Sudo Honke Sake Brewery
Kasama City - an area in Ibaraki prefecture known for its chestnuts and sake. One of the oldest sake breweries in the area is the Sudo Honke, a brewery situated amidst nature. Their traditional techniques have been passed down from generations to generations and they have a long history of over 800 years. In fact, it is one of the oldest breweries in Japan. Their specialty is unfermented sake and they also sell chocolates and cheese online to pair with the alcohol. The brewery is located about 10 minutes away from Tomobe Station via taxi. There, you can take a tour of the brewery and have a tasting of three kinds of sake for 500 yen.
Taste Testing - Pride of the Village
The sake of Sudo Honke are highly recognized internationally, receiving many accolades including trophies from the International Wine Challenge held in London. In addition, their sake (Kakunko) was selected to be served during the 2016 G7 Ise-shima Summit in Mie Prefecture, which is rare because usually, only local products from the host prefecture are chosen.
Sake produced with techniques honed over 800 years. To just visit the brewery without a taste test would be a wasted opportunity. Despite not being as fond of sake as my peers, my curiosity was piqued. And to say it was merely satisfied would be insufficient.
During the tasting, we had the honor of trying an additional type of sake as a bonus. For sake lovers, as you may already know, starting from the mildest one is the standard procedure. The first three, are members of the Sato no Homare label, and it is no wonder that it means Pride of the Village. To start off the tasting was Sato no Homare Kassei Nigori, a sparkling and cloudy sake containing live yeast. This sake, beginning with a soft dry touch, was a delightful sip, leading to a crisp finish with slight effervescence. It is said to enhance the flavors of lightly seasoned foods and complement rich flavors. Next was the most standard of Sudo Honke, the White Label of Sato no Homare. Crisp and well-balanced in both flavor and aroma, it is suitable for pairing with a wide range of cuisines, be it meat or seafood. The third type was Sato no Homare Kimoto which uses the traditional method to create the yeast starter mash. Dry and smooth, this sake has a very rich taste, only made possible due to the long history of Sudo Honke. This is best paired with rich flavors. Last but not the least was Yusura, an elegant sake with a pleasant fruity aroma similar to a plant of the same name. Its flavor is refined and superbly clear, suitable to pair with seafood or lightly flavored meats.
Using only fresh rice harvested from the local fields in Kasama, no longer than 5 months after harvest, the sake produced by Sudo Honke is absolutely exquisite and lives up to its name – Pride of the Village.
Commitment and Tradition
So what is the secret to Sudo Honke’s sake, one might wonder.
“Sake, Rice, Soil, Water, Trees. These are the elements of good sake”, explained the president, Mr. Gen-uemon Sudo. “Good sake is made with good rice. Good rice grows on good soil. Good soil has good water. Good water is collected by good trees. That’s why, our family motto is ‘Never cut the trees’.”
Sudo Honke dedicates itself to nature and the environment, to ensure the quality of ingredients needed for good sake. It is not surprising that there are trees of more than hundreds of years old surrounding the brewery, and wells directly connected to the brewery to draw water. To maintain the same quality in ingredients, they have not moved even once during the span of 876 years.
When asked if they had any upcoming new products, Mr. Sudo commented, “Fashion changes all the time, but it does not last. For us, we will continue to make our traditional products which has appealed to many throughout these years.”
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