• OUR BREWERY Tradition meets modernity
  • PREMIUM SAKE Details of our sake range
  • YOUR TASTING GUIDE Everything you need to know
  • The Pursuit of Perfection
  • Our Processes
  • The Kimoto Tradition
  • The Finest Ingredients

The Pursuit of Perfection  Utilizing Japan’s famous miyamizu water, and carefully selected rice, Shirakabegura combines expert knowledge with cutting edge technology designed to faithfully capture the delicate essence of hands-on brewing techniques, enabling our dedicated brewery staff to bring you sake that accurately reflects their aspirations.

Award Winning Quality  Our drive to bring you only the best has inspired us to leave no stone unturned and spare no expense in the effort to provide truly premium sake year after year. This unwavering dedication to quality and innovation has been recognized at the prestigious Annual Japan Sake Awards, with Shirakabegura holding one of the longest streaks of gold medal wins in the event’s history. What has enabled us to achieve this? We started by going back to the very basics, and rebuilding everything from the ground up.

Masterful brewing techniques and wisdom employed with modern approaches  In the world of sake brewing, there is simply no replacement for the art of human touch, judgment, and intuition that result from faithfully putting into practice the brewing techniques and wisdom passed from generation to generation. From assessing exactly how long rice should be submerged after washing and how it should be handled after steaming, to carefully monitoring how koji is responding to its living environment, time-tested hands-on techniques have proved critical every step of the way in the effort to produce an outstanding product. Meanwhile, modern technology has vastly improved quality assurance and innovation. However, to ensure human intuition, tradition, and hands-on techniques unite seamlessly and effectively with modern technical approaches, Shirakabegura (Shirakabe Brewery) was built following painstaking discussions with engineers and Toji (master brewers) over the course of 3 years. The result is a brewery that has fully enabled its dedicated staff to focus on the never-ending pursuit of bringing you authentically produced premium sake that continues to please year after year.


