Welcome to Kyushu Sake Explorer!

August 2021

Hi everyone. Welcome to Kyushu Sake Explorer. 🤗

My name is Stuart. I own a cafe/hair salon in Hakataku, Fukuoka city.

I started this page to introduce sake (nihonshu) from Kyushu to everyone around the world. Well, as many people as I can reach on this platform. I love nihonshu and I think nihonshu produced in Kyushu is top class. However, Kyushu sake is not widely known so I hope I can introduce a number of breweries and types of sake to you as well as some basic sake educational posts. 🤓

I endeavour to go to as many breweries as I can, however I read that Kyushu has nearly 200 breweries! 🧐 Anyway I`ll do my best 😄

Many of you know I love Japanese history, so I will give you a rundown on the history of each brewery if I can.

Thankyou, lets enjoy sake in Kyushu! 😍👍

3rd September 2021

I have been busy at the shop recently so only have had a couple of days off to visit breweries.

First off the rank is Suginoya Brewery in Itoshima, Fukuoka.

The brewery is located in central Itoshima, near Kyushu University. The site is made up of the nihonshu brewery, beer brewery, a restaurant and a shop. The brewery, to my surprise is nearly 150 years old. It was established in the 3rd year of the Meiji period which is 1871 I believe. Now, Itoshima at that time was still quite underdeveloped compared to now. In Fukuoka, the two main city centers were around Fukuoka castle which is now Tenjin and the ancient trade city of Hakata.

Suginoya was founded on an underground fresh water source coming down from Mt Sefuri to the south. Fresh, clean water is essential for any kind of brewing so the location was perfect.

The shop is great and has a large range of both beer and nihonshu products. Tasting is also available if you`re not driving.

Suginoya address is 〒819-0385 福岡県福岡市西区元岡1442 浜地酒造

26 October 2021

Shiraito Brewery

Shiraito is located in Itoshima just to the north of the mountains. Shiraito is located in the heart of Yamada Nishiki rice fields, grown here in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture. Yamada Nishiki rice started being used in 1989.

Japanese sake pressed using an ancient technique called Haneki-shibori using ”Yamada Nishiki” rice grown right here in Itoshima. Shiraito Shuzo has made this type of nihonshu since 1885. Sake made using Haneki has less pressure applied to it than machine-pressed sake, which creates sake with a more pure and mellow flavor. The Yamada Nishiki rice grains are polished to 40%, then hand-brewed using the old-style ”Haneki” method to create sakes with depth such as ”Hanegi” and they also sell seasonal-limited ume liqueur and daiginjo sake which is a very special high end brewed sake.

For the full range of nihonshu please have a look at the Shiraito web site here http://www.shiraito.com/

Shiraito address is Address: 〒819-1151 福岡県糸島市本1986

8th Dec 2021

Shinozaki Brewery

I`d like to introduce Shinozaki Brewery in south eastern Fukuoka prefecture. Shinozaki makes both nihonshu and shochu. Shinozaki Brewery and Distillery has been making premium sake since the mid-1800s and has been creating beautiful koji spirits since 1979. They have also recently started whiskey distilling. First batches will be ready in a few years. I went to the brewery a few weeks ago. It is easy to get to and the staff are friendly, although English is limited. Their nihonshu have won a couple of awards. It is typically a little sweet, smooth and very satisfying on the palette. Their signature label is the Hiramatsu named after the area the brewery is in.

Address is 〒838-1303福岡県朝倉市比良松185 (185, Hiramatsu, Asakura Shi, Fukuoka Ken, 838-1303, Japan)

29th December 2021

Wakatakeya Brewery, Kurume, Fukuoka.

Stopped in here after going to the wonderful Mino Sansou onsen a little to the south of Tanushimaru town. Worth a visit if you are in the area. Kurume is famous for the kappa, and you can see little statues of these little fellas everywhere.

I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at this brewery. I only had one of their nihonshu products before going here so I was excited to see they have a nice range of nihonshu.

From their website. Founded in 1699 by Denbei Wakatakeya, the first generation of the family, Wakatakeya is one of the oldest breweries in the Chikugo region. The family motto is “Wakatakeya is not a business inherited from our ancestors, but from our descendants”, which conveys the philosophy that the surrounding natural environment, technology, way of doing business and the connection with the local community should all be passed on to the next generation in a “natural and correct way”. A scientific approach and a philosophy nurtured over 320 years of history are combined to create a unique sake. Every sake we make is made with all our heart. Our hands unravel the steamed rice, our fingers touch the malted rice, the sound of fermentation from the barrels, our taste buds taste the freshly brewed sake, and we use all our senses to make sake with love and pride. Sake doubles our joy when we are happy, soothes our sorrows, eases our anger and nourishes our spirits, because that is how we taste it.

The brewery is lovely and the brand is one of my favourites. Well worth a visit.

