USA, Oita Prefecture--Two brothers who brew craft beer in wine-loving France are learning the intricate process of producing sake for eventual sales in Europe.
Since mid-April, Christophe Fernandez, 39, and Stephane Fernandez, 36, have been training mainly under the tutelage of Junpei Komatsu, who heads the Komatsu Syuzoujou brewery in Usa’s Nagasu district in the northeastern part of the Kyushu region.
The brothers’ goals are to brew sake in France using French rice next winter and spread the popularity of the Japanese beverage in Europe.
“With this fascinating drink as a springboard, I hope people will get to know Japanese culture even more,” Christophe said.
The brothers were charmed by the taste of sake when they sipped the drink for the first time during a trip to Japan about 10 years ago.
“Sake is a drink packed with concentrated Japanese culture,” Christophe said. “Our dream was to one day brew sake with our own hands.”
The brothers knocked on the doors of about 15 sake breweries across Japan, including in Nara and Shimane prefectures, seeking a master who could help them realize their dream.
In spring last year, they met Komatsu, 39.
Komatsu Syuzoujou is a small, family-run brewery that helps to manage the growth of rice for its sake, a practice crucial to the Frenchmen’s plans.
“I thought that the brothers’ efforts would make Japanese sake recognized around the world,” Komatsu said. “Japanese sake has already been exported, but the volume is still small. I hope their brewing in France will expand the market.”
The Fernandez brothers started brewing sake on April 13, and the product will go on sale in France as early as autumn. They are joined by Tokyo-born Mariko Leveille, 32, who is married to a Frenchman and has experience in sake production.
She is expected to be a team member in France for their sake-brewing dream.
“Japanese sake’s brewing processes are complicated. The difficulties include how to obtain high-quality rice and polish it, which is different from the challenges of brewing beer,” said Stephane, who runs the craft beer brewery with his brother in southern France.
They aim to create a sweet and sour taste with 13-percent alcohol content, relatively low for sake, for their “junmaishu” (pure rice sake, no distilled alcohol added) that will go well with cheese and dessert.
The brothers have asked a French farmer to grow rice there. That grain will be the key ingredient for their sake made entirely in France.