Our Processes

Rice polishing: A Delicate operation  Long ago, polishing was done through the extremely labor intensive method of adding rice to a mortar and pounding at it with one’s feet. The goal of this tiring process, and the key to high quality rice polishing today, is to apply just the right pressure to evenly remove each rice grain’s outer layers without cracking the grains themselves. Respecting this important detail, Shirakabegura utilizes a vertical rice polishing machine that incorporates a set of coarse and fine spinning grindstones that enable even, high-quality polishing, ensuring that only the most exceptionally polished rice is used for each bottle.
Senmai, Shinseki
Washing and submergence: Every second counts  The traditional method of washing involves removing any of the rice bran still clinging to the rice after polishing by gently washing it in frigid water by hand to avoid damaging any of the grains (photo: above right). After this, the rice is submerged in water and then quickly drained in order to accurately control exactly how much is absorbed. Because the amount of water absorbed during this time affects the quality of the final product, the appropriate submergence time must be skillfully determined and monitored right down to the second. While honoring this hand-made tradition for Shirakabegura’s most premium varieties of sake, washing at Shirakabegura is done with equipment that gently washes the rice and places it carefully in a tank that strictly monitors its submergence time (photo: above middle). Once submergence is complete, a decompression suction system rapidly drains the water to ensure absorption occurs just as intended.
Jokyo, Horei
Steaming and cooling: Firm on the outside, soft on the inside  After the rice has absorbed just the right amount of water, any excess water is removed and the rice moves onto the steaming process. Traditionally, the rice is inserted into a large steamer called a koshiki where it is engulfed in a dense steam for approximately 60 minutes. The result is rice with a relatively soft center and a firm outer layer, giving it the ideal qualities needed to make koji (explained below) and, ultimately, produce the desired depth and flavor profile of the final product. When utilizing this traditional method, the rice is spread out on cloth sheets by our brewery staff and left to cool until it reaches the perfect temperature (photo: above right). However, Shirakabegura also draws on modern equipment that steams, and then exposes the rice to warm and cool air in a series of stages (photo: above middle) that accurately capture this process and ensure a firm outer layer with a soft core. Next, the rice is carried to the kojimuro .
Koji: Sake’s defining moment  The kojimuro is a warm and humid room with ideal conditions for producing sake’s most unique and important ingredient: koji. Traditionally, when the rice has been properly cooled down after steaming, it is spread out (photo: above right) and  sprinkled evenly with a mold called koji-kin. Once attached to the rice grains, the koji-kin grows, producing enzymes that eventually act to break down rice starch into the sugars that are ultimately used for fermentation. The word koji equates to rice onto which the koji-kin is cultivated, and in the sake world, the importance of koji is emphasized in the phrase, “First koji, second yeast starter (shubo), third fermentation.” As  the foundational process for an entire batch of sake, the entire brewing team must thus give it their utmost attention. Such mindfulness lasts over 2 days, and the resulting koji carries a delicate sweetness and smell reminiscent of chestnuts. In addition to the use of a traditional kojimuro, Shirakabegura also draws on custom-made facilities that recreate the techniques of traditional koji making by providing gentle aeration that delicately adjusts the koji’s living environment 
(photo: above middle)  rather than direct cooling which can result in a reduction in quality.
Shubo zukuri
Yeast starter: Shubo, the “mother of sake”  The yeast starter for sake is a mixture of koji, steamed rice, water, and yeast (photo: above right). Although a small amount of yeast is used initially, it is cultivated gradually in the mixture to several hundred million yeast cells per cubic centimeter, producing an ideal mixture for fermentation (photo: middle, shubo tanks). The importance of this sake brewing process is perhaps best stated with the Japanese term shubo, literally the “mother of sake.”
Although the 20th century experienced a shift from the centuries old and more laborious yeast starter production methods, such as the kimoto method, to the more efficient yet highly effective sokujo method, Shirakabegura utilizes several such methods across its product lineup. For more on the traditional kimoto method, please see our kimoto tradition page. The Kimoto Tradition
Fermentation: Creating sugars and alcohol simultaneously  Fermentation, the main event in sake making, is done by adding koji, steamed rice, water, and the yeast starter to a fermentation tank. In the tank, the koji-kin enzymes continue to break up the rice starch into sugars, while the yeast simultaneously works to break down these sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process unique to sake making, termed multiple parallel fermentation, gives  form to the enticing flavors, aromas and acidity of sake. It takes more than 30 days to complete the fermentation process, during which the brewery staff monitor its progress every day and make appropriate temperature adjustments that correspond to its progress. Traditionally, the fermenting mash is stirred by hand daily to avoid any temperature inconsistencies within (photo: above right). A more modern approach also used at Shirakabegura is to utilize fermentation tanks capable of maintaining a uniform and strictly controlled temperature (photo: above middle), while stirring mechanisms mix the mash evenly and gently so as to avoid harming the delicate rice inside.
Pressing: Fresh pressed sake  Once fermentation ceases, the mash is separated into genshu (undiluted sake) and sakekasu, (the left over rice lees), a process termed joso. More traditionally, fine mesh bags containing the matured mash would be placed on top of each other in a large wooden container called a kibune, and pressure  would be applied from the top to slowly and gently push the fresh undiluted sake out. The first portion of sake to seep out is termed arabashiri.  Another traditional method is to simply hang these bags and allow the sake to slowly seep out under the force of gravity alone. Although this technique, commonly referred to as fukurozuri, decreases the amount of yield, it represents a true commitment to product quality. While honoring this tradition (photo: above right),  Shirakabegura also utilizes a large press that gently applies pressure to separate the sake and lees (photo: above middle), thus effectively  mimicking the traditional pressing technique.
Aging and Maturation: Producing a delightful balance of flavors  Once pressed, fresh sake is commonly aged for several months to round out and find a delicate balance of flavors (photo above: aging sake with traditional 18L tobin bottles).  In an effort to produce exceptionally smooth and balanced sake, Shirakabegura has facilities in place to quietly store select products in a refrigerated storehouse at a consistent temperature where the sake matures little by little as the days pass.  In addition to the processes above, there are several more subtle processes and techniques that give sake products their own unique personalities. In other words, this summary of the unique mix of traditional techniques and modern approaches used at Shirakabegura is merely the tip of the iceberg for understanding and appreciating the true depth and diversity of the sake world, its products and how they are each individually made. However, a good place to start may be to visit our tasting guide page.Tasting Guide


