Est. 1843. Kirinzan is an award-winning, 7th generation brewery located in the mountains of Niigata, Japan. We use 100% locally grown rice and are known for light and dry “easy-drinker” table sake.
This is our story.
Kirinzan Brewery is located deep in the snowy mountains of Aga, Niigata. As much as 94% of the surrounding region is covered in dense forest, with only thin strips of rice fields filling out the narrow valleys. Our brewery stands at the foot of Kirinzan (our namesake mountain), and we brew using the soft, clear waters of the Tokonami River basin.
All of our rice is grown within a 10km radius of the Kirinzan brewery within the town of Aga. From spring to autumn, the rice fields are fed by the same soft waters of the Tokonami River that we use for brewing. Our brewing year begins in fall, as soon as the rice can be harvested. Our long-held dream of brewing with 100% local rice took almost 30 years of working with local growers to achieve. We are one of the only small-to-medium-sized breweries in Japan to brew entirely with locally sourced rice.
In addition to working closely with local farmers, we also stand in the fields ourselves. From planting to harvest, brewing to bottling, our staff are intimately involved with every step of growing and production.
In the past, Aga was home to a robust forest and timber industry. Large numbers of broad-leafed trees were cut down to make charcoal, an everyday necessity for many households. However, with the changing times, the forestry industry largely disappeared from the region. The mountainsides that were left behind went unplanted. Such areas can remain barren for decades, harming ecosystems and groundwater.
To protect our region’s beautiful natural environment, Kirinzan Brewery has been replanting and caring for barren areas deep in the mountains upstream. Although it is only a small project, we are proud to have replanted and cared for around 5,000 beech and cedar saplings since 2010.
Kirinzan’s sake brewing is made possible by the work of many people in our local community. In addition to the rice grown by our brewers, Kirinzan works with 55 local growers to produce the rice necessary for each brewing season. Although the town of Aga enjoys high demand as a certified first-class growing region for table rice, today, almost 20% of all rice grown in Aga goes toward sake production (many times greater than the national average). Each bottle of Kirinzan embodies the work and pride of our local community.
Kirinzan Brewery primarily uses three varieties of saké rice: Gohyaku-mangoku, Koshi Tanrei, and Takane Nishiki. We use Gohyaku-mangoku for light and dry flavors, Koshi Tanrei for richer, more fragrant profiles, and Takane Nishiki for sharp, refreshing flavors. Of these three, Koshi Tanrei is a variety unique to Niigata. Kirinzan Brewery was an early adopter of the rice, and we have won numerous gold medals in local and national competitions for sake made with Koshi Tanrei.