The Joetsu Town Journal reports on one crop of sake-specific rice brewed by four breweries. (A bit like a coffee tasting I went to with one harvest of coffee beans, processed three ways, divided between four roasters.)

JR East, part of the former Japanese national railway company, set up an agricultural corporation with local farmers called JR Niigata Farm, based in Niigata city.

Sake-specific rice grown by those farmers was used by four Niigata prefecture breweries to produce four sake labelled "Niigata Shupoppo", released in late December 2017. All four use the same variety of rice grown by the same farmers, milled to the same percentage, with the same alcohol content, and the same name - but each one is still different! The sake was sold at New Days convenience stores near JR train stations in Niigata prefecture.

The project is part of JR East efforts in concert with local areas to use sake to promote tourism in Niigata. The shu of Shupoppo is from the character also read sake (酒), while the poppo is an onomatopoeic word representing the sound of a local steam train. 

The rice is Gohyakumangoku, with the first harvest since the agricultural cooperative was set up brewed in 2016 by the Imayotsukasa and Echigo Tsurukame breweries. They were joined in 2017 by the Kiminoi and Yoshinogawa breweries. Each brewery produced a junmai ginjo sake, with rice milled to 58%, and 15% ABV. Total production was 8,300 720 ml bottles, for a total of 6,000 litres. 

The article delves into the characteristics of each one:

  • Imayotsukasa: light and refreshing, can be drunk chilled, room temperature or heated to nuru-kan (40°C)
  • Echigo Tsurukame: understated aroma with harmonious acidity
  • Yoshinogawa: well-rounded rice umami
  • Kiminoi: muroka (non-fined) and bottle-matured to leave it overflowing with both the sweetness and umami of the rice

Different enough to make up a tasting by themselves!

Click on the link to the article to see the labels, featuring Mount Myōkō, fireworks, and other scenes visible from the breweries. The bottles also have a tag shaped like an old-fashioned train ticket. A 720 ml bottle sells for JPY 1,780 and a 180 ml bottle for JPY 540 (including tax), available from the JR Niigata Station souvenir shop.

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