'People Of Sake' - Tetsuro Igarashi
Igarashi-San is the master Brewer (Toji) at Kumazawa Brewery - the makers of the famous Tensei. We tracked him down for a bit of a chat about his world of sake.
Could you tell us about your background and when and why you decided that you wanted to make sake?
I was interested in microorganisms, so I enrolled at the Tokyo University of Agriculture. I’m a big eater so my interest in food led to an interest in sake, which I loved and drank often. When I graduated, I thought it’d be cool if I could make sake in Shonan, where I was born and raised, and that’s when I joined Kumazawa Brewing Company.
1996 Graduated from the Tokyo University of Agriculture, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Fermentation Science
1996 Entered Kumazawa Brewing Company, Inc.
2000 Appointed as toji, and started brewing sake with full-time employees
Kumazawa brewery is pretty cool to visit - tell us a bit more about what you guys do there.
Aside from sake, we started developing beer in 1996 with our Shonan Beer, and now we’ve also started making fruit beers, doburoku, and mead. Meanwhile, we’ve opened a restaurant on the grounds and turned it into a place for people to enjoy our beers. We also have a bakery on the premises.
You also store some of your sake in bottles in a bomb shelter (more of a cave really) why is this?
The bomb shelter is a very gentle environment with seasonal temperature changes (as opposed to dramatic temperature change), and doesn’t inflict any stress on the sake. Sake that’s been aged there for 12 months transforms into a well-rounded, alluring sake with a deep flavor. In addition to normal temperature, it also tastes great warmed.
You studied at Tokyo Agricultural University – and are said to be somewhat of a yeast expert – tell us more about this.
I was interested in the fact that you can make delicious things by using a lot of modest power in aggregate, the power of invisible microorganisms.
Could you tell us what you have been experimenting with recently in regards to yeast and sake?
Lately we’ve been collecting yeast from the natural world within the brewery grounds and using it in sake making, and we’ve also been cultivating sake rice here in Chigasaki City, trying to create a local flavor by using Chigasaki rice, water, and yeast.
As a Brewer what is one of the most memorable (or funniest/interesting) experiences you have ever had making sake?
They say it takes 10 years to become a full-fledged sake brewer, and while I made it to toji after only 5 years, there were of course so many things I still didn’t know. When I first tasted the sake I made in my 10th year, the difference in the sake itself was clear as day. Ingenuity and advice about the points of making sake are what accounted for the gap.
Sake is going through a bit of a boom at the moment. What do you think breweries can do to keep the boom going?
Even while enjoying the boom as such, it’s important to create an environment that allows breweries to carry on without disappearing, by faithfully continuing to make delicious sake, engaging in efforts with the local area, leaving our techniques to the next generation, and doing research on sake-making.
If I have time and energy to spare, I’d like to participate in events and promotions, and run a sake awareness campaign.
Igarashi-San thank-you very much for this interview. Please keep making amazing sake and we will keep drinking it and tell everyone else to as well!
For more information on Kumazawa Brewery – visit their listing here.