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Old sake gets a new lease on life

Brewers revive a once-beloved Japanese tradition

Azusa Segawa, a wine and sake expert, sips sake at a liquor store in Tokyo's Daikanyama district that offers aged sake by the glass.

TOKYO -- Hayato Shoji, a 42-year-old sake brewer in Chiba Prefecture, north of Tokyo, is a fifth generation master with a proud family pedigree going back 140 years. Today, he is intent on reviving an old tradition: sipping aged sake, a custom once popular among ordinary Japanese.

Shoji heads Kidoizumi brewery, which sells a range of aged sakes, the oldest of which dates back to the 1970s. One year after being brewed, its Asf series of sakes rest in sherry or wine casks for about six months. Afruge, which is part of the series, has lingering sour and mildly sweet notes. A fellow brewer is getting even more creative and is introducing sardines to the sake-making process.

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