History of Akabu Shuzo in Iwate prefecture!

The history of Akabu Shuzo is fascinating. It was founded in 1897, and originally located in Otsuchi, a coastal area of Iwate prefecture. Unfortunately, the tragic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (Great earthquake disaster of East Japan) destroyed the brewery so badly that it was impossible to restore.

Hidemine Kodate, owner of the brewery at that time struggled to keep the brewery running after the disaster but continued to brew by working alongside Sakuragao Shuzo in Morioka City. Fortunately Akabu Shuzo was rebuilt in 2013 with a national subsidy. It is now located in Morioka, the capital city of Iwate prefecture (east of Akita prefecture).

Akabu Shuzo’s culture and brewing philosophy

After the rebuilding of the brewery, Akabu Shuzo had a team of young, inexperienced but determined employees. These employees had vastly different skills, coming from a diverse industries such as nursing and sales. Ryunosuke Kodate, Hidemine’s son, took over the brewery in 2014 after graduating from university and studying for a short time at a sake brewery in the Kanto region and the Liquor Research Institute. He was only 22 at that time.

Akabu Shuzo and Ryunosuke’s team started out young and inexperienced but determined and learnt how to brew great sake from the ground up. Ryunosuke in the the centre of the front row. He is the “Toji” or chief brewer of Akabu Shuzo. Image credits to Akabu Shuzo

Ryunosuke wants to produce “clean, fresh and solid-tasting sake”, and sake that can be enjoyed by people of his generation. This was how the “Akabu” line of sake was born. Ryunosuke started off being very particular about having all processes done by hand. He didn’t trust machines. However he realised even after trying to keep all variables constant that slight variations in the degree of water absorption and rice washing could result in dissatisfactory results. Since then he incorporates the use of machines to handle aspects of the process such that workers get adequate rest and standards can be consistent.

There is also a shift in focus from traditional sake (their “Hamamusume” brand which are usually full bodied, low acidity sake) towards Ginjo brewing (which has 60% rice polishing ratio or lower, i.e. 40% or more rice is removed). Ginjo sake is usually easier to drink because of its aromatics – the rice milling takes away the outside of the rice grain which contains fats and proteins which might can add bitterness to the sake during the brewing process.

Akabu Shuzo aims to brew sake that is aligned with the times (in the dimensions of technology, brewing methods and taste preferences), and hence its methods and production evolves every day to reach this goal. Give their sake a try!

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