My First Winter in Tosa
This little village must hold many interesting histories of those who have come to live here; this is how I came to be among such a fascinating place and group of people…… I first laid eyes on this beautiful village in Tosa on November 14, 2018. I was immediately drawn to its natural beauty and serenity, nestled in this mountain valley so calm and resolute. I came here on the invitation of Matsumoto-san, the Kuramoto of Keigetsu, and given the great opportunity to work as a kurabito alongside his dedicated and knowledgeable production team. At 5am the very next morning after my arrival I found myself helping make Sake after a warm welcome from the brewers. How did I, this 60year old Canadian end up so far from his home….and making Sake? Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I am not in a dream. To be in the land where Sake brewing was born, grew and blossomed, and be part of this amazing cultural heritage is a dream come true for me.
Previously, since 2010 I had been the Sake brewer at Nøgne Ø brewery in Norway making Hadaka Jima brand Sake. However, due to changing markets in the Craft Beer industry in Norway, Nøgne Ø had to make difficult cost cutting measures. Their focus was to maintain their core business which was beer brewing and so the Sake brewing operation was permanently shut down. It was sad to see Europe’s first Sake brewery come to an end. In my case as the saying goes “when one door is closed another is open”, through a mutual contact I was introduced to Matsumoto-san and he set the wheels in motion for me to come and work at Keigetsu.
The dream lived on for me as we brewed through the cold winter days, those days that are meant for brewing good Sake. I found the people at Keigetsu a joy to work with, I was inspired by their work ethic and the harmonious environment created there; the harmony that leads the way to making great Sake. It was so interesting and exciting to begin to learn all the techniques, craft and culture involved in Japanese Sake brewing. I had been so far from the source when I was working as a solo Sake brewer in Norway. I have also found that since the first day here all the people in Tosa-cho have been warm, welcoming and hospitable. I have been made to feel very much at home here.
In mid-March the final day of brewing on the last batch of the brewing year was a bitter sweet moment; a feeling of being part of a great accomplishment coupled with a hint of sadness that the adrenaline filled, action packed days of brewing were over for the season. It is now spring and I am into my sixth month of working here. The brewing year’s batches are now all maturing in storage tanks waiting for the perfect moment where flavours and aromas of rice and water combine with brewing art and craftmanship into a beautiful symphony. And now that the fast pace of the brewing season is behind us, I look forward to spending more time exploring and enjoying this lovely place.