The Mainichi Shinbun Food column reports on news from the crowdfunding site Makuake that the "god of brewing" is making a comeback. The man in question is 84 year old Naohiko Noguchi, who is rumoured to be coming out of retirement and back onto the front line.
One of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of the Noto Tōji guild of master brewers, he became a tōji, or master brewer at age 27 at the Kikuhime brewery.
He established that brand and went on to be commended as a Modern Master Craftsman by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and awarded the Yellow Ribbon Medal of Honor by the Government of Japan. He was also featured on an episode of Japanese broadcaster NHK's "How Professionals Work" series in 2010, where he revealed that continually eating kōji mould had caused his teeth to dissolve in his 40s.
Although he retired in 2015, Makuake reported him as saying that he wanted to work with passionate younger people who dreamt of making sake, and this had prompted him to come back. He will lead a team of seven young(er) people, including one American from Oregon, at the newly built Naohiko Noguchi Sake Institute. His return to sake brewing will start with a range to be delivered as rewards to Makuake supporters.
Noguchi is famous for his yamahai ginjō style sake, which the Mainichi Shinbun abbreviates to yamagin. (This is a big side benefit of this "daily news story" project, next time I come across that abbreviation I will know what it is...) This style combines the characteristic acidity of this traditional starter method with the required ginjō low-temperature fermentation of highly-polished rice, delivering both body and transparency.
The Makuake page lists three styles for the first production run: honjōzō, yamahai junmai and yamahai ginjō. Two 720 ml bottles cost JPY 5,500 for the honjōzō, and JPY 7,500 for the yamahai ginjō - not cheap, as the author points out, but sake fans will have to have them nonetheless. The article concludes with the writer saying they wouldn't be surprised if the entire lot was snapped up by restaurants and bars, and that to be honest they'd rather have kept the news to themselves to make sure they got some...
- Original article (Japanese, Mainichi Shinbun, 16 November 2017)
- Project page on the Makuake crowdfunding site (Japanese) Funded to 1,709%.
- Naohiko Noguchi Sake Institute site (Japanese)
- Post on the differences in brewing practices between Noto and Nanbu tōji guilds on John Gauntner's Sake World site