Merely 4,700 bottles a year.
In sake’s term where a bottle is equivalent to 1.8L, this figure translates into 8,460L a year. This is a current production volume of Abe Shuzo, one of the smallest sake brewers in Japan by its production volume. A minuscule of brewer, located in Kashiwazaki Niigata, is in fact an epicenter of very “unique and irregular” sake producer. This is all attributed to Abe’s 6th generation brewmaster, Yuta Abe.
Yuta Abe: The 6th brewmaster of Abe Shuzo
Abe family is a home of six generation long sake brewer and it dates back more than 200 years. Despite its tradition and history, Yuta, the sixth brewer, never thought about following his family trait.
“When I was a high school student, I never thought about staying in Kashiwazaki to brew sake. Rather, just like many other kids, I wanted to be in Tokyo for some excitements.”
With his will and upon high school graduation, he relocated to Tokyo to attend a college. In Tokyo – just like many other classmates – he took a part time job at a F&B venue. Ultimately speaking, that eventually took him back to Kashiwazaki.
“One day, I went out for a drink with my boss from a restaurant that I was working for. He was a big fun of sake and he knew that I am from a brewer so he thought it would be interesting to have unique sakes with me. When I had sips of sake from this restaurant – I was shocked – shocked with an exposure to new flavor of sake. Despite the fact that I didn’t drink sake much, as a Niigata local – I knew what sake tasted like. But the sake I had at that moment was totally different – redefining a definition of sake.”
This was the moment that brought Yuta’s mind back to sake. But he was already a few steps behind from other brewer’s peers. As a usual practice, many young aspired brewers attend Tokyo University of Agriculture and major in fermentation.
“What I studied was … accounting. Despite this non-relevant background – I enjoyed working at F&B venues and this is where sake is ultimately consumed. So I decided to tap into sake industry from F&B related industry first. Then, head back to my hometown.“
To pursue his brewing career in the future – he began his very first job at Gurunavi, an information technology service company, specialized in F&B industry. After 4 years of stint there (with tons of connection to F&B industry in Tokyo area) – he returns to Kashiwazaki for an apprentice.
All the brewing technique at Abe Shuzo is passed down on-site basis – no manual, data, or statistics were left out. Yuta had to learn all the skills from the site, or the 5th brewmaster – his father.
Having surprised with the situation – currently, he has three focuses.
“One is to quantify the production process and techniques so that the procedures can be put into data or numerics. Two is to acquire the skill set to produce sake that is as good as my grandfather, the 4th generation brewmaster. He is the one expanded Abe’s business and excelled at brewing. Three is to produce low alcohol content sake – this is attributed to my less tolerance to sake, and also eyeing for exporting to overseas.”
The 2015/16 brewing begins from December and its production is expected to last for 2 months. After the production, Yuta will be based back in Tokyo, concentrate on sales and PR work. This is where his last expertise —connections to F&B venues – comes in.
With the effort of Yuta, the name Abe will be recognized as sake, instead of the current prime minister of Japan.
Abe Shozo’s line up can be found from Kanese Shoten.