The Northern part of Japan, especially Tohoku region, is very famous as the sake producer and lots of sake breweries developed from a long time ago. Aomori Prefecture is no exception. In a long established Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery, which dates back to 1775, travelers are accepted to visit the brewery to participate in the brewery tour. I participated in the tour and here is the report!
Beautiful redbrick warehouse and wooden main building
When you arrive at Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery, you will notice the beautiful looking buildings. They produce and stock sake at the redbrick warehouse so that the temperature stays cool even in summer. The wooden building is the main building where their offices are now. Both of them are built in Taisho era, which means more than 100 years ago, and designated as Prefectural Important Scenic Buildings.
The tour reception is in the wooden building. It started from the room across the reception. It was a renovated room which now used as an event space. The guide told me that the room is used to held various events. I saw stages and even a piano!
Then she took us to several storage rooms. Unfortunately, we could not see artisans actually making sake, but she went through other rooms and explained how each room is used, and we got to see huge tanks to preserve sake.
She took us to the upstairs of “Kura”, the storage, and it was a huge attic. It was used to put sake bottles waiting to deliver before, but now, it is used as an event space, too. She said in the past, photo exhibition, art exhibition, and even a play was performed in this space! It is so interesting to hear how traditional buildings are used in different forms today.
The buildings were so traditional and just walking around felt really interesting. The tour is mostly conducted in Japanese, but they have an English pamphlet which you can get. The guide told us lots of foreigners visit Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery recently.
Plenty of sake tasting!
In the end of the tour, we went back to the reception. Then we noticed that the reception was like a bar. It had a lot of bottles displayed at the back and had a refrigerator with their products. YES, the tour comes with sake tasting! (sake tasting requires ¥500/person)
The guide lets us taste different types of sake with explanations. First, she offered different kinds of their signature label “Mutsu Otokoyama”.
The left one was “Mutsu Otokoyama Nouveau” which is the freshest version of Mutsu Otokoyama and the right one was the regular “Mutsu Otokoyama”. Both use the same ingredients, but Nouveau is the one shipped before putting heat. It is the seasonally limited kind, and it was very interesting to taste the difference.
Then she let me tasted another signature label “Mutsu Hassen”. Mutsu Otokoyama’s concept is a classic, traditional sake and Hassen is intended to be more modern. Hassen has different types of labels, and each has different characteristics. For example, the pink label is mainly for females and taste is more fruity, ISARIBI (the blue label) is made to drink with seafood especially those with thick taste and the taste is more light. It was so interesting to taste the difference and hear the story of each label.
Finally, she let us taste plum wine and Doburoku (unrefined sake). Doburoku, their brand is called “Doburock”, had slight gas and but tasted very mild.
The tasting included 12 kinds! The guide told us sake tasting in Hachinohe Shuzo Brewery is also called “the tasting which lets visitors drink too much.” Be careful about your acceptable amount of alcohol and enjoy the great taste of sake from Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery!
You can purchase all the labels at the brewery. Find your favorite label to take home with you.
Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery
Address: Honcho-9 Minatomachi Hachinohe-shi, Aomori Prefecture
Access: 10-minute walk from JR Hachinohe Line Mutsuminato Station
Fee: (For sake tasting) ¥500/person
Website: http://www.mutsu8000.com/ (Japanese Only)