When you think of sake brewers an image of a middle-aged Japanese man would probably cross your head, but have you ever heard of a female sake brewer? The toji (head brewer) of Nadagiku Sake Brewery (灘菊酒造) in Himeji, Misa Kawaishi, is one of the few female sake brewers in the country. They have also merged the concept of drinking sake together with eating, by opening a restaurant in 1997 that creates delicious cuisine to be paired with their sake.
As they believe in quality over quantity, they do everything by hand. Sake brewing is a tough, physical process, beginning from autumn all the way to spring, which is probably why usually men are entrusted the role of being a toji. So really, hats off to all female sake brewers, who defied all odds to become a toji.
After a really detailed tour of the sake-making process, whereby the guide will first take you through the traditional way of making sake, then to the current methods today, you are brought to their shop for sake-tasting. I am usually quite weak when it comes to drinking sake, just a few cups would make me lose all inhibitions. It is probably the first time I have drunk so much sake and yet not get drunk. Perhaps it is due to their high quality.
This is what I found out about the percentages on the rice grain samples. The ratio 60% means 40% of the bran from brown rice is removed during the milling process. So a lower percentage means the rice is more highly polished, as you can see on the bottom left sample, the rice does look whiter than that of the bottom right sample. So lower ratio would produce higher quality sake like Junmai Daiginjo-shu (highest grade sake).
The highlight of the tour for me, has got to be the food, for I am such a foodie. The brewery’s restaurant Maegura (前蔵) specializes in sukiyaki and tofu, perfect for the cold autumn. We chose the cheapest lunch meal at 1620 yen. The meal though cheap as compared to the rest available in the menu, did not disappoint.
The appetizers were beautifully plated, and just eating them alone made me quite full even before the main dish, chicken nabe, came up. The tofu really lived up to its reputation, being so silky and fresh, it tasted just like our tau huay (chinese dessert made with bean curd, usually served in sweet syrup) in Singapore. I find that good quality Japanese tofu tastes like tau huay, which is awesome for I absolutely love tau huay.
Nadagiku Sake Brewery (灘菊酒造)
Address : 〒 670-0972 1-121, Tegara Himeji-city, Hyogo
Tel : (079)-285-3111
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Price : 1620-3780 JPY
Opening hours : 10:00～18:00
Closed every 31 Dec to 3 Jan.
Opening hours : [Lunch] 11:30～14:00 [Dinner] 17:00～21:00 ; Closed every Tuesday for lunch, closed every Tuesday and Sunday for dinner.
Reservation is required for their cellar tour.