From the end of the Kamakura Period through to the early Muromachi Period, as
many as 234 sake breweries appeared in and around Kyoto. In amongst them was the
famous "Yanagi sake" which was acclaimed as the best in the country. So why did so many breweries concentrate in Kyoto? There were two reasons for this.
Firstly, a large population of feudal lords lived in Kyoto, bringing with them an enormous amount of rendered tax rice, collected from around the country. This meant the existence of rice markets within the city; therefore, the main ingredient of sake was easy to come by.
Furthermore, since the Kitano Tenman Shrine had the rights to manufacture and sell rice malt; many producers of rice malt opened its doors around the shrine. Rice malt is the crucial ingredient for brewing sake, so it was only natural for many breweries to open in the area.
Nonetheless, in the middle of the Muromachi Period, there were some signs that the famous "Yanagi sake's" popularity was starting to decline. Voices saying, "Yanagi sake is too sweet", were started to be heard from the consumers.
Taking its place, "Amano sake", brewed in Kawachi (the eastern part of the current Osaka), and the sake which was brewed in large temples, commonly called "monk sake", became the public's favorite.
When Hideyoshi Toyotomi (the military chieftain in the Warring States Period and Azuchi-Momoyama Period) held the "Cherry-blossom party in Daigo temple", the best sake was collected from all over the nation. Out of all the collected sake, Hideyoshi was extremely fond of "Amano sake".
In the traditional brewing method, steamed rice, rice malt and water were
mixed, all at once, in an earthenware pot. But by this method, only low-alcohol
sake could be made.
Therefore, an innovative method was introduced to brew the "monk sake". The temples of the day were very much like the current university. It is likely that the scholars within the temples invented this method.
The method involves adding a second batch of steamed rice, rice malt and water to the main mash after the first fermentation process finishes. The result was sake with high-alcohol content. This was the beginning of the double shikomi.
While "Amano sake" popularity soared, the temple in Nara established a method that was even more advanced. The sake was called "Bodaisen" which was brewed in "Bodaisen Shoryaku Temple". The monastery was enormous with eighty-six temples in the southeastern valley of Nara city.
Up until then, sake was brewed using rice malt made from brown rice (unpolished rice). White rice (polished rice) was only used as Kakemai. However, in Shoryaku Temple, rice malt was also made from white rice. Because white rice was used to make both Kakemai and rice malt, the sake was called "Morohaku (both white)".
Moreover, a distinctive method, where uncooked rice is used to make the "Moto (yeast mash)", was employed to create the mellow sake.
Not only that, the Shoryaku Temple laid the foundation for the sake brewing technique of the current era. They founded the triple shikomi where the brewing process is repeated three times. Then, the main mash was squeezed in long bag in a process called "Joso (pressing)". Furthermore, the sake was heated to prevent decaying. The process was called "Hiire (pasteurization at low temperature)". (It was 300 years later that Louis Pasteur from France became famous for pasteurizing wine.)
"Nanto Morohaku" instantly overwhelmed "Amano sake" in popularity and won its reputation as being second to none.