finding local beer in Japan, it is only appropriate that we pay some attention to Japan's iconic alcohol, sake (酒).
Even if you know next to nothing about Japan, its a safe bet to say that you have come across or at least hear of sake, or Japanese rice wine. Thanks to whole over priced sushi craze going on in the West, sake has gained a fair amount of press amongst foodies.
Since brewing and drinking sake is a tradition practically as old as Japan itself, one could write a whole graduation thesis (and you know someone has) on the customs and nuances of rice wine. This article will focus solely on finding your local ji-zake (地酒), and how you enjoy it up to you.
Finding Your Local Ji-Zake
If you are a sake fan then you are in luck, as ji-zake is much more common than ji-biru (地ビール or local beer). The various regions of Japan all pride themselves on their time-tested brewing methods and local sake companies often heavily promote their products to tourists and locals alike.
Naturally, the easiest way to get your hands on some local sake is to use the interwebs. Jizake.com has a great selection of local sake from around Japan and you search by flavor, region and brewing type. Of course, the site is all in Japanese and the shipping fee isn't cheap (starting from 780 yen and going up depending on region and the type of goods ordered).
Another great resource is the Japan Local Sake Brewers Union (nippon ji-zake kyodo kumiai 日本地酒協同組合). Not only do they have a shop, but you can also search for member breweries by prefecture.
If you are looking for a good sake in your immediate area, one of the most places to check is your local traditional sake store. Another good resource is your local newspaper as local sake companies often advertise locally. Furthermore, even large super market chains carry several varieties of the popular local brew.
However, if you are a stickler for super high quality sake, many local brewers save the high quality shinmai (新米, literally "new rice" or the freshest rice harvest used for brewing) for direct mail orders or for customers who visit the factory directly.
Now the we have covered local beer and sake, stay tuned for info our final Japanese spirit, sochu.