Quaint, riverside, neighbourhood filled with sake breweries? Consider it filled.
Tucked amongst the craft makers, souvenir shops, and tea houses in Takayama are numerous sake breweries. In winter, when sake brewing is underway, it is possible to tour the breweries and learn some of the secrets to this ancient craft. Being as it was summer when we visited we had to make do with tasting the fruits of last years labour. Oh, the hardship.
Seeking out the hanging cedar balls indicating sake availability, we wandered the towns streets looking for tastings. Some breweries offer free tastings; good for the wallet but not as relaxed as when we paid a small fee to enjoy the small glasses in the tasting room where we could take our time and not feel pressured to purchase.
Sake is all about the water (pure, fresh, and directly from the mountains here), the rice (polished down to its starchy essence), and the koji (the mold that converts the starch to sugar so the yeast can convert it to alcohol).
There are various grades and styles of sake but, quite frankly, I found them all to be quite similar. When tasting side by side I could taste subtle differences in sweetness, dryness, and fruitiness but, when simply enjoying a glass with a meal, each one tasted pretty much like the last. I enjoyed them all, don’t get me wrong, but I think I was expecting the range of flavours found in wine and beer.
Some of the places we visited were more than 300 years old. In Canada we’re lucky to find a place that’s been around 50 years!
All were worth the time spent on a sunny, relaxed, afternoon.