Master brewer Naohiko Noguchi goes by the nickname of kamisama meaning ‘god’ and rightly so. With experience in sake brewing that spans seven decades, and winning “Gold Prize” 27 times at contests hosted by the National Bureau’s Research Institute of Brewing, are there any that match this legendary status? A sake brewer since he was 16, he became a master brewer (toji) at 27 at Kikuhime brewery in Ishikawa prefecture. Coming out of retirement multiple times, he says that he feels healthier when he’s brewing and restless if he’s not.
Now at 85 years of age, his latest venture is at a newly built brewery, purposely for him and named after him; Naohiko Noguchi Sake Institute. Located in Komatsu, Ishikawa prefecture and completed in 2017, he will be leading a team of seven kurabito (brewery workers) there. Among them will be American-born, Gordon Heady, who has been volunteering in sake breweries since 2010, and will be Noguchi’s first foreign apprentice. For Gordon, he said it’s a dream come true to work for such a respected figure in the sake world.
Noguchi-san, well-known for his Yamahai Ginjo style with lots of character, says his real desire is just to do what he loves; brew sake that people enjoy, and also pass on his knowledge to the younger generation.
Check out the stunning visuals on the brewery website.