年に一度の蔵開き @小澤酒造 / Annual Brewery Open House

(SakeLoverはSakenoteとしてリニューアルしました 2013/6/21)


The Ozawa Sake Brewery in Okutama, Tokyo held a “Brewery Open House” event for sake lovers this sake production season. With perks like affordable sake tasting and the opportunity to visit a usually off-limits sake brewery amongst other things, it’s a festival no self-respecting sake lover would think to miss!


Of course, there’s no way we wouldn’t fly to the event, as Japanese sake app developers ourselves. We set off for the Ozawa Sake Brewery from Shinjuku at 7:44 on the Holiday Rapid Service!


Before that, however, we headed to Mt. Mitake by taking the cable car from Mitake station, one stop after the Sawai station where the Ozawa Sake Brewery resides. Our purpose was to pray at Mitake Shrine for the SakeLover Japanese sake app-in-development to become a big hit. Can you tell we’re all fired up?



We returned to the Mitake station and steadily made our way to the Ozawa Sake Brewery at Sawai station by strolling down Tama River. The water of the river all the way here felt more like a clear stream, and it was beautiful.


After about 20 minutes of walking, we arrived at the venue. The courtyard was already bustling with activity, packed with visitors holding bottles of sake sold on-the-spot in their hands. This looks fun!





As we paused to sip our drinks, we joined the queue for the brewery tour. The staff kept urging us to ‘Have a drink first!’ while we were in the queue, creating an excellent atmosphere of warm welcome.



The inside of the brewery was packed with tanks around 3 meters tall. The barrels used to be made of Japanese cedar, but have now been changed to materials like enamel or stainless steel.

酒蔵見学コースでは10mぐらい置きぐらいにお酒を置いたテーブルが並んでおり、澤乃井の全銘柄(大吟醸から梅酒まで!)が振る舞われます。これは楽し過ぎる… ちなみに私は元禄という純米酒が旨口で好みでした。食中酒にいい感じですね。

Every 10 meters or so in the brewery tour route, there are well-placed tables with Sawanoi’s full catalog (from Daiginjo to Umeshu*) on display, making the entire tour very enjoyable. Incidentally, a Junmai-shu by the name of Genroku** suited my palate the most. It goes with meals and is pleasant tasting.
(*Plum liqueur, made with plum and sake.)
(**A Japanese sake brand name.)



Ozawa Sake Brewery was built in the Meiji era and had been left untouched since. The ancient, jet black beams really bring you back in time. The great regard placed on continuing the methods and facilities of old may just be what defines the sake brewing culture.



Apparently, they’re also experimenting with brewing sake using Japanese cedar barrels like the old times. It has a full and woody fragrance instead of the harsh smell characteristic of Japanese cedar – an exquisite flavor distinct from barreled sake. I like this too.



Just when you’re thinking you’ve had so much to drink you’re almost losing your taste buds, you discover that they’ve prepared some sake brewing water for you! How considerate! Drinking an equal amount of water and sake can prevent drunken frenzies and bad hangovers.


なにやらひときわ長い行列が。澤乃井の最上級酒、純米大吟醸 「梵」が振る舞われています。やはり皆さんいいお酒をご存じです。ここだけを何度も往復してる人も (^^;)

That’s quite a long queue. They’re serving the Junmai-Daiginjo “Bon*”, Sawanoi’s highest grade sake here. Everyone has good sake taste, eh? Some people kept coming back only to this place, too!
(*A Japanese sake brand name.)

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The spring water Sawanoi produces, which is visible because the tunnel has been lighted up like this upon entering. The Sawanoi brewery excels in crafting such fine displays. The effort they put in to “extending hospitality” to the visitors is evident in the little details.



We’ve reached the end of the tour, but the queue isn’t abating at all. The tour closes shop at 1500 hours, so I guess it’s best to get in as early as possible. They’ve generously allowed visitors to take the tour multiple times if they so desired, too!


It was impressive that all the visitors were smiling away and looking like they were enjoying themselves. Some did get drunk, but none became heavily intoxicated. Truly an event for sake lovers! I’d love to take part next year too.


After the event, we sweated it out at the hot spring in Kabe station while having a light discussion about the app. Then we made our ways back.



We’ve renewed our desire to release an app that will be of great help to the Japanese sake world this day, having been touched by the passion and enthusiasm of the people who love Japanese sake, and the brewers who make them.


Our “Mt. Ontake – River Stroll – Brewery Open House – Hot Spring” trip this time has allowed us to thoroughly enjoy Okutama’s natural sights and Japanese sake! Do come to the brewery open house next year!


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