Last weekend we took a free tour at Momokawa Brewing, Inc. in Oirase Town. Momokawa Brewing, Inc. was originally established in the Edo Period (1846) and launched a full-scale sake brewing operation in the 22nd year of the Meiji Period (1889). MBJ brews and sells 2,700 kiloliters of sake every year. It is the largest sake brewery in Aomori Prefecture and the 38th largest sake brewery in Japan. They also have a sister brewery in Forest Grove, Oregon called Sake One Corporation that brews and distributes Momokawa and Moonstone brands nationwide in the US and overseas.
This is the Momokawa Giant Sugidama (Cedar Ball). The name Sugidama derives from the cedar ball ornaments (sugidama) that decorate brewery exteriors. These ornaments are symbols of the ancient role that Japanese cedar plays in the production and drinking of sake. Its origin is from the sake god cedar tree at Miwa shrine in Nara and the cedar ball represents hope for good sake that year. It changes colors as the seasons change which is symbolic of the aging of sake
Sake is rice based but the rice used for sake isn’t the same as “cooking” rice. This rice is larger and less sticky. The water used to brew Momokawa is tapped from an underground aquifer from the Oirase River and runs 230 meters below the surface where filtering and softening process of the water are undergone naturally. Before aging , the entire process for making sake takes between 45-50 days. 10kg of rice produces can produce between 18-20 liters of sake.
The final part of the tour and the pièce de résistance was the free sake tasting! After you taste everything you can purchase your favorite one. Be warned though, it seemed as though everyone liked the first one they tried the best, no matter which one it was. So maybe start with the cheapest. (I started with the most expensive and found it to be the best, others felt differently. I didn’t buy that one but a grape flavored beverage instead, it was wonderful!) We were also given a small bottle of sake as a souvenir. If you go to the sake brewery and taste test, please remember to have a designated driver!
Sake in moderation is good for your health. Recent research has found that sake reinforces activity of NK cells which destroy cancer cells and prevents formation of thrombosis, senility, obesity and diabetes. There is an old saying that sake is the chief of all medicine!
Momokawa Brewing, Inc. Japan
112 Kamiakedo Oirase, Aomori. 039-8543