Detection of sake yeast in Meiji 28 (1895) was an epoch-making incident in brewing history. The activities of National Research Institute of Brewing and Brewing Society of Japan, both of which were established in Meiji 37 (1904), was also striking, attracting attention from the brewers throughout the nation.
1. Anti-putridity measures
Japanese sake is supported by a long and continuing brewing tradition. But there was a major problem still unresolved from the past. It is the existence of "putrefactive bacteria", which is the case of "Fuzou", the most terrifying disease for sake.
Since the main mash produces around 20% of alcohol in the tank, most bacteria is annihilated then and there. Nevertheless, since "putrefactive bacteria" has a tolerance to alcohol, once it enters in the tank, it proliferates rapidly. This causes the sake to become muddy white, giving off a foul smell, therefore, not adequate for consumption. This is "Fuzou".
Among the sake community, they say that "when Fuzou breaks out three times, the brewer's fortune will run out". Until the end of the Meiji, the brewing industries were regarded as being very unstable, and the banks were reluctant to provide finance. Therefore, the government at the time allowed the use of salicylic acid as the preservative. It continued to be distributed from, the still infant, Brewing Society of Japan to the sake brewers nation-wide until the Showa 44 (1969).
2. The start of "Yamahai"
"Yamahai" is an abbreviation for "Yamaoroshi haishimoto" which is moto (yeast mash) making without "Yamaoroshi".
In the method of ancient sake brewing, to make rice malts, rice is steamed, then the growing yeast is planted. This rice malt is put in a wide and shallow tub, soaked in cold water, stirred and finally turns into liquid rice malt. An enormous amount of steamed rice is added in the liquid rice malt and is mashed using oars. Since the work involves breaking down this mountain of steamed rice, it was given the name, "Yamaoroshi (pulling down the mountain of steamed rice)".
This method is called "Nama moto" or "Surimoto". The sake brewers kept at this as they waited for the yeast fungus and the lactic acid bacterium in the air to mix with the mash and start fermenting.
But the problem with this method was that it required a large space to put the number of the wide and shallow tubs. Furthermore, it was time consuming and needed many hands to do the work. About 3 craftsmen per one tub were necessary for the moto to be mashed. Therefore, in Meiji 42 (1909), this part of the work was abolished and the method was simplified. This was "Yamaoroshi haishi moto", or "Yamahai" in short.
3. Development of "Sokujyo moto"
However, even the work of the "Yamahai" took 30 days, requiring a great deal of attention. Therefore, a new method of making moto (yeast mash) in 2 weeks was developed in Meiji 42 (1909). Traditionally, we had to wait for the yeast fungus and the lactic acid bacterium which naturally occur in the air to mix with the mash. To speed the process, they were artificially added.
This is called "Sokujyo (brewing rapidly) moto" and the majority of contemporary sake brewers uses this method.
The preference for super dry sake of the Meiji Period changed to a dry, but
milder, taste as we entered Taisho Period. Sake Meter Value also changed to 3-4.
In the middle of Meiji, the current bottle of 1.8 liter with a crown cap came
into practical use, and the blue sake bottles gradually started to be seen in