Shizuoka is a large coastal prefecture on the Pacific Ocean side of Honshū [main island] of Japan. In the West, the prefecture extends deep into the Japan Alps. In the East it becomes a narrower coast bounded in the North by Mount Fuji, until it comes to the Izu Peninsula.
The Sugii Brewery was founded in Fujieda City in 1843 and has distinguished itself by continuing to only use traditional brewing techniques such as ‘Kimoto’ and ‘Yamahai’. Kimoto is the original method for preparing the starter mash, which includes having to grind the rice and water into a paste like consistency with bamboo poles for hours on end, and the ferment takes about 4 weeks. The Kimoto method was the original method used for centuries, but is rare to see today because of how lengthy and labour intensive the method is.
The Yamahai method of fermentation, is a slightly simplified version of the Kimoto method that was created in 1909. Yamahai skips the step of making a paste out of the starter mash, which is known as yama-oroshi, and so the full name for Yamahai is actually “yama-oroshi haishi”, meaning “discontinuation of yama-oroshi.” When the Yamahai method was originally developed it meant that the production of sake was easier, but now this has been surpassed by the Sokujo or modern method, that adds lactic acid at the beginning of the moto and so it is not only easier than the original Kimoto method it is also faster with fermentation only taking about 14 days.
The owner of this tiny brewery, Sugii-san, is also the Toji [Master Brewer] and so he is able to make the decision to use the Kimoto and Yamahai methods to make specialty brews even though it means extra production time. These ‘limited’ brews, which are very suited to ageing, is one reason Sugii Shuzo’s sake sell out in a matter of days each brewing season.