Century Old Brewery with Young Blood (Saturday, November 1st, 2014)
TSUKINOWA SHUZO, LTD.
Founded by the Yokozawa family that formerly operated a koji specialty store in Shiwa Town in Iwate Prefecture, Tsukinowa became a sake brewery in 1886. Since then, the brewery has been deeply rooted in the town, where famous Nanbu-style brewing was born, by using local ingredients as well as personnel and by producing sake to the locals’ palate. More than 90% of their sake is made from locally harvested rice-most of which is from contract farmers in the area.
At the company’s incorporation in 2005, Hiroko Yokozawa became the “toji” (brew master) to take the helm of the brewing team and redefined Tsukinowa’s tastes to appeal not only to locals but also worldwide consumers. “We are trying to create cleaner tastes while maintaining our signature ‘body’,” explains Ms. Yokozawa who leads the current young brewing team. She is also avid for introducting new flavors and has developed unique products such as junmai sake made from mochi-rice, shochu made from sake lees, and ice cream made using koji.
There are four sakes from Tsukinowa currently available in the U.S. Daiginjo Yoi no Tsuki (Midnight Moon) boasts a gorgeous, floral aroma with a well-rounded flavor of cantelopes, and is recommended to be consumed chilled on its own to truly enjoy the distinctive characteristics as well as complexities. On the other hand, Tokubetsu Junmai Tsukinowa (Moon Ring) is developed as more of a table sake. It has a refreshing and mild flavor with a touch of fruity sourness, which pairs perfectly with fresh sashimi and light dishes. Honjozo Tsukinowa Kinen Label (Blue Hue) has long been loved by locals due to its powerful body and sharp impression. It can also be enjoyed in a wide range of temperatures from ice cold to hot. Junmai Mochikko (Rice Baby) is uniquely made from rice for mochi making. This type of rice is really starchy and hard to make sake with; however, Tsukinowa successfully developed a method of using locally grown mochi rice to brew a superbly nutty and rich sake. It’s great with bitter chocolate and smoked cheeses. Tsukinowa’s sake officially will be re-launched in the New York market this winter.
TSUKINOWA SHUZO, LTD.
Mukaihata-101 Kosuiji, Shiwa-cho, Shiwa-gun, Iwate 028-3303 JAPAN
3 things you should know about TSUKINOWA SHUZO, LTD.
Female Toji Master
Tsukinowa has employed a system where the owner of the company also serves as the toji or brew master and is responsible for all the sake produced. The current toji, Ms. Yokozawa is one of the few female toji in Japan. She strives to redefine the sake of the brewery and create products that attract wider range of fans.
Young Brewers from Local Areas
The average age of Tsukinowa’s brewing team is early 30s, which is very young compared to the sake industry as a whole. Also, they are from Tsukinowa’s neighboring areas in Iwate Prefecture. They are now developing umeshu (plum sake) using kasutori-shochu (shochu made from sake lees).
Traditional Pressing Equipment
At Tsukinowa, traditional pressing equipment called “fune” is still in use. Unlike modern pressing machines that are common today, it’s laborious and time consuming to press sake using the fune. However, the sake pressed through this traditional equipment brings out amazingly soft flavor profiles.