Ippin Sake: see it there, drink it everywhere!

Multi-award winning Ippin Sake from the 230 year old Yoshikubo family brewery in Mito City, Ibaraki has gained a Worldwide reputation.

Double Gold Medals at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition for their Ippin Junmai Daiginjo and Gold at the London Sake Challenge helped put them on sake lovers radars in the west.

In Australia Ippin has gone from strength to strength, now available at Costco, apart from lots of restaurants and bars – see the link below for a detailed list of those.

If you get the chance, on your next trip to Japan put Mito City on your checklist. The city and surrounding area has a lot to offer. The headline act has to be Kairakuen Garden, which rates as one of Japan’s three great gardens, along with with Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, Ishikawa and Korakuen in Okayama.

Ippin sake historic brewery in Mito City view
Ippin Sake is the product of a 230 year old family brewing tradition continued through 13 generations of Yoshikubo family © Yoshikubo Brewing Co Ltd

Ibaraki is the next Prefecture north of Chiba, home of Narita Airport, and next door to Nikko, so it is easily accessed from Tokyo. The fertile coastal plain makes it an important rice growing area so it’s no surprise Ibaraki is also famous for sake production. Local sake is made from fresh water filtered from one of the five local water sources and fermented with the starchy Ibaraki rice.

Seizaburo Yoshikubo established the then Awanoya brewery back in 1790 by converting the family wholesale rice store into a sake brewery. Various ups and downs have happened in the 230 years since, but the family has continued its connection with the brewery through 12 generations. The brewery was burned down twice – during an air raid that also damaged Kairakuen Garden in 1945, and again in the ‘Big Fire of Shimoichi’ in 1987. In between, in 1952, Awanoya became Yoshikubo Brewing Co, Ltd.

The name changed but the company continued to brew delicious sake using the same traditional methods. Yoshikubo was able to overcome these disasters and continue to create their internationally award winning sake. The current president is Hiroyuki “Seizaburo” Yoshikubo.

Despite international acclaim, the brewery remains relatively small and everything is made by hand, creating an intimate and humble atmosphere around the esteemed Ippin sake. Visitors can check it out on tours most weekdays. Normally led by Managing Director Hiroyuki Yoshikubo, the tour takes the visitor on a whirlwind tour of both the factory and the history of sake itself.

Yoshikubo has an unrivalled knowledge of the history of sake in Ibaraki and its role with Yoshikubo Brewery. He clearly explains the process of fermentation and how their famous sake is born. Visitors can walk around and see the brewery up close with no limitations.

Yoshikubo opens the vats and barrels to let visitors experience the process with sights and smells. The brewery refuses to give up their secret yeast recipe, but allows the visitors to take a sniff of the dangerously high alcoholic concoction.

The sake is freshly brewed every February. Lucky visitors can taste shinshu, or freshly brewed sake, straight out of the barrels. Every other month the visitors are welcome to taste Yoshikubo’s recommendation of the day. In spring, the brewery also sells a limited edition cherry blossom sake that pairs well with a walk in Kairakuen, Mito’s famous landscape garden.

After 230 years Yoshikubo still brews the best quality sake. Their most famous product, Ippin, can be found worldwide. Yoshikubo still brews new sake flavors that carry the same commonality of a dry taste and hints of yuzu citrus – the tastes of Ibaraki.

Fresh plums for the delicious ‘Mito Umeshu’ © Yoshikubo Brewing Co Ltd

They also make a superb traditional plum wine, “Mito Umeshu”, which got the Best of Plum Wine award at the All Japan Plum Wine competition 2017, and a delicious Limoncello.

The brewery opens at 9am and is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. The tour requires a reservation in advance. Please contact 81-29-224-4111 to request an English guided tour. The tour and tasting are both free of charge. The brewery is about a six minute drive or 25 minute walk from Mito Station. From Tokyo, Mito Station can be accessed via the JR Joban Line. It costs about 4,000 yen one way.

Mito City is easy to visit from Tokyo or Narita

Where to enjoy and buy Sake Ippin in Australia

But there is no need to wait to taste the Ippin difference – Ippin is available at a huge range of outlets in Australia (restaurants, pubs, liquor shops); check the state by state list here

Or just order online from

https://sakeichiban.com.au

https://sakeworld.com.au/product-category/fruit-sake/

https://www.gangemis.com.au/collections/sake#coll-product-list

New ‘Ginjo’ method?
Or traditional?

Sake Ippin Catering Service and Kagamiwari

Even better, their Sake Ippin Catering Service offers the perfect way to taste an array of sake for private functions at restaurants or they can cater at your own home. They welcome all functions such as weddings, engagements, business functions, parties.

Best of all is their Kagamiwari – a Japanese traditional sake ceremony where the wooden lid of the traditional sake cask is broken by one or more wooden hammers. After the opening of the sake cask, the wooden ladle will be used to pour sake into the cups.
Kagamiwari is also believed to bring blessings of health, happiness and prosperity to all.

Satoshi Yoshikubo, CEO of Ippin Australia, hosts events. He grew up in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan and arrived in Australia at the age of 24, with the passion to introduce the brilliance of Ippin sake to the country. He was certified as a sake sommelier in 2014 by SSI International. He is highly experienced in sake event organisations where he manages more than 60 sake events in a year.