Posts Tagged ‘メリンダ・ジョー’

Uncovering Sake’s hidden Stories by Melinda Joe

July 9, 2009

Sake-Pine-Ball

The present article has been written by my good friend Melinda Joe on behalf of a common friend, namely John Gauntner, the foreign (as to the Japanese) authority on Japanese sake!

MELINDA-JOE
Melinda Joe

I like secrets as much as, if not slightly more than, the next guy, so it didn’t take much convincing to get me to read John Gauntner’s new e-book, Sake’s Hidden Stories. Although it wasn’t the juicy, tell-all memoir I hope he’ll pen one day, this collection of essays offers a glimpse of a world that is closed to most of us, particularly non-speakers of Japanese. It tells stories of strong wills, iconoclasts, and errant sons who return home to carry on the work of generations. In our fast-paced modern society, where individualism reigns supreme, the words honor, duty, and tradition seem like anachronistic concepts; yet, these are the very forces that have kept the sake industry alive.

Part of what attracted me, and my fellow nihon-shu bloggers Tim, Etsuko, and Robert-Gilles; to sake was the spirit and enthusiasm of the folks who make it. However, much of the sake literature out there – at least in English – focuses mainly on the products themselves. It’s refreshing to finally find a book that introduces the people behind the brand. A sake insider for more than a decade, Mr. Gauntner is the perfect man for the job. He takes us with him up the gravelly roads and through the cool, dark rooms of centuries-old buildings. Some of the anecdotes describe his first meetings with the brewery owners and staff, and readers feel his surprise and, in many cases, awe.

After meeting the former president of Tairin Brewery in Gifu, Gauntner asks how he was able to control the milling of the rice, which was done at that time on a primitive machine.

The older gentleman answered very simply and humbly, “Well, I listen to it.” You listen to it? Huh?

He walked over to one end of the small machine and lifted up – of all things – a stethoscope that hung neatly over a pipe. “Well, Yeah. I use this, and I listen to it. I have been doing this in this way for so many years that I can easily tell by the sound of the rice spinning inside how much has been milled away.”

Amazing. Most modern seimaiki are automated so the operator has to do nothing, just put in the rice, set the controls, and wait. But for decades this gentleman has been listening to the sound of the rice as it rolled around inside the cylindrical drum, and by using only his senses, polished with years of experience, he can be so accurate that they could make the fine sake Tairin is known for. By using a stethoscope. Simply wild.

The book contains a fair amount of technical information, and, although the first section is devoted to sake basics, true novices may find it difficult to take everything in. The author was a former engineer and his fascination with machinery is evident. For those with a firm foundation of sake knowledge, however, the book is a terrific resource providing in-depth details of production.

Still, everyone can relate to he characters themselves (and, in the sake world, there are plenty of them). When he meets the purple-track-suit-wearing Nakao-san, president and toji of Tsuyu Masamune in Osaka, Gauntner wonders how he learned to make sake.

“Ah, but that’s another long story,” he begins, raising his teacup as if toasting the idea for emphasis. He sets it down on the low table between us before continuing. “You see, I never wanted to be in this business. Originally I was not going to take over the brewery here. I wanted to be a phys ed instructor.”

That’s not the only surprise the kuramoto has in store for him.

In another departure from precedent, Nakao-san has begun to hold the occasional rap concert inside his brewery for the local community rap fans. “It’s kind of tight, but we have barely enough space. The band is down there, people dance up there, on that platform, just in front of the tanks. It’s kinda cool, actually.

These kinds of delightful details make Sake’s Hidden Stories a lot of fun to read, and you’ll definitely feel like an insider by the end of the book. In fact, you may end up itching to take to the sake road yourself. I certainly did!

Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

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English Sake Brewer Master in Japan: Phillip Harper (3) (Postnotes added!)

