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The Doburoku Guesthouse Kurousagi

While the ranks of sake-lovers around the world are growing, few people yet know much about doburoku, the raw and rustic progenitor of today’s refined sake. Doburoku Guesthouse Kurousagi in rural Kochi is the ideal place to experience it.

The Doburoku Guesthouse Kurousagi

While the ranks of sake-lovers around the world are growing, few people yet know much about doburoku, the raw and rustic progenitor of today’s refined sake. Doburoku Guesthouse Kurousagi in rural Kochi is the ideal place to experience it.

 Photo: Irwin Wong

Transforming rice into an alcoholic beverage is a simple process. You steam a small quantity of rice and mix it with water and a mould called kobo which starts the fermentation. Once the fermentation is robust, you add more water, more steamed rice, and special brewer’s yeast which defines the final flavour of the sake to a large extent. Since the brew is a living thing, it needs to be kept at a comfortable temperature. Refined sake involves many other procedures, but these are the only steps required to brew doburoku.

Doburoku_Guesthouse_Kurousagi_3

 Photo: Irwin Wong

Doburoku used to be brewed and drunk in many a rural home, but with stricter taxation it was outlawed. In the last couple of decades, a cultural revival has seen the law relaxed to allow the brewing of doburoku with a special license. Doburoku Guesthouse Kurousagi holds one of these licenses and brews doburoku for the enjoyment of its guests in the backwoods of the Shimanto River area. When you visit, besides drinking doburoku with dinner, you can watch your hosts perform the daily tasks of brewing.

Doburoku_Guesthouse_Kurousagi_4

 Photo: Irwin Wong

So anyway, what is doburoku like? Refined sake is filtered to remove the rice mash and the yellowish colour of the brew. But doburoku is totally unfiltered, so all the rice and colour remain. Incidentally, the colour is caused by flavoursome amino acids, so leaving it in is a good thing. Doburoku is a thick, rich, comforting drink, with a pleasant balance between sweet and sour. It’s full of soft rice grains, so it also has a satisfying bulk. Depending on the weather conditions and its age, the doburoku may be a little more sour or more sweet.

Doburoku_Guesthouse_Kurousagi_5

 Photo: Irwin Wong

Dinner at Kurousagi proceeds at a relaxed pace. The food features fish from the Pacific off Kochi, and the long-armed shrimps from the Shimanto River, which are eaten whole. There are plenty of locally-grown vegetables prepared in a variety of delicious ways. Needless to say, the doburoku complements it beautifully.

 Photo: Irwin Wong

The accommodation itself is very comfortable. There are two cottages in the grounds, each with Japanese-style rooms that sleep several people, with modern toilets, baths and showers. A tributary of the Shimanto River flows nearby through a valley of rice fields. A more idyllic location is hard to imagine.

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