While sake is a year-round delight, each season brings its unique way to enjoy it. Winter, in particular, is not just the brewing season for sake but also when new sakes are released. Delve into the intricate world of sake, rich in variety and taste. Embark on a journey through Fukuoka’s storied breweries and sake spots, where you can learn and savor the essence of Japanese sake.
The Pleasures of Japanese Sake
Sake, a beverage deeply rooted in Japanese tradition, is crafted from rice, koji, and water. The simplicity of its ingredients underscores the importance of quality and brewing expertise. Sake types are distinguished by factors such as ingredients and rice polishing ratios, with premium sakes bearing special names like “Junmai-shu,” “Ginjo-shu,” and “Honjozo-shu.”
Brewed in winter following the rice harvest, sake thrives in Japan’s humid climate, where lower temperatures help suppress bacteria. The brewing culmination around February ushers in a season of new sake and “Kura Biraki” events at many breweries, offering tastings and tours. Sake’s versatility shines through different serving styles: warm “Kanzake” in winter, chilled or room temperature in spring, particularly fresh “Kizake,” cold in summer, and aged, aromatic sakes in autumn.
Fukuoka’s Brewing Landmarks and Sake Destinations
Fukuoka is home to traditional breweries, offering tastings and purchases while you immerse in the brewer’s narratives. Keep an eye out for seasonal events like “Kura Biraki” at various locales.
Hakata’s Sole Sake Brewery: Ishikura Brewery
Ishikura Brewery, the last remaining brewery in Hakata, is renowned for its “Hakata Hyakunen Gura,” a striking building with white walls and a brick chimney, constructed in 1870 and recognized as a national tangible cultural property. Its origins trace back to the “Ishikura-ya,” who accompanied the Kuroda family to Fukuoka. While involved in various trades, they started sake brewing in the late Edo period.
Today, Hakata Hyakunen Gura continues this legacy, doubling as a restaurant, concert venue, and wedding location. Its shop offers a selection of sakes for tasting and purchase.
A Year-Round Brewery Experience: Hamachi Brewery
Located in the Nishi ward, Hamachi Brewery originated from a local leader who brewed sake with surplus tribute rice. Officially established by Shinkuro Hamachi in 1870, it’s known for its “Suginoya” brand, named after the cedar Noh stage he built on the property.
The brewery not only produces sake but also craft beer and liqueurs. Enjoy their freshly baked bread, sake lees pizza, and curry in their dining area. A sake museum on-site offers insights into the world of sake brewing.
A Haven for Sake Enthusiasts: Sake no Gyara-rii Ayasugi
“Sake no Gyara-rii Ayasugi” in Tenjin, once the site of the Ayasugi Sake Brewery founded in 1793, continues to share the sake culture even after the brewery’s 2021 closure. Here, you can find an array of sakes, perfect-for-gift sake ware, furoshiki, and food items. The brewing tools on display are authentic relics from the Ayasugi brewery.
Craft Sake in the Heart of the City: LIBROM Craft Sake Brewery
Near Tenjin, in the Takasago area, LIBROM Craft Sake Brewery brings sake culture closer to the community. Unique for using seasonal fruits and herbs, their sakes range from lemon verbena staples to fresh strawberry “Amaou” varieties. With a lower alcohol content, it’s approachable for newcomers to sake.
The attached pub allows visitors to observe the brewing process while enjoying sake and appetizers. Their stylish packaging also makes these sakes ideal gifts.