Since its establishment in 1487, Hiraizumi Brewery has been committed to a simple principle. Rather than comparing itself to Japan’s “elegant cherry tree abundant with exquisite blossoms,” Hiraizumi’s saké is the equivalent of “the beau-tiful simplicity of the fragrant, full-bodied puffy plum blos-soms.” With this philosophy, the brewery resolutely em-braces the traditional method of saké brewing using natural yeast and local ingredients. Within this small brewery, the long-held homegrown tradition of making saké is continued and safeguarded.
With the turmoil of the Ônin War lingering, Ichibei and his family members moved from the Kansai Senshû area to Akita. They were initially engaged in agriculture. However, they soon discovered that the environment in this region was suitable for fermentation and saké brewing due to its proximity to the Sea of Japan and its four distinct seasons. During the middle of the Muromachi period, the sec-ond-generation successor strategically took advantage of these unique resources and began brewing saké. As the brewery’s success grew, it established a business as a shipping agency, distributing sugar and textiles on the Kitamae sea route. By the middle of the Edo era, it was also shipping saké.
With the advent of the railroads during the Meiji period, Japan experienced a nationwide decline in the shipping business. The 22nd-generation successor decided to devote his efforts entirely to saké brewing. The 23rd generation, Kyôtarô Saitô, was convinced that quality saké could only be made using quality rice. This belief also led him to focus on improving agricultural methods as well as the livelihood of farming families.
The name of the saké brand and that of the brewery, HIRAI-ZUMI, comes from an incident involving a local 19th-century painter, Masuda Kyûboku. It is said that he sent a letter to his friend Ryôkan, a celebrated priest, and included a bottle of what he described as “a fountain of extraordinary quality” (飛びきり良い白い水). HIRAIZUMI (飛良泉) is a combination of the four Chinese characters used in Kyûboku’s witty ex-pression.
In June 1964, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake occurred in Nii-gata, and the damage reached as far as the southern parts of Akita. The damage was so severe that a cessation of busi-ness seemed unavoidable. However, the 25th-generation suc-cessor persevered through the difficult times. Deciding to overlook the popular method of brewing saké (in which al-cohol is added after brewing), he began to earnestly pursue traditional saké brewing. The result was the resurgence of the Hiraizumi Brewery and the establishment of its reputa-tion as a producer of high-quality saké. After the reorgani-zation of the brewery into a joint-stock company in 1968, the company’s successful strategy of traditional saké brewing gradually gained recognition in the market. By the arrival of the second saké boom in the 1990s, HIRAIZUMI had become one of the most popular, renowned breweries in the country.
The Yamahai method for brewing saké, which is utilized at Hiraizumi Brewery, has been handed down the generations. With the aim of thoroughly cultivating the yeast, only natu-ral lactic acid bacilli found in the brewery are used. This skillful process requires one month to grow the yeast, while other methods in which manmade bacteria are used take only two weeks. Another crucial component is the water. Drawn from the aquifer of Mt. Chôkai, the hard water used for HIRAIZUMI is rich in minerals. The brewery’s dedication to this time-consuming process and quality ingredients ensures that the saké acquires a unique, acidic flavor harmonized with a mild taste. It is delicious when served warm or cold due to its strong, lasting flavor.
HIRAIZUMI is said to be synonymous with the pure rice Yamahai method of brewing, in which no additional alcohol is added. A unique, full-bodied yet gentle aroma comes from the lactic acid. The instant it touches the tongue, the rich, acidic flavors spread throughout the mouth and create a “tightening” sensation. This is the prominent acidic charac-teristic of HIRAIZUMI. This delicious saké complements al-most any meal, including cheese, fish, meat, and local cui-sine. In addition, its light, simple taste harmonizes with and enhances a multitude of culinary flavors.