Japanese Sake Series: Suigei Sake Brewery
Inside Suigei brewery ‘Nagahama-gura’
Suigei Shuzo (Suigei Sake Brewery) is based in Kochi city, near the Pacific Ocean and the Shikoku Mountains. This article covers its history and brewing methods.
Framed by the Pacific Ocean and the Shikoku mountains, Kochi prefecture is a treasure trove of local culinary delights. “Sawachi Ryori” is a great example of this: a banquet-style serving of local dishes from the sea, the mountains, and the rivers. In fact, mingling over delicious food and sake has always been an integral part of the culture for the people of Tosa (Kochi’s traditional name). “Suigei” itself was born from such a sake and banquet-loving culture set in a mild climate. The chief charm of Suigei is its clean aftertaste that complements any dish and will have you wanting to drink throughout any event. This is why Suigei has been crowned “the best table sake”.
History and background of Suigei sake brewery
History of Suigei Shuzo
Nagahama-gura is located in Nagahama, Kochi City, near the scenic Katsurahama beach that overlooks the magnificent Pacific Ocean. This is the brewery where Suigei has produced sake since its foundation. Nagahama-gura is also on the renowned Pilgrimage Road of the Eighty Eight Temples in Shikoku and is easily accessible from the metropolitan area of Kochi City. In 1969, it succeeded from the sake brewery founded on the same spot in 1872, and established Suigei Brewing Co., Ltd. to continue this sake brewing heritage. It is an old-fashioned brewery, and inherits the historical sake brewing traditions, brewers’ spirits, and efforts toward innovation. At Nagahama-gura, they produce Suigei’s regular items such as “Tokubetsu Junmai” and “Junmai Ginjo Ginrei”. Another noteworthy sake is Junmai Ginjo Ginrei, which exhibits a distinctive acidity and refreshing taste— both characteristics are Suigei’s best charms. Among many sake rice varieties, they chose the Ginpu variety of rice harvested in Hokkaido to produce Ginrei’s rich and mellow taste.
Equipped with the latest brewing facilities, an additional brewery building, Tosa-gura, was built in 2018 in the midst of magnificent nature in the Kanbara district of Tosa City, adjacent to Kochi City. With Suigei’s traditional sake brewing techniques developed in Nagahama-gura and the new state-of-the-art facilities, in Tosa-gura they strive to brew the highest quality sake.
Suigei’s new addition: a second (high-tech) brewery building ‘Tosa-gura’
Suigei Brewery’s essential ingredients
Suigei’s sake is characterised by its rich and dry taste that holds a supreme balance of a gentle aroma and clean aftertaste. Traditionally, Nada in Hyogo and Fushimi in Kyoto are the most notable sake brewing regions in Western Japan. However, the root of Suigei’s sake brewing is in Hiroshima’s Akitsu Toji, who are Akitsu-style sake brewmasters, who learned sake brewing in the Nada and Fushimi regions. The sake in Nada, brewed with its mineral-rich hard water, developed into a sweeter sake when adapted to the softer water in Hiroshima. From there, it came south to Kochi’s warm, rainy and humid climate, which is not always ideal for sake brewing. However, its passionate brewmasters defied the odds and created a rich and dry sake that can be crafted only in the southern region of Tosa.
Suigei’s water source
80% of sake is water, thus water is the life blood of sake brewing. In Nagahama-gura and Tosa-gura they use water sourced from Kagami River located in Tosayama, Kochi City, selected as one of the hundred best water sources of the Heisei Period as judged by the Ministry of the Environment. In Kochi, rain quickly flows into the ocean from its steep mountain slopes, keeping its water soft and low in mineral content. They believe that the soft water and high temperatures help Suigei sake deliver a refreshing sourness and create sakes that perfectly accompany delicious food.
In Tosa-gura, they source brown sake rice. Even for the same variety, the state of the rice is different if harvested in separate regions. Also, the optimum rice milling conditions vary depending on the state of the brown rice; therefore, it is important to check the rice and mill it in-house. It is greatly to their advantage that they can mill rice in the brewery, then store it in rooms at optimal temperature and humidity until the time it is used. With this, they can brew sake using good rice in the best conditions.
Plenty of food and Suigei sake
Suigei’s company philosophy is to bring Suigei to the tables of The world.
Sake has the power to connect people beyond gender, race, and borders. At Suigei, they believe that a joyous dining experience over good food and sake will bring peace to the world. Thus, they aim to brew sake that can be enjoyed everywhere.