Interview with the Tôji of Katsuyama brewery

Q: 1. Which developments in the Sake world do you find particularly interesting at the moment and which do you dislike?

A: I've been brewing sake for 20 years. During this time, the world of sake has changed a lot. The variety of flavors of sake and the possible combinations with dishes have increased significantly. Everything used to be very strict, especially when it comes to the style of sake. Today, one new and fancy sake after the other is coming onto the market. Of course, Katsuyama Sake should be able to keep up. The sake that we make here goes particularly well with Western kitchens. The harmony between sake and western cuisine is in great demand at the moment and an interesting development.

Q: 2. What is typical of sake from your region?

A: This region mainly produces a mild and gentle sake. I myself learned to brew sake in the Niigata region, where a dry and clear sake is more common.

Q: 3. What do you think makes a good sake?

A: Before, when I was around 20, I didn't like sake at all. But that changed when I took a sip of a good sake. Even an amateur like me can tell that it's a great sake. That's why I brew sake today. And I think this is how a good sake should be that everyone likes to drink and understand, without having to be a professional or understand the production process down to the last detail.

Q: 4. What do you find fascinating about your job and which experience was particularly important for your work?

A: My work is very ‘analog’ in this digital world, which I find very interesting in and of itself. I studied bio-technology about microbes. You normally use this knowledge in the chemical and medical industries and there you can't try what you make. But as a sake brewer, I can check what I'm doing right away. My work is closely linked to our everyday life and still has this sensitive, chemical side of natural science. I think that's extremely important.

Q: 5. How important is the international recognition of sake to you?

A: To be completely honest, it would be easier for us to sell sake in the US and Asia than in Europe. European countries have long histories and their own drinking cultures of which they are proud. It is difficult to gain a foothold there as an 'outsider'. But I like the challenge. We like to sell our products in Europe because we want to create a bond there and contribute to cultural exchange. I learn a lot from it. I hope that our sake goes well with other kitchens and is not just caught in the traditional Japanese framework.

Q: 6. What do you drink in your spare time besides sake?

A: I don't actually drink sake at home because it reminds me of work (laughs). To relax, I tend to grab wine or whiskey.

Q: 7. A recommendation of one of your sake and a matching dish?

A: I used to live by the sea. The sea is not far from the brewery, so there is a lot of seafood here. As I said, I don't drink much sake at home. But when I have shrimp on the table, I like to drink our KATSUYAMA Ken sake, which goes very well.

(The interview was conducted in Japanese by: Alissa Scherzer. self translated)

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