Just Two People Run Japan's Smallest Brewery That’s Been Around for 128 Years—Take a Look Inside

Courtesy Sugihara Brewery

Sugihara Sake Brewery is one of the highlights of the Gifu prefecture.

Vineyards, distillers, and breweries are always looking for ways to stand out in the market. Some focus on sustainability, while others make their bottles works of art. Well, for one sake brewery in Japan, it's the operation's size that makes it remarkable. That's because it's the smallest in the country. 

Courtesy Sugihara Brewery 

Sugihara Brewery is run by only two people, a father-son duo. The sake brewery started in 1892, and the current son, Yoshiki Sugihara, is the 5th generation, and the father, Shoji Sugihara, is the 4th generation. Together they produce particular sake like the Suginoi sake, which only has 200 bottles. Also, because of their size, their Chiyo Nohana sake is limited to one per person. But despite their limited capacity, the sake is catching worldwide attention and accolades.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Sake, From the Experts

"The rice called Ibi-no-homare is what we use to brew sake and is our original kind," Yoshiki Sugihara told Departures. "I don't know any other Sake brewery that is involved in producing their rice too, but we made our own kind. Last year, this rice "Ibi-no-homare" became the second-best rice to brew sake after 'Hida-homare' in Gifu prefecture. Putting on a back label of sake is like my diary. Also, writers such as Kyoko Nakajima, who won the Naoki-prize, love our sake."

Courtesy Sugihara Brewery

Incredibly, fifteen years ago, the brewery was about to go bankrupt. Ogaki television, a local TV station, covered them on the news as "the smallest sake brewery in Japan," and won a prize. From there, although around since the 1800s, the brewery slowly became known to the public.

"We only produce 60 stones (just over 10,800 liters) a year, which is too little compared to other sake breweries, but Joel Robuchon and other restaurants have been serving our sake, and we feel our reputation is getting more solid," said Sugihara. "We are very small and still developing, but will overcome this unforeseen situation with an inquisitive spirit."

Courtesy Sugihara Brewery

Their sake is sold at 27 stores in Japan and restaurants in London, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and China. However, they prefer to work with one distributor per country. For example, in Singapore, their sake can be tasted at a restaurant in Marina Bay Sands. So the rarity allure remains. They've also produced GOLD Ibi and Silver Ibi ahead of the Olympics. 

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And it's not just this unique brewery that makes the Gifu Prefecture special. It's also home to Hida beef, a part of the prestigious wagyu beef family, which earned the Prime Minister's Prize at the 8th Wagyu Olympic Games. In October, two Tenka Fubu persimmons sold for $8,296.80 at auction, and Iwasaki Mokei is the largest producer of food replicas.