The team at Tsurunoe Shuzo with Yuri Hayashi (bottom right).
This month, we introduce three queen bees of the sake world for Female Frontrunners month: Yuri Hayashi of Aizu Chujo, Saori Kobari of Daitengu Sake Brewery, and Akiko Hakuto of Hakuto Brewery.
Their sakes are part of the selection for Sake Gumi this month and I’m grateful that each took the time to answer some questions we had about their leadership style and outlook for the sake industry.
Yuri Hayashi of Tsurunoe Shuzo in Fukushima Prefecture, is the toji (brewmaster) and Managing Director of the brewery. Hayashi's sakes, Aizu Chujo Junmai Namachozo and Yuri Junmai Ginjo, were offered to Level 1 and Level 2 members, respectively, this month.
How did you get into the sake industry?
I'm the daughter of this brewery, and I've been playing in the brewery since I was little. I grew up watching the work of my father, who is currently the chairmen.
I was interested in sake brewing, so I went to the brewing department of the Faculty of Agriculture, at Tokyo University of Agriculture. After graduating, I got a job at the family brewery.
My mother who was the toji before me, taught me a great deal. I am certified as a first-class sake brewing technician, or toji.
What would you say is unique about your brewery?
Founded in 1794, it is a very small brewery, and there is a lot of manual work with the old-fashioned equipment, and we brew sake utilizing the cold climate of Aizu.
We make the best use of the characteristics of rice to make sake that is unique to Aizu, with the utmost care that is unique to handmade sake.
We have two sake brands: Aizu Chujo and Yuri.
What do you like most about sake-making?
I am fascinated by the mystery of invisible microorganisms that produce fragrant liquid from rice.
I'm most nervous when I drink freshly squeezed sake, but I love that moment.
Sake brewing was mainly for men, but it seems that the number of females is increasing. What has changed to allow more women to participate in sake brewing?
The working environment for women has improved. In our brewery's case, workers no longer need to be in a live-work environment.* Better tools have also reduced the amount of manual labor.
*These were often men-only dormitory style arrangements.
What do you think is the most important step in sake-making and why?
I think it's a love for sake. If one works out of that love, the work ends up being thoughtful. The end result is better sake.
We’d like to learn more about Aizu Chujo Junmai Namachozo and Yuri Junmai Ginjo, the sakes we are offering to Level 1 and Level 2 members, respectively, this month.
Aizu Chujo Junmai Namachozo is a sake we want people to enjoy chilled. We recommend having it with your meals.
Yuri Junmai Ginjo is a refreshing and dry sake prepared by a mother-daughter toji team (my mom and me), while showcasing rice and yeast Fukushima Prefecture.
The Hayashi family holding bottles of Yuri
What are some aromas and tasting notes you have for these sakes?
Aizu Chujo Junmai Namachozo has a mild scent with a good balance between the soft sweetness of rice and refreshing acidity.
Yuri Junmai Ginjo has a refreshing scent with a mellow taste of rice followed by a crisp dryness.
Steaming rice at Tsurunoe Shuzo
Yes, I really enjoy the crispness of both of these sakes. What are your favorite pairings with these sakes?
Aizu Chujo Junmai Namachozo is great with light dishes such as tofu, white fish sashimi, grilled salt, omelet, and boiled edamame.
Enjoy Yuri Junmai Ginjo with yakitori, potato salad, gratin, and cheese.
What temperature do you recommend having these sakes?
Right out of the refrigerator is recommended for both.
What are some plans you have for 2022 and beyond? Anything new or exciting?
Rather than tackling new things, I would like to improve the accuracy of existing products and pursue a stable taste. In the future, if new sake rice is made in Fukushima prefecture, I would like to use it for sake-making.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments Hayashi-san. And thank you for inspiring us as a Female Frontrunner. Kanpai!
All photos courtesy of the brewery