We propose to you today to take an interest in the general aspect of the pasteurization process of sake. Called "hi-ire" in Japanese, which could be translated as "to set on fire", pasteurization is practiced for the vast majority of commercially available sake. It is done just after sedimentation and filtration of the contents of the vats. It stabilizes the sake before it is put on the market.

It is the brewer's choice and many brewers offer a portion of their sake production without pasteurization. This is called "nama" or "namazakes" type sake, literally, "raw sake".

Pasteurization, two options
Pasteurization consists in bringing the sake to a temperature of 60 to 65°C to definitively neutralize the yeasts still present in suspension, preventing a possible second fermentation in the bottle. There are two main options:

Ja-kan: at the tank outlet, the sake circulates through a tube heated to 60-65°C before being transferred to a storage tank. This operation is generally repeated just before bottling. This method is suitable for sake produced in large quantities, such as futsuushu, honjozo, junmai. pasteurization of japanese ja-kan sake.pasteurisation du saké japonais ja-kan
Bin-kan: in this method, the sake is first bottled (unpasteurized), the bottles are placed in a hot water bath for a few minutes, before being cooled quickly. This method is suitable for more fragile products, sake with delicate aromas such as ginjo and daïginjo. 

Our Western habits lead us to believe that pasteurization is a procedure that adds an artificial part to a natural process, a step that can denature sake. But this is not the case, because pasteurization is a classic process that has been completely mastered by brewers, who are aware of the consequences on the aromatic profile of the final product. In fact, it is a completely natural way to stop fermentation, without having to add any further product.

Unpasteurized sake
Very often, brewers choose not to pasteurize a tiny part of their production in order to offer their customers products full of freshness and vivacity. These are the namazakes. Some express very fruity, very fresh notes, while others can evoke more complex flavors of ferments. The namazakes are sometimes sparkling, even sparkling, very interesting but fragile sake, and they must be kept in a cool place and consumed quickly after opening to avoid any alteration.
We propose a seasonal offer dedicated to namazakes. Here are some of them from different houses and resulting from different technical set-ups.

Brewery of Inaba Shuzo
unpasteurized and unfiltered on coal

Imayo Tsukasa Brewery
unpasteurized, low-filtered and sparkling

Raïfuku Shuzo Brewery
Unpasteurized and not reduced to spring water

Nakano Brewery BC
Raised without pasteurization, then pasteurized just before bottling

Linuma Meijo Brewery
Unpasteurized and not reduced to spring water before bottling

Lexicon / Pasteurization

  • Hi-ire: pasteurization process itself
  • Ja-kan : sake pasteurized by transfer from one vat to another through a heated tube
  • Bin-Kan : bottled pasteurized sake
  • Namazake :unpasteurized sake
  • Namachozo : sake aged in vats, without pasteurization, then pasteurized before bottling.
  • Namazume : sake pasteurized before maturing in vats, then pasteurized just before bottling.
  • Hiya-oroshi : a namazume sake that is offered seasonally, especially in the fall.