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brewery in Kyoto

Masuda Tokubee Shoten, the Home of Tsukino Katsura

Nov. 17. 2020
by Cindy Bissig

Masuda Tokubee Shoten is a beautiful brewery located just on the outskirts of Kyoto, in the idyllic Fushimi ward. Founded in 1675 it has been in the Masuda family ever since, and is well know by sake lovers in Japan and abroad for their iconic brand “Tsukino Katsura”.

Masuda Tokubee Shoten, the Home of Tsukino Katsura: Nigori Sake
Nigori Sake (Photo: Cindy Bissig)

White – Nigori Sake

They have been credited with the creation or reintroduction of “Nigori” sake in 1964. For those newer to Japanese sake, “Nigori” is a term for sake, that has been roughly filtered with a milky look and texture. Because it is bottled during fermentation, Tsukino Katsura’s Nigori sake comes with a tiny bit of fizz, making it a refreshing drink especially served at a colder temperature. A somewhat light sparkling sake, perfect by itself or as part of a meal.

Amber – Koshu

If you think that re-establishing Nigori sake is already quite the achievement, you will be even more impressed about another project close to their heart. As this small Kyoto brewery has also come to fame for their aged sake.

This aged sake or “Koshu” (古酒) in Japanese, is still a rather new phenomenon in the sake world, yet steadily on the rise. With Tsukino Katsura, yet again, being quite the innovator as rumour has it they are in possession of the oldest aged sake in Japan. With a treasure, that is some 50+ year-old sake resting in their lofty attic. Which makes them also pioneers of this exciting sake movement.

In With the New

Always striving to improve and trying out new things it comes as no surprise they do not just use any rice, but grow it together with farmers to make sure it is up to their high standards and in line with their ideology. A small brewery at the forefront of innovation not to shy away from changes. Watch out for their new range of sake including “Blanche” using  “Kyo no Koi (No. 51)” a yeast developed by the Kyoto City Industrial Technology Research Institute. A delightful sake, with a light acidity perfect for pairing with Italian food, herbs, and cheese.

Masuda Tokubee Shoten, the Home of Tsukino Katsura: Saken Selection
Tsukino Katsura Sake Selection (Photo: Cindy Bissig)

The Sake

Iwaimai Junmai Daiginjo Nigori 

Probably one of their most representative sake is their “Iwaimai Junmai Daiginjo Nigori" sake. What makes this sake special is their use of the “Iwai” rice, a variety from Kyoto. Rice, known to produce elegant, mellow sake that often has a soft mouthfeel.

This Junmai Daiginjo is a very elegant Nigori sake, fresh, with that tiny amount of fizz and just the right quantity of acidity. Great to drink on its own or if you are looking to pair it, I do find it goes well with soft cheese and of course seafood.

Kasegi Gashira

I was excited about this rather unusual sake due to it’s lower alcohol content. As with its 8% alcohol, it is definitely on the lower range for sake, generally measuring around 14-16%. As you may imagine, this also means that this sake is on the sweet side.

It is a light, fruity sake, easy to drink, and would do very well as an aperitif or pair with sweet dishes such as dessert. Certainly, a sake to enjoy in summer or on warmer days of the year.