Teruaki Hashimoto was raised in a sake-brewing family and attended the nation’s top brewing college, but he says his philosophy didn’t start forming until he interned at a brewery renowned for making sake with natural yeasts.
“I was in the muro (koji room) and looking at the thermometers. The temperature was much higher than the teacher at college taught us to use,” he says. “My brain was telling me it was wrong, but my tongue was telling me it was right.”
He knew then that he should forget the textbooks and follow his instincts… and he’s done that with astonishing success. The Hanatomoe range of sakes he produces are some of the most innovative brews around.
Hashimoto-san works as much as possible with what nature gives him, and adjusts his brewing method to suit it. He relies solely on natural yeasts. “Commercial aromatic yeasts need a lot of pampering,” he says. “You always have to adjust to the needs of the yeast. But natural yeasts are stronger and survive while you do what you want.” He also works with the ambient temperature far more than most brewers, making styles of sake that suit the time of the season—mizumoto in the warmer early season; yamahai when it’s colder.
His views on rice are also unusual for an artisanal brewer. He sees himself as a part of the local agricultural eco-system, and since the area’s topography makes rice farming a challenge to begin with, he doesn’t believe it’s his role to add to the pressure. He tells his farmers to send him whatever they like and when he see what he gets, he decides what to make. “If one year they only send me broken grains, I’ll still buy it all and make nothing but amazake that year,” he says.
His flagship Hanatamoe sakes are characterized by a lush, ricey mouthfeel, celebrating the work of those local farmers.
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"There are so many steps in sake-making that you can be flexible and adapt to the rice."