April 27, 2009


Les meilleurs actualités issues des blogs

The Japan Blog List

Please check Shizuoka Gourmet Blog for all the gastronomy in Shizuoka Prefecture!
————————————————–

tetsukezu

A lot has been written and will be written both here in Japan and abroad on Phillip Harper as he has, with the likes of John Gauntner, Timothy Sullivan and Melinda Joe, established himself as one of the references proving once for all that Japanese sake has at last expanded beyond the confines of this island for the good of all.
It is only a question of time when sake breweries will become a part of life like wine and beer abroad as demonstrated by the five existing branches of large Japanese breweries in the United States employing a full American staff and Moto I, the entirely owned and run American Sake Brewery.

harper-1

What makes the difference is that Phillip has gone as far as becoming the only foreign sake “toji”/master brewer in a Japanese brewery, namely Ki no Shita Brewery in Kyoto Prefecture!
An Oxford graduate hailing from Cornwall, it took him 18 years of sheer courage and guts to break into the closely guarded world of Japanese sake to gain recognition and earn his master brewer status in 2001.
The media (including The Los Angeles Times) finally take good note of his achievements when he was formally asked by Owner Yoshito Kinoshita to become his new Master Brewer (incidentally Phillip had already held that position in Osaka for two years).

This the third of the three bottles I received from his fans in Tokyo. That particular one was sent to me by Melinda Joe.

Kinoshita Brewery, Tamagawa, Tetsukezu Genshu Junmai Ginjo
Rice: Gohyakumangiku
Rice milled down to: 60%
Alcohol: 18~19 degrees (high as it is a genshu/unaltered alcohol contents)

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Transparent
Aroma: Fruity, elegant. Strawberries, apricot.
Body: Velvety
Taste: Strong attack backed by alcohol.
Shortish tail. Warms up back of the palate.
Complex. Junmai tingle.
Fruity and dryish: apricots with hints of strawberries, almonds and macadamia nuts.
Elegant.
Dry almonds making a regular comeback.
Holds its own well with food, but revealing different facets, especially strawberries with a dry finish.

Overall: Elegant and easy to drink in spite of high alcohol contents.
For once, similar to Shizuoka-brewed sake.
Combines fruitiness and dryness into a remarkably palatable (eminently drinkable) creation!

PHILLIP’S COMMENTS:

The specs for that sake are:

SMV +4, Acidity 1.7, Amino Acids 1.5, Alcohol 18.7.

It was brewed with the same organic rice used to make the Konotori kimoto you reviewed the other day – at 60% polish this time.
Though it doesn’t seem to have made an impression on you, that sake isslightly effervescent. Bubbly sake is usually made either by refermenting in the bottle (like Champagne…), or injecting gas into the sake itself. Oh,and a few people do a kind of sparkling wine thing with secondary fermentationin tanks. Tetsukezu bubbles are different, because they derive from the originalfermentation in the mash itself. We trap them in by a secret method that I can’t
reveal, except to say that it is as high-tech as all the other stuff we do at Tamagawa.

Regards, Philip

———————————
Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

English Sake Master Brewer: Phillip Harper (3)

April 20, 2009


Les meilleurs actualités issues des blogs

The Japan Blog List

Please check Shizuoka Gourmet Blog for all the gastronomy in Shizuoka Prefecture!
————————————————–

tetsukezu

A lot has been written and will be written both here in Japan and abroad on Phillip Harper as he has, with the likes of John Gauntner, Timothy Sullivan and Melinda Joe, established himself as one of the references proving once for all that Japanese sake has at last expanded beyond the confines of this island for the good of all.
It is only a question of time when sake breweries will become a part of life like wine and beer abroad as demonstrated by the five existing branches of large Japanese breweries in the United States employing a full American staff and Moto I, the entirely owned and run American Sake Brewery.

harper-1

What makes the difference is that Phillip has gone as far as becoming the only foreign sake “toji”/master brewer in a Japanese brewery, namely Ki no Shita Brewery in Kyoto Prefecture!
An Oxford graduate hailing from Cornwall, it took him 18 years of sheer courage and guts to break into the closely guarded world of Japanese sake to gain recognition and earn his master brewer status in 2001.
The media (including The Los Angeles Times) finally take good note of his achievements when he was formally asked by Owner Yoshito Kinoshita to become his new Master Brewer (incidentally Phillip had already held that position in Osaka for two years).

