Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten: Zaku’s brewery where tradition meets modernity

Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten: Zaku’s brewery where tradition meets modernity

Located in Suzuka, Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten brewery is what I would define the perfect blend between tradition and modernity. While it takes pride in following the traditional sake-making processes, it filters them through modern techniques and knowledge; while it maintains an outmost respect for the ingredients typical of traditional sake-making, it creates innovative tasting experiences, which combined result in award - winning sakes (Zaku).

The excellence of this brand is renowned around the whole of Japan and, has allowed it to become one of the sakes enjoyed by the likes of Cameron, Abe and Obama during the 2016 G7 in Ise Shima. It is now your turn to taste this gem of the Japanese sake scene.

The location:

Just 40 minutes away from the Ise Shrine and, 30 from Nagoya, Shimizu Seizaburo brewery is located in the quiet and serene city of Suzuka.
 
Given the vicinity, this city has long enjoyed a deep connection with Ise Shrine, a pivotal place for Shintoism in Japan. Suzuka developed, in fact, as a post-town for pilgrims directed towards the Shrine, that has long attracted visitors at the religious “Mecca” of the country. The Shrine was constructed around 2000 years ago, and to its construction is linked a fascinating story narrated in Japan’s classical literature, that proves the excellence of this land for sake-making. Ancient stories feature the epithet “Suzuka, the land of umasake (good sake)”, a description that resonates to this day through the excellence of such sakes as Zaku.
 
The secret behind these fascinating flavours is actually a well-known one and, is the water that runs through the mountains surrounding Suzuka, bringing with it the most exciting flavours and textures.
 
The city, in fact, is blessed with the presence of the Suzuka Mountains, that carry limpid and pellucid water celebrated all around the country, allowing the brewery to make excellent sakes, characterised by smooth yet glossy and complex flavours that can convey thousands of emotions in a few drops.
It comes as no surprise therefore that Suzuka has been associated for centuries with amazing sake. And it is exactly in this wonderful environment that Zaku is being produced.
The process:
What makes Zaku different from other breweries, in my eyes, lies in the production process that represents a perfect and exquisite balance between tradition and modernity in all of the steps. The result? A beautiful combination of flavours that blend the natural produces of the area with out-of-the-ordinary pairings, that have enabled Zaku to amaze outstanding chefs and sommeliers around the world.
Sake-making is more than just a job at Zaku, it is a passion and deep devotion, a result of studies designed to find the most perfect balance between tradition and modernity. The truth? Zaku has mastered this art, not only in the methods used to produce sake but, in all aspects of the production. The fact that each Zaku sake is made by a team where 1/3 of the members are women (a breakthrough indeed in a male-dominated field!) is an example of this modern outlook on sake.
Moreover, while many producers today prioritize efficiency and time over quality, this is not how things work at Zaku. The most important processes (the ones that determine the taste of the final product) are here done by hand with dedication and passion, by a team of 14 people, headed by Mr. Uchiyama. It is not an exaggeration to define this person the heart and soul of the company, someone who has dedicated his entire life and knowledge to the production of enticing sakes that exceed any expectations and deliver excellence in every bottle.


Something that has struck with me is without any doubt the flexibility of this brewery, something that can hardly be found elsewhere. Sake-makers at Zaku recognise that tradition is key to the creation of amazing sake, which is also the reason why everything is done by hand. However, the brewery recognises also that flexibility and change are key word for the creation of excellence. Being an excellent sake-maker, in fact, is about being able to adapt methods and knowledge depending on the product at hand. Zaku does not only have this as one of their core philosophies but has also mastered this. The result? Perfectly exquisite sake every batch, that enhance the different strengths of the products used every year, able to convey familiar but surprising flavours and emotions in every single bottle.
The pairings:
A visit to Ise reveals the richness of the culinary tradition of the area, well known around the world. Whether you are looking for amazing matcha, seafood or meat, this is the right place for you! Particularly famous in the region surrounding Ise are langoustines, oysters and beef (Matsusaka beef), all of which are amazing pairings for Zaku’s sakes.
 
These are made on purpose with richer and mellower flavours to match these enticing flavours, demonstrating an outstanding respect for the surrounding environment. The products of these brewery have indeed taught me a great deal about the versatility of this drink that is often thought to be only pairable with Japanese food. For inspiration, I will leave here some of the recommended pairings, but experiment, experiment and experiment to find the perfect pairing for you!
 
Ho-no-Tomo: a fruity and clean drink, with notes of lychee, is the perfect choice to enjoy delicate and summery dishes. The sake pairs perfectly with sashimi, vegetables and tempura, giving one the feeling of enjoying their meals in a blooming garden.
Miyabi-no-Tomo NAKADORI:  delicate, clear and elegant, this sake is the perfect option to accompany and enhance the taste of rich and sweets crustaceans like crabs, prawns and lobsters. This sake will give you in fact the perception of enjoying a cozy meal by the beach.
Megumi-no-Tomo: sweet but savoury, with a taste of acidity, this is the perfect pairing for an Italian dinner or perhaps any dish that has a tomato base. This sake pairs perfectly in fact with ratatouille, meatballs and even pizza. Try it out to believe!
Kaizan-Ittekisui: a combination of tropical fruits with flower aromas, this is the perfect option for rich dishes smothered in bechamel and cheese. Whether to accompany macaroni and cheese, croque monsieur, lasagne, or else, this sake will surprise you, by allowing you to enhance and give a new dimension to comforting flavours.
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