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Article: A place for young brewers to grow! The Dream of the First Brewer of Kobana Brewery Vol.2

若手蔵人の成長の場!木花之醸造所の初代醸造長の夢とは Vol.2

A place for young brewers to grow! The Dream of the First Brewer of Kobana Brewery Vol.2

In June 2020, the Doburoku Brewery Konohana Brewery opened in Asakusa, Tokyo. As the only Doburoku brewery in Tokyo, it is a full-fledged brewery with a koji room.

In this second installment, we asked Shuhei Okazumi, the first head brewer, how he got involved in the launch of Kobana Brewery, and what kind of vision he has drawn after graduation. bottom.

Click here for the first

■ As a first step to become independent

Mr. Okazumi says that he originally had no intention of becoming the head brewer. According to the plan of the “Rice and Agape” project, which he is the representative of, he originally planned to grow rice for sake in Akita in 2020 .

However, the timing to start farming is likely to be postponed due to various circumstances, so this year I gave up rice cultivation. The owner of Konohana Brewery asked me to help him, so I have been with him since the launch.

In February of next year, he will become independent and start growing rice in Akita, so he will be serving as head brewer at Konohana Brewery for about eight months. In general, it may be short, but by serving as head brewer, I was able to acquire latent fans who would buy sake after I built my own brewery, and became independent. It seems that it is becoming a very meaningful time as the first step for.

■ Industry where next-generation development does not go well

For the sake industry, where the market is shrinking, a generational change is an urgent matter. Despite this, the industry still lacks the groundwork for young people who aspire to make sake to gain experience and become independent.

Against this background, Konohana Brewery was established with the idea that it would be a place where brewers can acquire the skills and experience they need. It is a place for independent and ambitious young people to step up to become full-fledged brewers.

■ I wanted to make my own from koji

One of the biggest attractions of Kobana Brewery is the koji room, but there were no plans to build it when the brewery was launched.

However, Mr. Okazumi couldn't let go of his desire to make his own rice malt, so he negotiated directly with the owner to have the shop built next door.

The reason why we stick to handmade koji is that if we use ready-made koji, it will be difficult to change the taste, and the range of flavors will be narrowed. Mr. Okazumi's motto is that it is better to have as many variables as possible if you want to make something that is truly delicious.

▲ Konohana Brewery Hanagmori

If we can give back to rice farmers by increasing the rice polishing ratio

Mr. Okazumi is particular about other than koji. For example, behind the challenge of "how to make delicious sake without polishing rice" is a problem facing the entire sake industry.

The sake industry is quite special, and it seems that it is a situation where it can be said that no actor involved in the industry is making a profit. In addition to the shrinking market, strict regulations make it difficult for new entrants to enter the market. It seems that all the problems, such as the small margins that liquor stores can take, are still left unsolved.

Under such circumstances, Mr. Okazumi wants to make sake that can return profits to farmers by not polishing rice as much as possible. In fact, it is not uncommon for even the contract farmers of sake rice, who are said to be masters, to be in a very difficult situation.

If you don't polish the rice, a lot of it will remain usable, so you don't have to buy a lot of rice for sake brewing, which is a big advantage for sake breweries.

Specifically, I am currently purchasing non-patented sake rice grown by my friend's farmer at a higher price than the market price, and by not polishing the rice so much, I will improve cost performance and make it more profitable for the rice farmer. It seems that

However, although it is easy to say that the rice is not polished, if the rice-polishing ratio is high, the rice will not dissolve easily and the taste will tend to be mild. He said that his future task is to find out how to improve it, and that his goal is to develop it into a branded sake that can be traded at a high price.

■ I wanted to do something for the sake industry

Among the various issues, I am particularly concerned about barriers to new entry into the sake industry. Under the current system, it is nearly impossible to obtain a new license to manufacture sake, so if a new entrant is to buy an existing sake brewery.

Mr. Okazumi says that he hopes that by accumulating a track record, it will become a stepping stone toward deregulation in order to overcome such a situation. He said that he would like to aim for a state where all the people involved in sake breweries, farmers, and liquor stores can operate sustainably.

■ If deregulation occurs, there will be something like a craft sake store

It's been a long time since the craft beer boom came, but if there is deregulation for sake, it may be possible to produce sake in restaurants. There is also the possibility that farmers will be able to expand their business to sake brewing as part of the sixth industry.

By expanding the range of producers, the attention to sake itself will increase, and someday there may be something like a craft sake boom. It would be wonderful if the sake industry could regain its vitality little by little by incorporating the sensibilities and perspectives of the younger generation into the industry!

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