecture representatives. The buttery lemon filling between the soft pancakes is highly enjoyable, and makes a nice pairing with the delicate, crisp Gold sake offering rich fruity aromas. The connection lies at another level as well. Called Sakuraya, the shop was founded about a century ago in Saijo, and uses “sake kasu” (sake lees) from local breweries for some of its products. Escalator wit?

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