Father's Day is June 16

After my visit to Nishiyoshida Shuzo in Chikugo, Fukuoka back in January, I had the distinct pleasure to tour Ikekame Shuzo in nearby Kurume. We first featured Ikekame Shuzo in February 2021 for Sake Gumi's theme Experimentations in Koji  – Ikekame had brewed a sake made with black koji, high in acidity with a tropical fruit nose. I knew I would be featuring Ikekame Shuzo for both Sake Gumi and Shochu Gumi so I wanted to see the brewery for myself.

Hugging the Chikugo River, Ikekame is a boutique brewery in spirit that occupies a huge space from when they were making futsushu during the war. This was the first time I encountered a brewery like this – towering tanks after tanks, many huge walk-ins, and room after room of storage – harkening back to sake's futsushu heyday. President Teruyuki Kamachi was kind to meet me at the brewery early on a weekday morning to show me around and talk about the brewery and its history.

I got to the brewery early in the morning and you can see the steam from the chimney, signifying that sake-making is taking place!

The brewery's history goes back to 1875. This room used to house a rice mill. Today, it is a space for events, especially their annual New Day celebration.

 Vintage sake casks and tools.

An old photograph of an aerial view of the brewery.

The entrance of the brewery with requisite sugidama (cedar ball).

You can see the original wood pillars being preserved and supported by steel beams. Incredible!

Rice steamer.

Active moromi.

Sake kasu for shochu.

Tanks:

Doorway to the...

... Yabuta sake press!

Both Yoko and I have noticed that many sake breweries now house their sake presses in a refrigerated space. I was told that this is so they can brew year round, even in the hot summers. 

So many walk-in refrigerators!

The brewery started making shochu in the 80's when the sake industry was in a slump. Kamachi-san refers to himself as a "liquor engineer" and although they have a toji (master brewer) for the sake and shochu, he is very hands-on in creating Ikekame's bottles and is so knowledgable. 

Kamachi-san's eyes lit up when he opened up the doors to the brewery's lab. This was where he keeps his yeasts and koji, which he loves experimenting with, as seen with the Kuro Kabuto line of sakes made with black or white koji, not the usual yellow koji used for sakes. There was a lot of tinkering going on the day I visited – I was lucky to witness it all the BTS magic! 

Yeasts

Yellow and black koji. 

Machine determining SMV and acidity.

Kamachi-san experiments with aging his shochus as well, and he showed me the Oak barrels filled with juice! I can't wait to taste this one in the future.

Kamachi-san kindly tasted me on his line of sakes and shochus. Many of their sakes use local Fukuoka-grown rice (as featured in my November 2023 Sake Gumi selection by Ikekame) and local ingredients for their shochus as well (as see for December's Shochu Gumi bottle, also by Ikekame). I especially enjoyed tasting their kasutori shochu (made with sake lees) and hope they export this soon!

Aside from the domestic market, the brewery exports their sake to Asia, Australia, U.S., and Europe. Kamachi-san enjoys traveling and I hope he visits Oakland soon!

A big thank you to Kamachi-san for giving me a special tour of the brewery and talking to me about your bottles and production. It is really important for us to visit breweries directly to see how the industry is growing and we are fortunate to get such generous access.