This the third of the three bottles I received from his fans in Tokyo. That particular one was sent to me by Melinda Joe.

Kinoshita Brewery, Tamagawa, Tetsukezu Genshu Junmai Ginjo
Rice: Gohyakumangiku
Rice milled down to: 60%
Alcohol: 18~19 degrees (high as it is a genshu/unaltered alcohol contents)

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Transparent
Aroma: Fruity, elegant. Strawberries, apricot.
Body: Velvety
Taste: Strong attack backed by alcohol.
Shortish tail. Warms up back of the palate.
Complex. Junmai tingle.
Fruity and dryish: apricots with hints of strawberries, almonds and macadamia nuts.
Elegant.
Dry almonds making a regular comeback.
Holds its own well with food, but revealing different facets, especially strawberries with a dry finish.

Overall: Elegant and easy to drink in spite of high alcohol contents.
For once, similar to Shizuoka-brewed sake.
Combines fruitiness and dryness into a remarkably palatable (eminently drinkable) creation!

———————————
Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

English Sake Brewer Master in Japan: Phillip Harper (2)

April 8, 2009


Les meilleurs actualités issues des blogs

The Japan Blog List

Please check Shizuoka Gourmet Blog for all the gastronomy in Shizuoka Prefecture!
————————————————–

time-machine

A lot has been written and will be written both here in Japan and abroad on Phillip Harper as he has, with the likes of John Gauntner, Timothy Sullivan and Melinda Joe, established himself as one of the references proving once for all that Japanese sake has at last expanded beyond the confines of this island for the good of all.
It is only a question of time when sake breweries will become a part of life like wine and beer abroad as demonstrated by the five existing branches of large Japanese breweries in the United States employing a full American staff and Moto I, the entirely owned and run American Sake Brewery.

harper-1

What makes the difference is that Phillip has gone as far as becoming the only foreign sake “toji”/master brewer in a Japanese brewery, namely Ki no Shita Brewery in Kyoto Prefecture!
An Oxford graduate hailing from Cornwall, it took him 18 years of sheer courage and guts to break into the closely guarded world of Japanese sake to gain recognition and earn his master brewer status in 2001.
The media (including The Los Angeles Times) finally take good note of his achievements when he was formally asked by Owner Yoshito Kinoshita to become his new Master Brewer (incidentally Phillip had already held that position in Osaka for two years).

This the second of the three bottles I received from his fans in Tokyo. That particular one was sent to me by Etsuko Nakamura.

Kinoshita Brewery, TIME MACHINE Tamagawa
Dryness: -72
Acidity: 3.2 (very high compared to Shizuoka)
Rice milled down to 88%

Clarity: Slightly smoky (nothing wrong with this as it contains some lees)
Colour: Rich gold
Aroma: Powerful. Fruity. Plums
Body: Velvety
Taste: Powerful. Strong and pleasant attack. Complex. Flowery and fruity: plums and mirabelles. Memories of coffee beans and almonds.
Bitter chocolate peaking out later.
Liquorish with a hint of acidity.

Overall: I’ve been accused of not beingvery lyrical in my comments, whatever my feelings towards a wine or sake in spite of my great love for them. I suppose I’m too old to change! LOL
I waited until the very last glass (note, galss, not cup!) before writing my impressions.
Frankly speaking, an unknowledgeable person could be easily fooled into believing into thinking he is drinking wine! What with the bottle shape, the colour of the sake and the quaint label!
Liquorish, but not tart or overwhelming, I slowly savoured it like Sauternes or sweet white Port.
With plenty of translated explanations, it should hit the palate of some vaunted “tasters” anywhere in the world!

