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Sake

Yumegokoro “Dream Heart”

I always thought there’s something mysterious about sake making. Craftsmanship by Toji which is the master brewer’s magical touch, sleepless work in a steamy kojimuro to produce the best koji, kura people singing worksongs as they mix the mash of shubo with a big paddle in their hand: I thought these are essence to good sake making.

This myth around sake making I had created in my mind was completely shattered when I visited Yumegokoro Sake Brewery, makers of two wonderful and popular brands of sake: Naraman and Yumegokoro(Dream Heart). I always liked Naraman Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu for its fruitiness and nice balance. I also liked their confidence in sticking with local rice and local yeast instead of the standard Yamadanishiki and popular yeasts. This attitude shows they are not interested in just winning gold medals at contests, but in keeping true to their local heritage. When I contacted Yumegokoro and Mr. Shoji agreed to show us around, I was just so thrilled with the idea that I could finally take a peek at how they make such wonderful sake.

The Yumegokoro kura complex nests in the ramen capital and historic city of Kitakata in Fukushima, in a 10,000 sq. meter lot which is almost equivalent to a baseball field. The sight of this modern facility with strictly and centrally controlled big machines first puzzled me. Imagine something from NASA central control. I somehow convinced myself good sake making comes from long-term experience and craftsmanship, so half way through the tour, in front of the blinking lights and moving dials and knobs of the spaceship control panel, I finally had to ask Mr. Shoji a fundamental question “Why are Naraman and Yumegokoro so good?”.

“End to end temperature control”, Mr. Shoji said. They take extra care to maintain the best temperature during the production. In addition, they keep tight control over bottling and storage temperature as well as very carefully limiting their distribution channel to retail shops with good refrigeration facilities.

Another thing that makes such good sake is the automated and tightly controlled production line. With the hard data they gather throughout the brewing process, they can maintain consistency and make changes to improve the quality. OK, my fantasy around sake making is gone, and now I know I was completely wrong about what makes good sake. However, as long as I can drink such fine sake, I don’t care that image has been destroyed.

On the way back, we picked up some interesting sake for tasting. Mr. Shoji dropped us at one of his recommended retailers who specialize in Naraman where we got the same Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu from 4 different years to compare how the same sake ages over time. Stay tuned for our next tasting.

Mr. Shoji will be at the Sake Festival in LA on March 22nd, 2007. If you see his smiling face at Dream Heart in the Junmai section, make sure to stop by and taste what I am talking about. If you are in the Tokyo area, they will be at the Sake Summit in Yokohama on April 8th, 2007.

Yumegokoro (Dreamheart)

Yumegokoro “Dream Heart”

main control panel for all the sake brewing tanks

Main Control Panel

Mr. Shoji from Yumegokoro(Dreamheart)

Mr. Shoji

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  1. [...] they have good sake. Yumegokoro and Naraman are regulars at this series of parties along with their company president, Shoji-san. [...]

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