As you all (should) know, Ehime is one of Japan’s premere spots for sake or Nihon Shu (not biased). Kuramotoya is a Nihon-shu shop that was started 4 years ago near downtown Matsuyama. It is owned and operated by a collective that represents some of the biggest Nihon-shu breweries in Ehime.
They have many types of Nihon-shu to both try and buy. They have a “tasting course” which costs 500¥-1100¥ depending on the grade of the beverage, which gives you a nice sample of 3 different types of local Nihon-shu.
Also, they organize seminars for foreigners to learn about various aspects of Nihon-shu. The topics include: how to brew Nihon-shu, Nihon-shu paired with food, a Nihon-shu brewery tour and (the one I recently attended) the different types of Nihon-shu. Arriving a bit early, I didn’t really know what to expect, but as soon as I saw Matsuyama’s regional cultural ambassador, Rod Walters (yeah, that dude IS everywhere), I knew I was in for a treat.
The lecture was a well organized slide show affair with mostly understanable English and much energy. What I took away from the event was:
1) There are 10 main types of Nihon-shu , the main difference between the 1st 6 are the amount of polishing of the rice that is used to brew the alcohol-the more polished the rice, the higher the grade.
2)The lower grade Nihon-shus are better served warm, middle grades-room temperature, the higher grades-chilled.
3) Nihon-shu is different then wine in that the rice is ‘molded’ using a natural mold called Koji-which turns it into a sugar-then yeast is added to that substance to eventually make Nihon-shu.
4) It is fun to drink Nihon-shu
It was definitely fun and informative, and the tasting was pretty amazing I must say. They gave us 6 different types of Nihon-shu paired with local food that was super tasty. We had a really good group of folks who I hope to meet at the next seminar – Nihon-shu and food, which is on November 11th!