Brewery Company：Hinomaru Jozo Co., Ltd.
Address：114-2 Nanokamachi, Masudamachi, Yokote-shi, Akita #019-0701 Japan
Director : Yuji Nakajima
Toji (master brewer)：Ryoji Takahashi
TIME IN A BOTTLE.
The most precious, most desired, yet most elusive thing in today’s busy world is ‘time’.
At Hinomaru Brewery, time is captured within ever drop of meticulously brewed sake and held in suspension in every bottle of our award-wining sake.
With one sip of Hinomaru Sake, you will experience both the enduring mastery and innovative expression of artisans for whom time is a ‘muse’ that has inspired exceptional sake making for more than 320 years.
HISTORY AND ENVIRONMENT
Hinomaru Brewery is located in Masudamachi, in Yokote city in the picturesque snow country of Akita, Japan. A visit to Hinomaru Brewery is a journey back in time. From the bustling, high-tech metropolis of Tokyo one travels 346 miles northwest to Yokote; Akita Prefecture’s inland castle city. The reconstructed castle tower, is the only remains of the feudal lords of ancient times. Yet as one walks along the narrow streets of Masudamachi and sees the magnificent vault–like structures called ‘kura’ one’s imagination drifts to a time long ago when wealthy merchants, feudal lords and farmers wove a colorful tapestry of life.
Hinomaru Brewery, founded in 1689, and nationally designated as an important corporeal and cultural property in 2002, has graciously endured the test of time. It has continuously produced the finest quality sake with utmost integrity for 323 years. In fact, the legacy of the brewery is intimately linked to the warlords of the feudal era. It was Lord Satake who bestowed on the brewery both the beautiful name, Hinomaru, “circle of the sun” and his famous insignia; the traditional Japanese folding fan opened to reveal the bright red rising sun.
Coincidentally, some 200 years later in 1870 the rising sun image and name Hinomaru became the official reference for national flag of Japan. Today, that image overshadows the original meaning for which the brewery was named.
Hinomaru Brewery is blessed with proximity to abundant natural resources. The rich, fertile soil of the Yokote region produces historically famous, consistently delicious and superior quality rice. Hinomaru Brewery commissions 12 varieties of sakamai (sake rice varietals) from local farmers. Unlike table rice, sake rice grows taller and has plumper, harder, heavier grains with a higher concentration of starch of the core of each grain.
The pristine environment also has abundant sources for delicately soft, low mineral water, ideal for sake making. Hinomaru Brewery has four wells of water from a pure ecosystem with origins in the protected National Park of Kurikoma Mountain. In addition, the ancient ‘sannai’ school of sake making has its origins in Yokote. Through the ages the most highly skilled toji (sake brew masters) have laboriously produced award-wining sake at Hinomaru Brewery incorporating to the sannai method of long slow fermentation.
SNOW COUNTRY/ MOTTO
Idyllic images of pure white snow piled high on the rooftop of our historic brewery almost makes one forget the severely harsh conditions in which our artisanal sake is made entirely by hand. Each and every day we re-commit ourselves to our motto “Quality First” and Challenging Spirit. Then the skilled hands of our toji, and kurabito (brewery workers) begin the repetitive process of washing each grain of rice is winter cold water; hand carrying hot steaming rice from the koshiki (rice steaming vat); and preparing the koji in sauna-hot koji-room. Pressing, bottling, storing, they move throughout the brewery in a grueling, timeless choreography that harnesses the best of resources, technique and craftsmanship to create sake made in a time-honored tradition.
HINOMARU BREWERY PHILOSOPHY
In the course of our 323 years of sake making we learned to adapt to many things. At one time we were one of the larger breweries in Akita; today we are one of the smaller breweries in the prefecture lovingly referred to as the ‘kingdom of beautiful sake.” We have understood one thing very clearly. Regardless of the size of the buildings or size of production, we must always maintain the same amount integrity and devotion to our craft. As a smaller brewery we take great pride in producing small batches of super premium grade sakes. We produce only Junmai Daiginjo/ Daiginjo , Junmai Ginjo and Ginjo grade sakes. And we continue to make sake in the laborious, time consuming, ancient kimoto methodology. (The original way of preparing the sake yeast starter.)
RICE, RICE MILLING AND SAKE CATEGORIES
The rice used in Hinomaru sake is cultivated by contracted local farmers and also by our toji and his workers, who later join him in the Brewery to transform the rice grains into exquisite drops of sake.
Milling or polishing away the outer fats, proteins and amino acids of the of sake rice in its brown rice form is essential to the production of premium sake making. The polishing ratios determine the government-designated categories for sake. Rice milled down to 50% or more make the Super Premium Junmai Daiginjo and Daiginjo grade. Rice milled down from 60 to 51% are the Premium Junmai Ginjo or Ginjo grades. Rice milled from 70-61% are the Junami and Honjozo Grade.
At Hinomaru Brewery our average milling ratio is 54%. This means that we often exceed the milling ratio for the category of sake we produce. This essentially guarantees sake that is highly refined in each category.
