Shimaoka Shuzo / Gunma Izumi

Gunma, Ota-shi Prefecture – Brewer: Toshinori Shimaoka – Founded 1863

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Located in the eastern region of the Gunma Prefecture between the Tone and Watarase rivers, this traditional brewery has prided itself on producing sake in small batches to maintain excellent taste and quality since 1863. Because of the traditional and laborious brewing-style of this brewery, the Toji only employs the most experienced kurabito (brewery workers).

The most important ingredient that goes into this sake is the water—which is from a local well in Akagiyama. The content of this local water is high in minerals—making it a bit ‘harder’ in style (still soft compared to most water sources in the world)—that gives these sakes a round and rich mouthfeel due to a more vigorous fermentation. They age all their sake anywhere from 1-3 years prior to release, which adds the depth and color for which this brewery is known. This sakagura is famous for using a traditional style of brewing called Yamahai, using only the natural yeast that has built up in the brewery over many generations. Between the higher-iron content in the water, Yamahai method of producing the shubo, and aging of the sakes, the style of sake from this brewery is decidedly rich, layered and complex, with a brightness of acidity—all which combine to make these sakes incredibly versatile with food, and great at any temperature. 

Part of the brewery was severely damaged by a fire at the turn of the century. Because of the importance of the sakagura to the community, the local townspeople came together to rebuild and rehabilitate their beloved brewery.