Koshiki Junzukuri (The Old Way) read the characters on Akita Brewing Company’s junmai label, and a glimpse inside the brewery shows why. Some of the tools from a hundred years ago—the huge wooden basin for soaking the rice, the giant kama for steaming it—are still in use today.
Lots of technical innovation has occurred in the sake world over the last hundred years and many of the new tools and techniques have elevated the level of sake quality. But when change is just for the sake of modernisation, or to increase volume, there is usually a trade-off in quality. And this is a trade-off that Akitabare has never been willing to make.
What this commitment means in practice is delicacy, precision and care at every step of the brewing process. Akitabare sakes possess perfect balance, a mild aroma and a subtlety expressed but very distinct taste profile. They tend to appeal to those not overly impressed with flowery aromas and ornate flavours and for whom balance, clarity and finesse are the marks of a great sake.
“People’s taste may change over time, and our sakes will change as well, but they will always have a satisfying taste and distinct personality,” says Kazuo Kawaguchi, the brewery’s late president. “If we had a motto, it would be ‘fierce adherence to tradition, skilful adaptation to change.’ If we were a flower, we would be a peony.”