PHILLIP’S NOTES:

“We also do a barking mad sake called Time Machine that is made in the style of the Edo Period. Etsuko took a shine to it last year. We pressed this year’sTime Machine last week: specs are

SMV -70, Acidity 3.4, Amino acids 7.3, Alcohol 16.6.”
(Specs seem to vary with what is written on the labels)

Phillip later commented:
“The discrepancy in the data is because you drank last year’s
(slightly diluted) version: I gave the specs for this year’s
genshu – which, for your information, is already more deeply
coloured than the bottle you drank, only a week after pressing.”

———————————
Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

English Sake Brewer Master in Japan: Phillip Harper (1)

April 7, 2009


Les meilleurs actualités issues des blogs

The Japan Blog List

Please check Shizuoka Gourmet Blog for all the gastronomy in Shizuoka Prefecture!
————————————————–

harper-koonotori

A lot has been written and will be written both here in Japan and abroad on Phillip Harper as he has, with the likes of John Gauntner, Timothy Sullivan and Melinda Joe, established himself as one of the references proving once for all that Japanese sake has at last expanded beyond the confines of this island for the good of all.
It is only a question of time when sake breweries will become a part of life like wine and beer abroad as demonstrated by the five existing branches of large Japanese breweries in the United States employing a full American staff and Moto I, the entirely owned and run American Sake Brewery.

harper-1

What makes the difference is that Phillip has gone as far as becoming the only foreign sake “toji”/master brewer in a Japanese brewery, namely Ki no Shita Brewery in Kyoto Prefecture!
An Oxford graduate hailing from Cornwall, it took him 18 years of sheer courage and guts to break into the closely guarded world of Japanese sake to gain recognition and earn his master brewer status in 2001.
The media (including The Los Angeles Times) finally take good note of his achievements when he was formally asked by Owner Yoshito Kinoshita to become his new Master Brewer (incidentally Phillip had already held that position in Osaka for two years).

I have always been intrigued by this fellow sake-loving foreigner, and when Melinda Joe and Etsuko Nakamura started sending me some of his bottles, I decided it was grand time that I atoned for my ignorance and tasted his sake which has won so many fans in Japan and abroad!

Before I continue with this first of three (and hopefully more) bottles tasting report, I would like to point out that some will not agree with my heavily Shizuoka sake influenced palate and my “wine” tasting methods (just can’t get rid of my Burgundian origin!). I will just invite them to drink, taste and compare notes!

harper-koonotori

Ki No shita Brewery (kyoto Fu)
Tamagawa (Brand name), Junmai, Nama Genshu (unaltered original pressed sake), Muroka (unfiltered), Kimoto (traditional brewing method)
Rice: Gohyakumangoku
Rice milled down to 77%
Alcohol contents: 19~20 degrees

Clarity: Very clear
Colour: Almost transparent
Aroma: fruity, banana
Body: Velvety
Taste: Strong attack backed by alcohol.
Dry. Complex. Shortish tail. Fruity: Musk Melon. Coffee beans and cherries appearing later.
Hold its own well with food with a light mellow turn.

Overall: A sake devised for food, especially heavy food.
Strong, almost aggressive sake with an uncompromising character.
Turns more complex with the second glass. Elusive at times, but always with a fruity note so remiscent of Musk Melon.
For strong sake officionados!

PHILLIP’S NOTES:

Like all the kimoto and yamahai sakes we do here, this was made without the use of anything but water, rice and koji. We do not
add cultured yeast or anything else to the mash. It is pre-Meiji brewing, and the kimoto under question is precisely the kind of sake that we read about in Meiji Period texts – SMV well into double figures on the plus side, junmai of course, acidity well over two, and comfortably at modern levels of alcohol.

The rice for the kimoto you tasted is organic Gohyakumangoku grown 15 miles away near the haunt of the great white stork (as depicted on the label). The methods are different from standard organic rice farming, as the prime intention is to provide a habitat for these
amazing birds. As you can see from the red sticker, some of the
price goes towards a support organization. This project is all about the
birds, so it would be great if you could give them a plug. FYI, the original artwork is by Sakane Katsuke, an eminent artist who happens to be the boss’s brother-in-law and is also the creator of our excellent Tamagawa logo.

———————————
Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery