Budo Sansho

Extensive uses of budo sansho


Budo sansho alcoholic beverages

Craft beer with an invigorating aroma of budo sansho

Akira Kojima
Bluewood Brewery

Aokiya Yugen Kaisha

Interview date:2019.12.10

“Arida Sansho Ale and Arida Mikan Ale in particular are crowd-pleasers among people from other regions.”—Kojima

Aridagawa Sansho Ale
—It pairs well with meals too

Akira Kojima, Representative of Bluewood Brewery tells us, “Beer made with sansho goes well with many types of dishes, and is also great to have alongside a meal.” He brews craft beer, and is meticulous about selecting only specialty ingredients produced locally, specifically from Aridagawa Town in Wakayama Prefecture. He says, “Beer made with budo sansho has a refreshing fragrance and taste, so even with dishes that are high in oil and fat content, it clears the palate and goes down nicely.”

Arida Sansho Ale is made with budo sansho fruit sourced locally in Aridagawa Town, ground carefully using a mortar, and then mixed with hops and boiled. After removing it once, half of it is added to the tank together with the beer and brewed through steeping. When drunk, the scent of the budo sansho gently passes from the back of the throat to the nose. The distinct kick of sansho is suppressed, and ultimately the gentle aroma experienced makes a meal even more satisfying. It is also popular at events and on other occasions.

The concept is to use local produce

A characteristic of Wakayama is its temperate climate, however, with many mountains and rivers, there is also rich variation in the environment, such as wide temperature difference ranges in a single day. For that reason, the region is blessed with a wealth of agricultural produce. The craft beer produced by Mr. Kojima, including Arida Mikan Ale (with mandarin), Ichigo Ale (with strawberry), Sumomo Weizen (with Japanese plum), and Mango Hazy, made with mango cultivated at Arida Chuo High School, is made with seasonal Wakayama Prefecture-produced ingredients, mainly from Aridagawa Town, and to date, around 14 or 15 varieties have been created.

In sourcing ingredients, the local connection is reassuring. Encounters with new ingredients happen when someone says, “We have this, do you want to use it?” or when people seek advice, “I would like to make something like this. How should I go about doing so?” A product brought into existence from one of these conversations is Binchotan Stout, made with binchotan, a type of white charcoal. At the time Kojima started thinking about making a black stout beer, an acquaintance gave him advice about charcoal suitable for consumption. With this, the aroma brought forth from parched malt was combined with Kishu binchotan specialty produce from Wakayama, and the craft beer was complete.

Arida Sansho Ale—The fragrance of ground budo sansho is brought out when boiled with hops

Aoki’s humorously designed and impressive labels show its symbolic tree holding the specialty product contained in each beer

The puzzle-like composition is entertaining

Based on a revision of the Liquor Tax Law, the increase in the number of small-scale beer breweries, commonly called microbreweries, has also been seen in Japan. When Kojima was asked what the good points are about small-scale breweries, his answer was “fluidity.” Around 200 liters are produced each time. The proportion of malt or variety of hops, yeast and other ingredients can be modified subtly, and it is a constant process of trial and error.

Kojima laughs, “We decide the style by mixing the unique elements of the various agricultural products, thinking about accentuating it with auxiliary ingredients such as sansho or strawberry, and making modifications. Fitting it all together is like a puzzle, it’s entertaining!” Among the drinks that have been well received is Hayazumi Mikan Sour. It is made with juice from mandarins (mikan) picked when they are still green. The sour ale, with a slight sourness is usually made with lactic acid bacteria. It was made “because the juice of green mandarins is extremely sour, that sour taste can be utilized in beer.”

Kojima says, “When a new variety of hops appears, I feel like trying the fragrance and bitterness,” and while enjoying the hybrid of raw ingredients, and here you can sense the aspect of pursuit. “In future, I’d also like to try using fresh hops produced in Japan,” and the inquiring mind doesn’t stop.

Fermentation in the tank takes about a week, and then after another two to three weeks of maturation, the beer is barreled

Barrels are connected to a bottling machine and the bottles are filled with beer one bottle at a time

“It’s all about trial and error. The goal is always ahead.”—Kojima. You can see the brewery down the back.

Opening of the brewery

Mr. Kojima helped out with his family’s business while working at another job, but gradually he began to sense the appeal of trade, and decided to take over the family business. He said that in his thoughts, “thinking about my future vision, wanting to do something new,” connected to making beer. Mr. Kojima explained, “Since way back, I saw local sake brewing family operations continuing through the generations, and I thought ‘that’s great’. I felt that it’d be great if I could do that too,” and became determined to make beer that everyone would love. When he had time to spare from his work, he learned beer making in Okayama.

When asked what the hardest part was, he replied “obtaining a (liquor) manufacturing license was harder than anything else.” For the craft beer to become known, he jointly established a beer pub next door to his liquor store. You can see the brewery through on the glass from down the back inside the store.

The charming labels used for the beer with the sourced ingredients in hand have been drawn using the symbolic tree motif of an aoki (blue) tree (Japanese laurel). The actual tree is a great tree with a formidable presence. According to Kojima’s account, his grandfather took a liking to the tree and planted one. Bluewood Brewery’s craft beer is woven together with local connections and the specialty products of the area.

Bluewood Brewery

Bluewood Brewery’s new website. The appeal of local ingredients from Wakayama comes through.
The site includes a link to Bluewood Brewery’s online shop.


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