Have you ever heard of Go-Shu, the sake made in Australia? There is only one sake brewery in the country up and running for the past twenty years—Sun Masamune. Located near Blue Mountains National Park, Penrith, it’s just an hour away from Sydney.
Mr. Allan Noble, a managing director of Sun Masamune Brewery, gave an interview to Experience Sake.
Rie: Nice to meet you Mr. Noble. I am Rie from Experience Sake, and am interested in your passion for sake, the story behind it, and how you started brewing Sake in this country.
Mr. Noble: Nice to meet you, Rie.
I grew up in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. My mother is Japanese and my father is Australian. I am also fluent in Japanese
Our customers are mostly Australian and vary from local residents to some that drive over two hours away to visit our brewery. I enjoy the face to face contact with our customers explaining how the brewery works, conducting tours and tastings of our fine sake products.
Our flagship products are available in most of the major liquor stores throughout the country and also served in many restaurants.
The Sun Masamune, brand name, was established in 1996, however, pilot brewing started in 1988. At the beginning, I was just a brewing advisor while I worked in a public service institution. Now thirteen years has passed since I began working full-time here, and I am the third managing director of this brewery.
We have taken on board the brewing methods from Konishi Brewery in Japan, the world’s oldest commercialized sake brewery, established in 1550. We strictly follow their traditional sake brewing methods at this brewery. We firmly believe that using local raw materials and production are the key to our business.
Rie: Could you show me the brewery?
Mr. Noble: Sure. We imported most of the machinery from Japan and adapted some of them to meet the Australian labour requirements.
Rice polishing machines: These machines (of which we have two) were a big investment and are very expensive to run. Not many breweries in Japan mill their own rice due to cost and time. Rice is purchased already milled to required specifications. These machines can be a problem for us as any breakdowns we have to contact Japanese engineers for advice on how to repair. This requires photos of error and a lot of toing a froing to fix the problem. We had a problem just recently which put rice mill off line for many weeks while problem was detected.
Rice Koji Production Machine: Koji making is one of the most important processes in brewing sake. In Japan, it is mostly done by hand sometimes throughout the night, but here machines complete this process for us.
Filter Press: The filter press machine is a Yabuta brand which is also very common in Japan. It is well-known that the residual that remains in the filter (sake cake or sake kasu in Japanese) is very healthy as food or as skin treatment. Some local women visit us early in the morning when available to get the cake. It can also be used as a cooking substitute for sugar and is also great to eat with cheese.
Storage tank: Tanks are the only equipment made in Australia. Wine storage tanks are what have been installed in our brewery. Total storage capacity is 500,000 liters of sake.
For more details about production of sake, read From Grains to Glass: How Sake is Made
Rie: Could you tell me how do you get necessary raw materials?
Mr. Noble: All raw ingredients are sourced in Australia. Thanks to the Blue Mountains, we have an abundant neutral water of high quality. It is a little softer or has lower ph level than Japanese water, giving sake a milder taste.
As for the rice, Amaroo rice is grown and harvested within 6 hours drive from here. This variety is registered as sake rice by the Japanese government, and our farmers have years of experience in rice cultivation.
But it’s not easy to maintain and grow good rice grain in Australia with its dry climate and strict environmental regulation. We don’t have enough water, and irrigation is also prohibited for the sake of environmental sustainability. Thereby, we implement crop rotation. For example, legumes are grown a year after rice to add nitrogen and some other nutrients back into the soil. We are proud of this efficient and sustainable way of farming. Australian crops are healthy and harmless while maintaining good quality and traceability.
Riverside walk next to the brewery: This walkway was built from donations of citizens of Penrith city to enjoy a greener life.
Rie: Is the flavor of sake different from that of Japan?
Mr. Noble: Yes, there is a difference. Japanese restaurants in Australia create various fusions of traditional Japanese cuisine and Australian food. There is no reason why sake doesn’t do the same. If the culture and climate is different, then so do people’s taste preferences differ.
But the important thing is that it’s not only about flavor, but also by the way they drink sake. There are two types, people who know sake well and enjoy sake, and people who keep sake for two to three months after opening the bottle. And the latter is dominant.
So, while Japanese premium sake tends to degrade rapidly, our Go-Shu keeps its quality longer, even for Daiginjo and Nama Genshu (raw, undiluted and unpasteurized sake).
Rie: What is your recommendation to beginners?
Mr. Noble: I recommend Go-Shu Premium Junmai Sake—light fruity aroma, slightly bitter, dry notes with deliciously dry finish. It can pair with various kinds of food, especially with a BBQ. It is the first Australian sake and keeps a traditional Japanese style.
Daiginjo is also good for beginners, It is a top quality sake and maintains Japanese tradition and style. But we make it with a lower alcohol percentage than usual (13.5%) so that Australians can easily drink it. It is ultra smooth and luscious, yet fresh, vibrant, and well balanced, with elegant acidity and good length of flavor, providing an impressive presence and depth.
Rie: Your lineup also includes surprisingly fruity sake. Can you tell us about them?
Mr. Noble: Sure. “Tunami” is a sparkling sake cocktail made for “ready to drink” with its fruity lychee and muscat flavours, and refreshing taste 4.0% of alcohol makes it easy to drink for most people.
Go-Shu Plum Wine is also an original. We took more than 10 years to grow plum trees in Australia. Double the amount of regular plum wine in Japan is used to make it sweeter, juicier, and richer to suit the Australian’s palate. I recommend drinking this with soda.
Through our products, we are aimimg to bring sake to every dining table in the country. Winning gold awards or expanding the market isn’t our goal. We want sake to be approachable so that the “everyday drinker” can enjoy it.
Sun Masamune has succeeded to make sake local and enjoyable in Australia, yet it’s still on the way to realize its big vision to deliver sake throughout the country. Mr. Noble’s eyes seem to know the way.
Amid a lot of Japanese breweries struggling to deliver sake to cover international demand, Sun Masamune casts a new light on the possible ways to the globalization of sake.
Go-Shu Visitors Centre
Location : 29 Cassola Place, Penrith NSW 2750
Open : Mon – Fri 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
HP : http://www.sun-masamune.com.au/home.htm
Need to make an appointment for brewery tour.