Address is 706 Tanushimarumachi Tanushimaru, Kurume, Fukuoka 839-1233

12th Jan 2022

Finally had time to visit Oga Shuzo right here in Fukuoka.

I updated the main post but I will repost it here too.

I`m going to start off with the oldest brewery in Fukuoka. Established in 1673 way back when Fukuoka was known as Hakata, a little trade port, and Tenjin was the stronghold of the samurai in Fukuoka castle under the Kuroda lords.

Chikushino City, a little to the south of Fukuoka city was blessed with a natural environment with about half of its area covered by mountains and forests, and Futsukaichi was a still is the gateway to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, which is associated with Sugawara no Michizane. For those who do not know about the oxen story. It is believed that the oxen pulling the cart precession of Sugawara stopped at the base of a tree refusing to move any further. This became the final resting place for the nobleman and the temple was built right there to enshrine Sugawara.

The Oga family had a relationship with the Dazaifu Government Office, which was known as the “Imperial Court of the Far East” in ancient times, and even today the oxen in the cattle carts that appear at the “Shinko-shiki Grand Festival” held every autumn at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine are owned by the family.

In the Edo period, the Kuroda clan used Futsukaichi as a post town, and when the lord of the clan went to Nagasaki or Hita to guard the territory, the lord and his presession always went through Futsukaichi. At that time, the Oga family was the head of the local clans and was allowed by the lord to wear a katana with his name and surname on it, as well as having a post stop gate as a resting place for the lord. On the premises there is a well with subterranean water from Mount Hozan, Dazaifu sits at the foot of this mountain, and the feudal lords were very fond of tea made from the well water.

Found this Oga Shuzo nihonshu in my local supermarket the other day. Junmai Ginjo, 55% polished, 15% alcohol, Yume-Ikkon rice from Fukuoka. Good quality and reasonable price. Oga Shuzo has been brewing since 1673! Located in Futsukaichi, Fukuoka.

Oga Shuzou circled

This is the lower ranked Junmai shu. 65% polishing, 15% alcohol. A little dry.

Last of this series I have had is the top range Junmai Daiginjo. Still a reasonable price compared to some other brands. 50% polishing, 15% alcohol.

This series is nice and has been my go to nihonshu recently. Firstly, the taste of each is very nice and refreshing, secondly, it is easy available at my local supermarket and lastly it is priced very well. The red label is about 850 yen and the black label about 1600 yen.

Text and photos by Stuart.

Edited, 12th Jan. Finally had time to go to the brewery. 

FUKUDA SHUZOU, Hirado, Nagasaki.

19 March 2022

The sake is brewed in the westernmost part of Japan in Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture, an area where many breweries were originally engaged in both shochu and sake brewing, and where shochu was the main product, or was consumed locally and rarely went out of the area. The brewery began operations in 1688. I recently read the story of the Dutch and British trade ports opening up in the 17th century and remember how much the (foreigners) loved nihonshu and had some pretty big parties.

Fukuda Shuzo also used to produce Fukutsuru and Nagasaki Bijin as its main brands, but from the 21BY brewing year, the brewer’s sons, Tatsuya and Shinji Fukuda, launched a new sake brand with a nationwide perspective linked to the current era. This is the new brand “Fukuda”.

This junmai sake has a gentle aroma and a harmonious taste of rice, and is a special version of kasumi-shu, a sake with a special flavour. The koji making process has been significantly revised, resulting in a clearer, more transparent finish than last year. First time for me to try Fukuda nihonshu. Very happy and I will buy it again.

8th April 2022

Had a day trip down to Kurume and popped into Yamaguchi Shuzo.

Yamaguchi Brewery is located in the middle reaches of the Chikugo River, a major river in Kyushu, and the city of Kurume (formerly Mii County). The brewery is located right on top of high-quality water wells. The well to the south of the warehouse was dug in the Edo period (1603-1868), and it is said to have been ‘dug by Mr Yamaguchi’ because it was so pure and produced a large quantity of water.

At the end of the Edo period, Risuke Yamaguchi (6th generation), who had previously dealt in antiquities and oil, obtained a licence to brew sake from the Kurume and Arima clans and started his own business as a sake brewer and founded in 1832. Since then, it has been dedicated to the precincts of Sasayama Shrine every year as an official brand of the Arima clan.

Since the end of the Showa period (1926-1989), the brewery has been keen on producing pure rice sake, and the percentage of sake with a specific name in the brewery currently exceeds 90%. The organic, pesticide-free rice initiative started in 1991 and has now expanded to include the cultivation of Yamada Nishiki with 20 contracted farmers.

Every year in October, the Chikugo no Dokura (Chikugo storehouse) is held, providing a place of rest and relaxation for visitors to the beautiful Cosmos Road.

Yamaguchi Brewery address here. 〒830-1122 福岡県久留米市北野町今山534番地1  (English – 534 -1 Imayama, Kitano-machi, Kurume, Fukuoka) Few minutes walk from Nishitetsu Kitano Station.