Brewery Affected by New Year’s Day Japan Earthquake Releases ‘Reconstruction Sake’

Courtesy of Takao Yagi
Brewers hang mash-filled bags from poles in Sogen Sake Brewery in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

SUZU, Ishikawa — A venerable sake brewery in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Thursday released a limited volume of junmai sake called “Fukko no Sake” (sake for reconstruction) that was bottled after the massive earthquake that hit the city on Jan. 1.

All 500 sets of two bottles — each pair of 720-milliliter bottles was priced at ¥25,000 including tax — were sold out only 40 minutes after Sogen Sake Brewery Co. started accepting orders online. The brewery will donate ¥10,000 per set to Suzu city office.

A power outage has stopped machinery at the brewery, which led it to process the batch with a traditional method long used to make high-end sake.

“We want to be a light for Suzu and give momentum to the recovery,” said an eager President Takao Yagi, 60.

Sogen, which has been in business for about 250 years, is said to have been the starting place for a sake brew master (toji) in the Noto toji guild, which is considered one of Japan’s four great toji guilds.

In the earthquake, some 40 tanks of sake were tilted or cracked prior to shipment, and more than half of the sake was thrown out. A press to process the mash — from which sake is made — has been unusable due to the power outage, and the brewery had to suspend operations.

The day after the earthquake, Yagi saw his employees coming voluntarily to the brewery to clean up, even though they were living at an evacuation center, and was inspired to do something that would match their passion for sake brewing.

Yagi went back to the traditional pressing method, called fukurozuri, in which sake is filtered as it drips from a bag filled with mash.

Mash kept in two-ton tanks was poured into 50 bags and took five days to filter through, when it would normally be filtered in an hour by machine.