Yamaoka Shuzō is a sake brewery located in northern Hiroshima Prefecture. It succeeded to a local brewery known to have been in production since the Horeki era (1751–64) of the Edo period, or the time of the ninth and tenth Tokugawa shoguns.
Sake from coastal parts of Hiroshima Prefecture tends to taste mild due to the softness of the local water, but Yamaoka uses the moderately hard Arida spring water, which results in crisper-tasting sake equipped with a taste and body that pair well with meals.
The owner of the brewery practices hannō hanjō, the idea that sound farming and successful brewing go hand in hand. He places great importance on rice production as the bedrock of sake brewing. Some of Yamaoka’s sake uses the Kameno-o variety of sake rice. Although an excellent sake rice, Kameno-o had all but gone out of production because of its comparatively low yield, susceptibility to insects, and labor-intensiveness—its tall stalks that won’t stay upright requiring extra care and attention. Yamaoka Shuzō is directly involved in the revival of this rare breed of rice.
Lovingly grown Kameno-o and other varieties of sake rice are carefully polished in-house, not the norm nowadays, before brewing. The brewery’s attention to detail also extends to the process of pressing, which is manually performed using traditional sake bags and troughs for some of the products.
Yamaoka Shuzō ages its sake for the length of time that’s best for each product before shipping, to make sure the sake reaches customers at its best. This is why the bottling date shown on the label is two or three years before for most products retailed in Japan.
The brewery values product safety and reliability, as well as its local ties. These are reflected in products made from rice grown in the brewery’s own fields using ducks (which feed on weeds and insects, and fertilize the fields with droppings) instead of agrochemicals, and in products developed in partnership with local high school students and organizations. Readers are urged to keep an eye out for what’s coming next from this brewery.
Les grands sakes de Hiroshima