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Tsukinowa Brewery
Iwate Prefecture

incorporated: 1886, 5th generation brewer
annual production: 100k L
varietals: ~ 9
employees: 7
distribution: 50% in Iwate, 25% Hokkaido, 20% Tokyo
breweries in same prefecture: 27

“Hurry up and finish your beer, it’s a promise you’ll be drinking sake from here on in,” says President Mr. Daizo Yokosawa. And did we ever. Toshi-san of Sake Story, myself along with Mr President Daizo and his daughter Hiroko-san (current head brew master), went out after the brewery tour to chit chat over some home-style sushi and drinks. Here’s what I learned: o-ki-na-wa-ri means one more please in a way that’s polite to the merchant. I’m not sure how polite it is, but the merchant was definitely smiling and friendly after the ten rounds of sake we ordered.

Mr. President Yokosawa Daizo during his ball days

Mr. President Daizo-san says sake is now centered on flavors whereas before it was just about high and low rankings hence their mainstay classic honjozo Tsukinowa Kinen (Blue Hue) and daiginjo Yoi-no-tsuki (Midnight Moon), of which he passed on the brewing techniques to Hiroko-san.

In sake brewing, the koji mold that initially breaks down starches of the rice into fermentable sugars is crucial. Brewers train the koji by fluctuating temperatures so that the koji starts and stops constantly building up their strength and numbers for when they’re dumped in the mash. The standard amount of time it takes to cultivate koji is about 2-3 days, but at Tsukinowa the process takes about 16 days. Hiroko-san says from being in a constant struggling motion for a longer period of time is what gives her sakes the layers and complexity they seek.

Responding to the changing landscape of sake, Hiroko-san created Mochiko (Rice Baby), Tsukinowa (Moon Ring) and other varietals to the brewery portfolio honing in on the complexities and various nuances sake can carry.

Hiroko-san getting ready to pour the Mochiko (Rice Baby) and Yoi-no-Tsuki (Midnight Moon)

Mochiko (Rice Baby) is very unconventional in that mochi rice (aka sticky rice) is used to make the sake. Mochi is typically pounded to make rice cakes as it is a stickier, plumper rice grain, but when brewed for sake it imparts a buttery, viscous mouthfeel that’s just slightly sweet.

Another response to the outgoing trends of traditional sake brewing is what they do with the leftover rice lees (known as kasu) after the fermented rice mash has been pressed for sake. Hiroko-san says less people are buying kasu, traditionally used in rice cakes or soup broths, so she’s found another use for them- she’s using it to distill shochu.

It took Hiroko-san 3 years of experimentation before releasing small batches of the breweries first shochu.

the small still imparting big flavors

Pictured here is a still used at Tsukinowa to distill their small batch shochu. As Hiroko-san experimented, the size of the still was not enough to withstand her use, and the still started to get burnt, which turned out to be a pleasant accident.

Flavors of heavy dark chocolate were a direct result of the stills over usage, blending with the strong dry finish of the shochu very nicely. Clocking in at 35% abv, this shochu packs quite a punch while also retaining a dark toasty flavor relieving it from the need to mix. Back to the basics, drink it simply on the rocks.

Aside from making actual shochu, Hiroko-san also brought back the practice of using it in place of distillers alcohol to bring out aromas in sakes that call for it. And there’s no stop in her calling she discovered 13 years ago.

Hiroko-san lived in Tokyo for a while surrounded by advancements of metropolis and felt culture and tradition fading into irrelevancy. During university she was only exposed to mass sake which she didn’t like very much, but was at a bar one night when the bartender suggested a “good” sake which happened to be the Yo-noi-tsuki her father brews. The epiphany hit and she moved back to learn the tradition in 1997.

The Tsukinowa team recently featured in a magazine

Today, she’s got a young team of about 7 people helping her brew, all averaging the age of 25. A very young team compared to most breweries across Japan, but she feels that sake needs a younger perspective to bring out innovations of the sake brewing tradition.

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Tsukinowa Brewery sakes: Yoi-no-tsuki (Midnight Moon), Tsukinowa Kinen (Blue Hue), and Mochiko (Rice Baby) are all available for purchase at Bowery and Vine in NYC and select restaurants.

Distributed in New York City by Craft Division at Paleewong Trading Co.


Housui Brewery
Tokushima Prefecture

incorporated: 1913, 4th generation brewer
annual production: 145k L
varietals: ~20
employees: 15
distribution: 85% in Tokushima and neighboring Kagawa, 15% rest of Japan and elsewhere
breweries in same prefecture: 10 actively brewing

Located on the island of Shikoku off the southern coast of Japan, owner and proprietor of Housui Brewery, Mr. Yasuo Baba, introduces us to some uncommon foods and great sake, “most Japanese don’t even get to visit Shikoku,” he says.

