Japanese Sake Series: Sekiya Sake Brewery
Sekiya Brewery’s philosophy involves a clear blueprint, precise process, and good teamwork. Learn more about the Japanese sake brewery from Aichi Prefecture.
About Sekiya sake brewery
Sekiya brewery was founded in 1864 and is located in Aichi prefecture. Sekiya’s business philosophy is summed up in the word ‘Wajoryoshu’, meaning ‘beautiful sake created through harmonious people’.
The goal of the company is to brew high quality sake that explores the potential of sake. The brewery implements machines and does not have the atmosphere of a traditional brewery. In order to preserve traditional brewing techniques, it mechanises the brewery to streamline labour-intensive work, while keeping a careful eye on the work that is dependent on the human touch. The machines are tools expertly used by the brewers, gathering precise data that is used to continually improve the following batches. Regarding its products, it continues to search for the best methods of delivery and sales so it can manage the product quality up until it reaches the hands of its customers.
The brewery strives to pioneer the future of sake with the goal of "Wajoryoshu" - beautiful sake created through harmonious people.
Sekiya Brewery’s essentials
The brewing process
Sekiya Brewery considers three things necessary for sake brewing. The first is to carefully create a blueprint, the second is to perform each step carefully and precisely, and the third is to have good teamwork among the brewers.
You may think of industrial products when you hear the word “blueprint”. However, sake breweries need blueprints, too. They ask themselves questions like, “What kind of customer is going to drink this, and in what situation?” and “What kind of flavour should it have?” Then they have to decide how much rice to polish, select the yeast and Koji, and think about the fermentation and maturity process in order to best express the flavour or concept. That whole plan is the blueprint of sake brewing. If sake is prepared without a good blueprint, the sake is merely ‘done’. Sekiya believes that sake is something to be created with intention instead of merely being done.
The second point is more obvious. Sake brewing starts with rice polishing, which has many steps. If the brewers make any mistakes or are careless in any one of the steps, they take deductions. If the possible 100 points is deducted by 5 and 10 points every time a mistake is made, there may be nothing left in the end. In order to prevent this, the brewery tries its best to perform each step carefully and precisely. However, it is extremely difficult to pay close attention to all of the steps.
It must perform the ingredient processing extremely carefully, from polishing rice to steaming. It’s also important to pay close attention to temperature management during the processes dealing with koji (sake starter), shubo (yeast starter), and moromi (mashed shubo), as well as the filtering and blending that occurs before bottling. In order to pay close attention to those processes, it has implemented machine processing and computer management systems to keep track of temperatures.
Also, another advantage of mechanisation is that the machines do not work differently depending on the type of sake, whether it is Junmai Daiginjo or Honjozo. If a brewer is measuring the temperature by hand, it cannot manage the temperature adequately throughout the half year of sake brewing for every koji, shubo and moromi. In order to concentrate on one type of sake, they must sacrifice something for another type. Also, since brewers are people, they have to sleep and may sometimes fall ill. Although such instances are natural, they will likely lead to less consistent external conditions such as temperature and moisture. In order not to let those factors affect sake brewing, mechanisation is essential.
The third factor, teamwork, is also important. As seen in the company’s motto, there is a word in sake brewing called “Wajoryoshu”. It means that harmony will brew good sake, or good teamwork of the brewers will brew good sake. Sake brewing is a division of labour. It is made by many different brewers, such as brewers in charge of ingredient processing, koji making, shubo making, and moromi making. If they all do their jobs completely separately, the flavour of the sake will be disjointed. Sekiya believes that it can make wonderful, impressive sake just by sharing its blueprint of sake, expert processing of rice, and various fermentation processes among all brewers.
In order to improve teamwork, it is necessary for each brewer to improve their skills. For that purpose, it built Ginjo Workshop in Toyota city to pass down its sake brewers’ skills to the younger brewers. This helps improve each team member’s skills and pass down sake brewing skills to future generations.
Sekiya also has their own sake bar, ‘Marutani’, in Nagoya
There is another meaning for “Wajoryoshu”, which means, “good sake will cultivate harmony”. Getting together with friends and drinking good sake creates harmonious moments. What Sekiya considers good sake is one that has a good and sweet flavour and a soft harmonious scent. It hopes to continue to brew such sake.