Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Kanemasu Brewery, Year End Blowout Sale)

By Ryuji Takahashi

Tokyo is facing the end of this year very different from the previous year due to the coronavirus increasingly spreading and restaurants requested to shorten business hours since November. Corporations are prohibited from hosting large banquets, while restaurants close at 22:00 with half the rotations of the previous year. When that happens, sake shops are forced to face challenges due to reduced sake orders from restaurants. To overcome these challenges, we must sell sake directly to families. Therefore, Kanemasu Brewery in Niigata prefecture held a storefront blowout sale in mid-December. Kanemasu Brewery sold their specialty sake brands【Hatsuhana, Junmai Daiginjo】sold only once every few years as their featured sake products for the end of the year and the upcoming New Year.  
The sake labels are old, special to consumers who know the long history of Kanemasu Brewery. The first store opened in Nagatoro, Okagata in Niigata prefecture (currently Niigata city) in 1822. The brewery relocated to Nametoko, Nigori-kawamura (currently in Niigata city) in 1883. The third generation owner is said to have relocated the warehouse to the former Shibata feudal lord Mizoguchi’s personal vegetable garden site (currently the city of Shibata)(vegetable garden refers to an herb garden). After World War II ended in 1945, the fourth generation owner foresaw expanded demand for western alcoholic beverages due to the occupying forces, acquired a whiskey distillery permit, and launched the original brand of malt, producing and selling whiskey until relinquishing the production permit in 2010.
The management structure was renewed in 2010 with classic sake brands “Blue Label” and “Red Label” consolidated as the sake brand “Hatsuhana.” Capitalizing on the regional advantage of being a “rice production region with abundant water,” the brewery joined with a local farmer and founded the Knau Company in 2017. Since then, the company started focusing their efforts growing its own brand of sake rice and brewing sake consistent with local production. Thanks to the brewery’s long history, the company’s footwork is light, posting fliers throughout the neighborhood before the year-end blowout sale.
As expected, the high-end Junmai Daiginjo aged three years sold in large quantities along with new sake brewed from new rice. I felt the outdoor dining restrictions this year are forcing people to drink at home, thus many people are seeking higher quality sake to consume at home. This year, many sake breweries closed their doors or reduced their business scale due to the coronavirus. To keep renowned breweries and their long-established history alive, I recommend readers to enjoy quality sake at home.