Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A History of Sake Brewing In Brazil

It's fascinating to realize that the largest Japanese population outside of their country is located in Brazil. After Japan and Brazil signed a treaty in 1907, permitting Japanese immigration, about 800 Japanese, many of them farmers, arrived the next year by ship, aboard the Kasato Maru. A significant number of the immigrants obtained jobs working on or even owning coffee plantations. After World War I, there was a large boom in Japanese immigration to Brazil, most settling in São Paulo, the location of the majority of coffee plantations.

From the start, the immigrants brought food from Japan, and likely Sake, with them and soon enough, these items could be imported into Brazil. There is some indication that at least by the early 1920s, there were Japanese brewers in Brazil who were producing Sake, miso, and soy sauce. However, the only producer of note appears to be Tozan Farm, possibly because of the difficulty of brewing Sake in the heat of Brazil, the same type of problems that were faced by the Sake brewers in Hawaii. However, though brewers in Hawaii eventually found technological ways to adjust to the climate, it doesn't seem brewers in Brazil were as innovative. I should also note that Sake in Brazil is sometimes referred to as "Saquê."

The farm, which would later be renamed Tozan, was located in the province of Campinas outside São Paulo and originally was owned, in the early 19th century, by Floriano de Camargo Peneado who primarily grew sugarcane. In 1854, his son took over the farm, expanding it to include corn, rice, and coffee, with coffee taking on a more prominent role in the coming years.

In 1927, the Iwasaki family purchased the farm, renaming it "Tozan," which means "Eastern Mountain." In addition, "Tozan" was a pseudonym for Mitsubishi founder, Yataro Iwasaki, and his hobby of poetry writing. Hisaya Iwasaki, the third president of Mitsubishi and son of the founder, took over control of the Tozan Farm. In 1934, they started a Sake brewery. and their first Sake brands were Azuma Kirin and Azuma Otori.

It's been difficult to find information about Sake in Brazil after this time, until the 1970s. However, we do know that the Sake brewery continued to produce Sake throughout those years. In 1975, Kirin Holdings acquired a portion of the Tozan company and their holding company became known as Azuma Kirin, mostly responsible for Sake production. At some point, Kirin Holdings owned 89% of Tozan, the rest owned by Toru Iwasaki, the great-grandson of the founder of the company. In July 2016, Kirin Holdings purchased the outstanding shares owned by Iwasaki and they now control 100% of the Tozan company. They have now combined Tozan and Azuma into a single entity, Azuma Kirin Company.

In the Folha De S. Paolo, January 29, 1976, there was an advertisement for Azuma Kirin Sake, made by the Industria Agricola Tozan, S.A., Rua Galvao Bueno, 212, Sao Paolo. The ad mentions that you can create a Caipirinha de Saque, the traditional Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça, sugar, and lime, by substituting the Sake for the cachaça.

Azuma and Tozan currently produce approximately 65 products, including Sake and Japanese food products, with Sake accounting for 35% of their business. It is also alleged that their Sake constitutes about 70% of the market in Brazil, making them the top Sake brewery in Brazil. Kirin will now modernize their Sake distillery, release a new logo for the Sake brand, and engage in a new marketing campaign.

Information on other Sake breweries in Brazil isn't easy to find, and most that exist seem to have been started within the last ten years. Maybe the second largest Sake brewery in Brazil is Sakeria Thikara, which was established in January 2009 by Paolo Busch in the city of PiedadeSão Paulo. The term "Thikara" essentially means strength and the brewery embraces an ancient Japanese legend of the Koi, Japanese carp, and this there is a carp on their bottles.

They produce two brands, the Gold and Silver (including a Kosher variety), which are both Honjozo, and use imported Japanese rice. Honjozo means that they add some distilled alcohol to the Sake to draw out certain aromas and flavors. The Sake is available in a 745ml bottle, 187ml bottle, and a 5 liter box. They sell their Sake in Brazil and also export to a few other South American countries.

The Destillaria Stoliskoff, which was established in 2007 in the city of São Roque, São Paulo, produces a variety of spirits including rum, whiskey and vodka. They also make two Sake products, the Sake Fuji and the Sakerita. Their website has very little information about the Sake Fuji, so it is unclear whether it is a premium Sake or futsu-shu. The Sakerita, which only has a 7% ABV, blends their Sake Fuji with tropical fruits, and three versions are available: Pineapple, Kiwi and Strawberry.

Through a Brazilian alcohol store website, Imigrantes Bebidas, you can note that there are a few other Sakes produced in Brazil, yet finding additional information about these brands is difficult. You can find entries for Sake Okinawa, Sake Ryo (which might be a honjozo), Sake Jun Daiti (which is connected to Diageo and is noted only as "bottled" in Brazil so might have originated elsewhere), and
Sake Sakeih.

If anyone has any additional information about Sake in Brazil, please contact me. Thanks.

(The original version of this article was posted in September 2016, and has been expansion and revised due to additional research.)

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