Sake, or rice wine, is definitely one of the Japanese traditional drinks you don’t want to miss.
Visiting a sake brewery is a good way to discover the brewing process and stories behind Japan's favorite alcohol. Making good sake really depends on the quality of rice, water, koji micro-organisms and other fungus which has been living in the storehouse to make it unique. Gunma is a good place for sake-making, like neighboring Niigata prefecture.
Kondo sake brewery is now on season. They start preparing sake in October, because they use the new rice harvested in September. This is called Shin Syu (new Sake), and using freshly harvested rice makes it milder and smoother than regular brews, so there are many fans. I like Shin Syu too, but I definitely prefer 生酒 (nama sake). Nama sake is brewed without a heating process, keeping fermentation and koji alive in the bottle. It has to be chilled for preservation in the refrigerator, yet it tastes much better and we are able to appreciate its taste and aroma.
Kondo brewery produces 450,000 liters of sake every year. 赤城山(Mt.Akagi) is their well known brand, popular among male because of its dry taste. However, these days, they have introduced a wide range of sakes. For instance, they have a sparking sake in a 300ml bottle, a sweeter sake, and an unrefined sake with a cute label and several sizes of bottles.
If you visit Kondo brewery, you can see the place where they pump up pure underground water originating from Mt. Akagi. There are many giant barrels there, and fermentation of the koji micro-organisms inside of the barrels can be seen from above. Note that May to September is off-season for this sake brewery. However, purchasing their selections of sake is available on-site year-round.
Learn how to make sake, hear its story, and try some nama sake (raw fresh sake) for free before it has been heated. You can find a different experience in your mouth than you might have had at a Japanese restaurant. I strongly recommend that you book ahead by phone before your visit. Enjoy!