Inside The Grueling And Poetic World Of Saké Brewing

Next time you sit down for an uncivilized bout of saké bombs, consider yet another reason you should be ashamed of yourself. As the trailer for Kickstarter-project-turned-arthouse-darling "The Birth of Saké" explains, making the ubiquitous Japanese rice wine is a high art, a 2,000-year-old process that can take six months to complete.

Directed by a former "No Reservations" cameraman, the documentary is poised to be this year's "Jiro Dreams Of Sushi": another stunning deep dive into the highest ranks of a popular Japanese consumable.

Director Erik Shirai and his team profiled a premiere producer, the 144-year-old Yoshida Brewery in northern Japan. Yoshida employees range in age from 20 to 70, and often leave behind families to perform a job they see as a calling. A team of surrogate brothers, they sleep on the ground and eat around a shared table. The film interweaves this daily minutiae with the company's struggle to survive in a market stocked with younger, nimbler and less conscientious companies.

It's a story made for film, as thick with steam clouds as with metaphor, like the titular one: that a bottle of good saké is akin to a child brought up beautifully into adulthood.

birth of sake

No surprise, critics are pleased. It will "go down smoothly," promises Variety, in the first of likely many pun-stocked endorsements. The film has also given Yoshida plenty to post about on the company's Facebook page, which is surprisingly robust for a more-than-century-old underdog. Welcome to the future!



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