The Kimoto Tradition

The traditional kimoto method of producing yeast starter, used in Edo times, was a labor intensive method that had been developed over the years through trial and error in the endeavor to produce Japan’s finest sake. Although time consuming and laborious, the slower and more natural production of yeast, lactic acid, and other important components in the mix results in a sake that is characteristically smooth, elegant and rich. For that reason, kimoto sake matches well with a variety of foods. The kimoto method stands out most notably when compared to the more widely adopted sokujo method, where the direct addition of lactic acid more rapidly creates a suitable environment for the propagation of yeast, and results in sake that is often deemed somewhat lighter compared to kimoto sake. While each type of yeast starter affects the characteristics of the final product, kimoto, with its natural propagation of yeast, remains one of the most hands-on and traditional methods.

  1. Shikomi― 仕込み ― This is the process of first preparing the koji, steamed rice and water in several small vats.
  2. Temoto― 手酛 ― The koji, steamed rice, and water are mixed evenly and stirred delicately by hand to ensure water absorption. Importantly, mixing helps to keep everything moist, thus protecting against bacteria which tend to cultivate on the outer layer of rice grains when left dry.
  3. Motosuri (Yamaoroshi)― 酛擦り(山卸し) ― After being stirred by hand several times, the rice and koji swells as it absorbs the water. At this point, the mixture is stirred and crushed into a puree using oar-like poles called kai. This is also known as yamaoroshi. Because yamaoroshi is labor-intensive, the less laborious yamahai method where this process is omitted is relatively more popular than kimoto.
  4. Motoyose― 酛寄せ ― Once the yamaoroshi process is complete, the contents of the small vats are gathered into one large tank, and strict temperature control is used to create an environment whereby the lactic acid bacteria and yeast can grow over a period of roughly 40 days to create the yeast starter.
  5. Moto (Shubo)― 酛(酒母) ― The yeast starter, also known as moto (or shubo), is the resulting lively mixture of water, koji, rice, and amount of yeast necessary to ensure a healthy fermentation. Since yeast is a microorganism that works to convert sugar into alcohol and, in doing so, produce a variety of aromas that give each sake its characteristic fragrance, the importance of yeast starter cannot be overstated in the effort to define a sake’s final characteristics.


The Finest Ingredients  Truly great Japanese sake starts with the finest water and rice.

Miyamizu Water with the perfect mix of minerals for sake brewing

Miyamizu Water with the perfect mix of minerals for sake brewing  The Nada region in Hyogo Prefecture, one of Japan’s best known sake brewing regions, can attribute part of its fame to its Miyamizu, a hard water that is uniquely suitable for sake brewing and used in Shirakabegura products. The quality of Miyamizu, which flows down the slopes of the nearby Rokko mountain range, spread through rumors that attested to its role in the production of superior sake. Initially only among nearby breweries, word spread to those in other regions around Japan who began to refer to the water as Nishinomiya water, named after the Nishinomiya area. This was eventually shortened somewhere along the way to Miyamizu, meaning Miya water in English. As a so-called “hard” water, meaning it has a relatively higher mineral content, Miyamizu’s suitability for sake is due both to the presence of minerals that aid fermentation, and the near absence of undesirable minerals such as iron, which can give sake an off color, produce unpleasant aromas and degrade a sake’s flavor more rapidly. The result is rich and well-rounded sake that gently makes its way around the palate before finishing clean. Currently, a stone monument is put in place for the well where Miya water was initially discovered.

Sake Rice Not your average table rice

Sake Rice Not your average table rice  Tied fundamentally to the production of rice, a staple of Japanese cuisine, sake brewing is inseparable from Japanese culture as a whole. However, you will rarely find shuzo kotekimai, or “sake rice,” at the dinner table. Compared to table rice, shuzo kotekimai varieties have larger grains with rich starchy centers that are left largely intact even when highly polished, ensuring a lively ferment as the starch is converted into sugar and then alcohol. Long grown near Nada, Yamadanishiki is currently the most highly regarded variety of sake rice, with a large starchy center and fewer of the components such as fat that tend to create less desirable flavors in sake. Several other varieties of shuzo kotekimai, such as Gohyakumangoku, are also prevalent among sake brewers countrywide.