"We're the new brewery in Golden." That's what the tourist brochure says but on the inside things look verrrry different at Hakushika Sake U.S.A. Nestled among other light industry at the foothills of the Rockies in Golden, Colorado the building may be new but the business is ancient. This family has been making sake since 1662 in Japan and opened their facility in Golden in October, 1992. The attraction was the Rocky Mountain water. Tours are conducted year-round between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday but it's advisable to call ahead. Our young guide spoke good English and walked us through the decorated hallways of the brewery, explaining the basic process as we peered thought the glass into the various rooms of the spotless building. Sake begins with white rice and Hakushika, pronounced Háksh 'ka, uses California rice. As the rice is washed it becomes sticky but the process of polishing, or removing the outer potions of the seed grain allow it to be handled easier. The water used gets no treatment other than carbon filtering. The seed mash, or Moto receives an injection of Koji (rice molds) containing the active enzymes. An overnight steep gets things going. The resulting main mash, or Moromi gets a water addition along with sake yeast and then sees fermentation at 38 to 48 degrees F for up to one month in large stainless steel tanks. The sake lee is filtered out and this rice paste is exported to Japan for use in pickling while the liquid raw sake is filtered and sent to aging tanks for a few months. At Hakushika the whole 24 hour a day operation is automated with all systems linked to a central control room and is run by a six person team. The length of aging will depend on the sake style being produced. Some blending may also occur prior bottling. All product is Pasteurized and aged three to six months. The current equipment bottles 4000 375 ml bottles per hour four hours per day for shipment to 13 states and Europe, with Germany the biggest consumer. Bottles should have a one year shelf life and remain fresh for a few months after opening.
The tour ends back at the highly decorated tasting room. Hakushika makes four type of drinking sake, another as a cooking sake and one more as a plum wine (Choya). The House Sake is based on 60% polished rice and yields 16% alcohol by volume (abv). Served cold, it is smooth and slightly sweet. The Kuromatsu Dry Sake, (Black Pine Tree) is 16% abv, has an alcohol aroma with a lighter and drier flavor. The Ginjo Premium at 15% is made from 75% polished rice and has a fruity aroma with a light but spicy flavor and finish. The Taru (wooden barrel) is stored in a cedar tank and blended with Japanese sake, it offers a nice refined flavor. Three different Japanese sakes are imported for this purpose.
Celebrations call for a decorative 72 liter straw-covered barrel of sake to have its top hammered off and the contents drank at room temperature from a square (good luck) wooden ladle. Japan today is home to 3000 operational sake breweries, most as highly automated as Hakushika, whose name means "white deer". Legend tells of Chinese emperor Hsuen Chong, (712-756 A.D.) seeing a white deer over 1000 years old. Ever since then the Hakushika has symbolized "longevity of a thousand years." If planning activities closer to the present the merchandise counter offers great conversation piece souvenirs as well as bottled sake that allows you to enjoy part of this 300 year old Hakushika tradition today.
Hakushika Sake U.S.A
4414 Table Mountain drive
Golden, CO 80403
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - October, 1998
NM Virtual Brewpub