Note that the polishing ratio listed on the back label indicates how much of 100% of the grain remains. The lower the number, the higher the grade. A milling ratio of 54% percent means that 46% has been milled away. Ginjo or Junmai Ginjo grade. A milling ration of 46% means that 54% of the grain has been polished away. This is higher grade Junmai Daiginjo or Daiginjo grade.
JUNMAI OR NOT:
“Junmai” is a prefix that indicates that all of the alcohol in the bottle of sake is naturally occurring from rice, water, koji and yeast only. Examples; Junmai Daiginjo, Junmai Ginjo and Junmai.
The addition of neutral spirits do not ‘fortify’ premium grade sake. Instead, neutral spirits can release more fragrance and create a lighter, drier sake. When the sake recipe calls for the addition of limited amounts of neutral spirits the prefix Junmai may not be used.
Daiginjo, Gingo and Honjozo are sake categories where the recipe calls for rice, water, koji, yeast and restricted amounts of neutral spirits
Koji is steamed rice inoculated with the mold spore Aspergillus oryzae. Once the spores penetrates the rice that rice is referred to as koji. Koji enables the conversion of starch to sugar. Without koji sake making is not possible.
METHODS: KIMOTO, YAMAHAI AND SOKUJO,
In addition to the categories above sake is also distinguished according to one of three methods for making the “moto” yeast starter.
KIMOTO: The original way. A time consuming, laborious process in which the kurabito (brewery workers) manually use ramming poles to mash steamed rice water yeast and koji rice into a porridge- like consistency. The rice is stirred over a period of 21 days. During this time naturally occurring lactic bacteria naturally converts to a proliferation of healthy lactic acid cells.
YAMAHAI: a time consuming labor intensive process. Similar to Kimoto. By adding more water and raising the temperature in the tank the pole ramming is not necessary. The rice is stirred over a period of 21 days. During this time naturally occurring lactic bacteria naturally converts to a proliferation of healthy lactic acid cells.
SOKUJO is a modern method developed 110 years ago. It allows for the manual addition of lactic acid into the starter. The starter is ready in 10 days.
Kimoto and Yamahai sake tend to be sweeter, with beautiful acidity, richer, fuller-bodied, more flavorful and umami-rich. They pair with heartier foods and often these sake can be enjoyed at varying temperatures.
Sokujo is a fast-brewed method. It is the most common modern methodology.
At Hinomaru Brewery we traverse our historic past with our vision for a bright future.
INDUSTRIAL PRODUCT VS. AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT
At Hinomaru brewery we produce sake that is ‘alive’ with the awesome beauty of our environment and the pride, sincerity and devotion of every artisan who was part of the process. One sip and you will know without a doubt that our sake is a timeless agricultural product; the distilled essence of our rich cultural heritage.
TIME IN A BOTTLE
After fermenting small batches of super premium sake , often using the ancient kimoto or yamahai methodology, we press the sake, pasteurize it one time only and then store the sake; not in tanks, but in 1.8 L bottles. We then place those 1.8L bottles in cold storage and mature them for up to about two years before releasing them into the sales market.
In this way we encapsulate the timeless tradition of our brewery, and give the sake ample time to revel its exquisite fullness.
To the consumer we give the precious gift of “time in a bottle” in sake that is distinguished for its deliciousness, balance, body, smoothness, and stability.
THE UCHI GURA
The uchi-gura is named so because the gorgeous vault-like structure cannot be seen from the street. The kura is actually a formidable structure within the simpler outer structure that protects it. Hinomaru Sake Kura is an example of such an uchi-gura. The magnificent interior hall is richly adorned with lacquered panels, ancient scrolls, silk embroidery and carved woodwork. The uchi-gura is opened to the public on a few occasions each year.
Hinomaru Sake Kura is also referred to as a Bunko-Gura (uchi-gura specifically designed for important archives) a registered national tangible cultural property.
While standing in the kura or even while gazing at the photographs of the historic brewery, one feels as if they have been transported back in time.
- Japan Sake Competition: Gold Medal 2008,2007,2005,2004,2003,2001
Silver Medal 2011 ,2010, 2002
- Akita Sake Challenge：First Prize 2008,2011
- International Wine Challenge：Bronze Medal 2008
- International Sake Challenge：Gold Medal 2008
Silver Medal 2009,2007
- Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition：Gold Medal & Best of Sake
Imported and distributed
Linda Noel Kawabata,
Certified Advanced Sake Specialist, USA Brand Manager Akita Sake Promotion and Export Council (ASPEC)
ASPEC-group introduces premium sake from AKITA: “Empire of Beautiful Sake.”
Akita is cherished by the Japanese for its natural beauty, lively festivals, delicate handicrafts, restorative hot springs, tranquil, snow covered winters, delicious seasonal dishes and sake! Ranking fourth in total sake production, Akita is one of Japan’s most important sake Producing states.
The Akita Cold Brewing method ensures a smooth, full-bodied taste with memorable character. The people of Akita are so proud of their sake that they refer to the region as bishu or the “empire of beautiful sake.”
Imported and distributed
WINE OF JAPAN IMPORT, INC. (MANSAKUNO HANA BRAND)