The terrible flooding in western Japan damaged Asahi Shuzō, makers of Dassai (Asahi Shuzō damaged by flooding). The Asahi Shinbun digital edition reports on the extent of the damage… but the brewery is also showing signs of recovery.
Asahi Shuzō is based in Yamaguchi Prefecture, one of the areas most heavily affected by torrential rain. On 9 July 2018, the brewery buildings were flooded.
As a result, the brewery is estimated to have lost the equivalent of 300,000 isshōbin (1.8 L bottles) of sake. They also think it will take over two months months to fully recover from the damage, costed at around JPY 1.4 – 1.5 billion.
Kazuhiro Sakurai, president of the brewery, and Hiroshi Sakurai, chairman, said at a press conference that the river flowing in front of the honshagura (本社蔵, main brewery/storehouse) overflowed, flooding the ground floor up to 70 cm deep. Machinery and rice to be used for brewing on the ground floor and in underground storage rooms were covered in muddy water. The brewery also lost power, making it difficult to maintain the quality of the approximately 500,000 litres of sake being brewed at the time.
The company is known for combining IT and manual processing, and uses precise temperature control to brew year-round (not just during the winter when the ambient temperature is conducive to brewing). Kazuhiro Sakurai explained that without that fine control of temperature during the brewing process, they can’t guarantee that what is produced will be what they aim for as “Dassai”. He added that they’re considering selling the sake affected by the power cut under another name. But until the cooling equipment is back in action, they won’t be able to brew the way they want to.
Hiroshi Sakurai added that they were not the only ones affected by this midsummer disaster, and that solutions have to be found to preserve both commercial and household power supplies in future.
Grim as that sounds, there were reports on 28 July from the news site Jiji that Asahi Shuzō were restarting brewing for the first time in three weeks since being hit by the flooding, starting with washing rice, with a view to releasing more sake in September. Fans could be seen gathering at the temporary shop on the ground floor of the main building, waiting for sales from the brewery’s stores – particularly their flagship Dassai 23. Kazushiro Sakurai said he was touched by the expressions of concern from all over the world and delighted he could do something in return.