We ducked in a little izakaya near the Awa Ikeda station off the JR Line and our conversation started over a customary glass of beer, a bowl of cockles and some downright hearty honjozo.

cockles and nama

a delicious snack, perfect with beer

Mr. Yasuo Baba, 51, listens to a lot of Sara Brightman nowadays, though is a punk rocker at heart. Some of his music favorites include the Stranglers, Yes (the early prog years), David Bowie, Elvis Costello, and like his taste for progressive rock bands Mr. Baba-san set to create an edge in his sakes, preferring even the softer styles to be hearty and full of character.

Only having had the tokubetsu junmai previously, the underlying characteristics of Housui sakes become apparent after sipping the warmed honjozo in front of us.

There’s a distinct taste that runs through his 20 or so sake varietals, which Baba-san says is much attributed to the water he uses. Spring water running down from the mountains surrounding the island meets the hard water from the adjacent Japan Sea creating a naturally balanced water base rich in minerality.

a view from behind the brewery

Mr. Baba-san is continually worried about water contamination as development encroaches the island. “Even the slightest advancements like hospitals and factories create the possibility,” he says, “but thankfully nothing noticeable has changed in the water so far.”

Apart from the water, Mr Baba-san says the integrity of his sakes also comes from the brew master’s focus and attention. “My job is to create the environment for a brew master to fully concentrate on his work,” says Baba-san.
As an employee who started on the bottling line, Mr. Yasuharu Takeuchi worked at the brewery for 4 years before delving into the brewing process. Now almost 20 years later Takeuchi-san is the head brew master at Housi making sure the koji gets cultivated and the yeast become able.

Takeuchi-san explaining the fermentation schedule

Takeuchi-san explains that since they want that heartier sake the yeast and koji need to be stronger and they do so by temperature control making the yeast work and struggle, building their muscles so to say for when they’re needed in the “moto” (rice mash) to start the fermentation process with that commanding edge throughout. Progressive and hard hitting, like the music he savors.

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Housui Brewery’s Tokubetsu Junmai is currently available for purchase at Sakaya in New York City.

Distributed in NYC by Craft Division at Paleewong Trading Co.

Getting to the root of things means making a wine for it…for Kenny Likitprakong at least. His line of Banyan Wines are made with grapes meticulously grown and picked for not only Thai food in mind, but his background as well.

“My father’s been working at a winery since before I was born,” says Kenny in Hyphen Magazine’s latest cover story on “Asian American trailblazers”.

After you read that story you might be inspired to get some of Kenny’s wines here.

Kenny climbing barrels

Want more on Kenny? Here’s an in depth shout out  from Muddy Roots Magazine. The interviewer probes him on his affinity for skateboarding and wine making and how he mends them together.

go Kenny go!


…equals people drinking Singha! The girls set up shop in a car showroom which had about five or six “really expensive cars” in it. Within the two hours from 7pm to 9pm, Singha Beer, Duvel, and some new gin label were sucked down bone dry. Remember kids, don’t drink and drive!

The Asian American International Film Festival turns 30 this year and we’re here to help them celebrate.

The festival opens tomorrow night (7/19/07) at the Asia Society with the screening of Finishing the Game, a mocumentary about the search for a Bruce Lee replacement. Director Justin Lin (Tokyo Drift, Better Luck Tomorrow) and actors Roger Fan and Sung Kang make appearances after the screening to celebrate the festival’s anniversary.

Eat, drink and be merry. Then head over to Forbidden City for the after party to eat, drink and be even merrier with Singha Beer specials all night.

Mark your calendars if you want to party it up again with AAIFFers as they’re back at Forbidden City for a mid-week blowout on July 26.

on Saturday, June 23rd 2007
We chilled, we illed and we saw some dope clay figurines of Joan Jett, ODB, Futura, Frank Kozik and more mundane things of our lo-fi youths like the 8-bit Nintendo controller and music the way it was meant to be heard —–> analogue. Check them all here.

Urban art and designer toys collide under Seattle artist Mike Leavitt as he debuts in New York with a solo show of his “Art Army” – hand-made action figures alongside other interactive pop art.

Put Singha Beer and urban art enthusiasts together and you’re guaranteed one hectic party. Be at the opening reception party next Saturday (June 23rd) at The Showroom NYC, 117 2nd Avenue (@ 7th St), 2nd floor. We will.

Originally uploaded by Singha Beer Event

Homeboy rocked out at The Tank‘s 4th Anniversary Party with three gameboys and a Behringer mixer. Not to mention a Depeche Mode cover made up entirely of blips and bleeps by pressing up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, Select, Start. I think. How does he do it! Check out these Bit Shifter mp3’s for reference. He’s even got color coded Gameboys!

Where did it all go down?

The Tank @ Collective: Unconscious
279 Church St.
(between Franklin and White Streets)
New York NY 10013

Singha and Singha Light free for the first hour. It was just like home.