Touring the Hana no mai Sake Brewery

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Getting to tour a brewery while learning about not only the ancient process of brewing traditional Japanese Sake but the drinks importance throughout Japanese history.

This factory was established in 1864 to produce traditional Japanese “sake” (Nihonshu) in the most traditional way. Because of this the factory uses very little machinery . The majority of the work is done by hand just like in the ancient times.
So do you like Japanese Sake? I do.

If you do not, I encourage you to try different kinds. My first few experiences in France with “sake” were pretty bad. This is because in France they use the word Sake as a term for whatever Asian alcohol you can find and secondly, it can be hard to find sake that is Nihonshu quality. However the good news is now that Japanese culture has expanded across the world, you can actually enjoy excellent quality Nihonshu in most major cities.

So, when I learned that I was going to visit a traditional Sake brewery while in Japan, my heart was very dokidoki ! Before coming to the brewery I thought I knew the basics on how to make sake: polish rice, add water, let the yeast do their job and voilà, instant sake….
However thanks to hana no mai, I manage to grasp a little more of the art behind creating sake ….
I don’t want to spoil the very technical process that is done to make sake so I will let you discover (like I did) through the guided tour that the brewery offers.

The tour begins by showing a movie that shows the difference of making standard sake and dai ginjo junmai sake. This video does a great job of showing the amount of passion the workers of the brewery put into making this specialty drink. After that the tour guide will lead you to the backstage area starting with the rice bags. The quality of Sake can always be traced back to the quality of rice, the rice at Hana no mai comes from Shizuoka-ken which is local to the brewery.

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Next you get to see the water that they use, the kegs, the press and the empty bottles waiting to be filled with sake. Our guide gave us a lot of details that really helped us get the most out of the third and final step of the tour which was the tasting!
The tasting is easily the highlight of the tour. Here you’ll be invited to taste several different products that the brewery offers but first you start by tasting the water they use. This helps give you an understanding of the quality ingredients that go into the Sake. The tasting continues with several different grades of Nihonshu and it even featured the sake of the year.
When we visited we were lucky enough to have them open a bottle of the Togugawa Ieyasu special cuvée. This sake will truly make you feel like a real samurai drinking with the shogun and it was a perfect end to a fantastic tour!

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Look at all those wanabee and happy samurais with sparkling eyes and red cheeks:

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