Japanese Sake Series: Takasago Sake Brewery
Takasago Sake Brewery’s historical buildings now
Takasago Sake Brewery is based in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. This article covers its history and brewing methods.
A member of the Kohiyama family founded Takasago Sake Brewery, then named Kohiyama Sake Brewery, in 1899. It was then only the fourth brewery in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, but after that the numbers grew, and Asahikawa became known as the "Nada of the North Sea" (Nada is an area famous for sake).
In 1965, Kohiyama Sake Brewery merged with Ishizaki Sake Brewery Co., Ltd., and the company name was changed to "Takasago Sake Brewery Co., Ltd." After the war, sweet sake was the most popular, but drier types gradually became more popular. Then, in 1975, they created a brand of dry sake called "Kokushi Musou" in response to the changing times.
It was mainly sold in Asahikawa and Northern Hokkaido, but later sales were expanded to the rest of Japan and eventually all over the world.
Takasago Sake Brewery’s historical buildings then
Takasago Brewery’s essential ingredients
Abundance of water resources
Takasago’s water source
Surrounded by snowy mountains and four rivers (Biei River, Ushishubetsu River, Chubetsu River, Ishikari River), Asahikawa, located in the Kamikawa Basin, is a city with extremely abundant water resources. The plentiful high-quality groundwater stored by subsidence and sedimentation has almost no seasonal qualitative changes. It is a land blessed with water, which is an important element of sake brewing. The water used by Takasago Shuzo for brewing is groundwater belonging to the Chubetsu River basin. It was found that the groundwater in the Chubetsu River basin has an extremely low iron content and is suitable for sake brewing.
High-quality rice: Hokkaido rice suitable for sake brewing
Where there is water, there is rice, and where there is rice, there is sake. Good quality rice is what makes sake brewing possible. "Hatsushizuku" was developed in 1998 by the Hokkaido Agricultural Experiment Station of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and became the first sake rice produced in Hokkaido. In 2000, the first version was further improved to create the large, cold-resistant "Ginpu". Then, in 2006, "Suisei" and in 2014, "Kitashizuku", both rice types suitable for sake brewing, were developed in Hokkaido one after another.
With the improvement of sake rice, the quality of sake also improved dramatically. It made possible the production of sake with a rich flavour and aroma, as well as a clear and crisp texture. Thus, the demand for rice produced in Hokkaido increased, and it is now often used in sake breweries in other prefectures.
Takasago Shuzo is known for its use of Hokkaido rice, and over 80% of its sake is brewed with it. In its "Kokushi Musou" series, more than 90% of the sake is brewed using Hokkaido rice!
Sake stored in the snow is the best use of nature
Creating the snow storage
In order to further improve the quality of the brewed sake, storage tanks are covered with snow until they are completely invisible, and aged at a low temperature for a long time. By doing so, the temperature inside the tank is maintained at around -2 ° C. The surface of the tank does not come into direct contact with the outside air, suppressing air convection due to temperature changes and stabilising the aging environment. After that, they leave it to nature and wait for the sake to mature and become even more delicious.
This is a unique storage method that Takasago Shuzo started in 1997 with the desire to make more use of the natural power of the area for sake brewing. When the northern island finally begins to feel the signs of spring, the sake stored in the snow ‘wakes up from a long sleep’.
Hokkaido’s snowy mountains
Takasago Shuzo Co., Ltd. celebrated its 120th anniversary in October 2019. Looking back over the years, they were able to mark 120 years of history while overcoming many trials and hardships.
Since their founding in 1899, they have continued to make "things that can only be found here" as a local sake brewery in Asahikawa, using the skills and tireless efforts of their predecessors. They will never be overwhelmed by this history and tradition, always show spirit, and aim to be the most beloved sake brewery in the region as a company that can contribute to society.