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Sake is a brewed liquor similar to wine. Introducing the difference between distilled liquor and other liquors

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Brewed liquors are made by fermenting raw materials with yeast. Traditional liquors around the world are generally divided into three types: brewed liquor, distilled liquor, and mixed liquor. Sake is one of the types of liquors that are brewed.

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 In this article, we will explain the characteristics, brewing methods, and history of brewed liquors. In addition, we will also introduce the differences between distilled liquor and other liquors, which are often compared to brewed liquors.

What kind of alcohol is brewed liquor?

Brewed liquor is a type of alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the sugar contained in raw materials with the power of yeast. First, let's start by introducing the history of brewed liquor, typical liquors, brewing methods, and characteristics.

History of brewing

Brewed liquor has a long history, with its roots dating back to the BC. period. As a result of scientific analysis of pottery fragments excavated in China, it is known that around 7000 BC, rice, honey and fruit were used to make brewed liquor. In Egypt, wine was unearthed from the Pharaoh's tomb around 3000 BC. In Japan, the method of sake brewing using rice malt was established in the Nara period (710-794). In a book written around this time, there is a record of Japan's oldest brewed sake, which says that the rice prepared for the gods became moldy, so they fermented it to make sake and held a banquet to offer it to the gods. In this way, brewed alcoholic beverages have been made all over the world for a long time using raw materials containing sugars that can be obtained from the land, such as grapes and honey.

Typical brewed liquors

Among the alcoholic beverages known as brewed liquor, ``sake'' made from rice, ``beer'' made from barley, and ``wine'' made from grapes are counted among the world's three major brewed liquors. Strictly speaking, rice and barley can be fermented after the starch is saccharified, but in any case, brewed liquor uses ingredients that contain sugar. Another type of brewed liquor is China's "Shaoxing wine". A typical example of brewed liquors is Huangchu. There is also a long-aged yellow wine called “Laochu”. Brewed liquors are made in various countries as well as Japan.

Brewing methods

Brewed liquor is classified into three types according to the fermentation method. We will introduce how each type of sake is made and how it is fermented. ”Single fermentation liquor“ is, wine, fruit wine, milk liquor, etc. Fruit, the main ingredient in wine, contains a lot of sugar. Therefore, the process of saccharifying starch as in the case of beer and sake is unnecessary. Simply adding yeast to grapes and other ingredients is all that is needed for alcoholic fermentation to proceed, resulting in the production of alcoholic beverages. Of the three, this is the simplest brewing method. ”Single line multiple fermented liquor” is made through two processes. A typical example of this method is beer. Barley, which is the raw material of beer, has a low sugar content and cannot undergo simple fermentation like wine. For this reason, malt enzymes are used to saccharify the starch to create “wort”, which is then fermented to complete the beer. Sake is a “multiple parallel fermented liquor”. Sake, contains starch, but it does not contain sugar, so it needs to be saccharified like ”single line multiple fermented liquor”. "Multiple parallel fermented liquor" uses a fermentation method called "multiple parallel fermentation" in which saccharification and fermentation occur in parallel in a single tank. In the tank, the starch in the steamed rice is saccharified by the enzymes in the malted rice to produce sugar, which is then consumed by the yeast, resulting in alcoholic fermentation. Unlike beer, saccharification and fermentation occur simultaneously in a single tank, creating an environment that facilitates alcoholic fermentation by yeast. As a result, fermentation is carried out efficiently, and the alcohol content is higher than that of beer. It could be said that it is a very advanced brewing method compared to single fermentation and single line multiple fermentation.

Characteristics of brewed liquors

Brewed liquor has a lower alcohol content than distilled liquor, with the highest being around 20%. There is a reason why the alcohol content of brewed sake is low. In the process of alcoholic fermentation, yeast diligently produces alcohol and carbon dioxide while consuming sugar. However, yeast is weak against high concentrations of alcohol, and as the alcohol concentration increases, it becomes less active and stops completely at 20 degrees. In addition, in order to preserve the umami (savory taste) in actual sake brewing, fermentation is stopped at the most favorable time for each type of sake.

Difference between brewed and distilled liquors

Distilled liquor refers to liquor distilled from brewed liquor, while brewed liquor is liquor made by fermentation. Let's introduce the characteristics, the difference between brewed liquor and distilled liquor, and typical distilled liquors.

Characteristics of distilled liquors

You may have seen the word “distilled” in the descriptions of alcoholic beverages with a relatively high alcohol content, such as whiskey. Distillation refers to the process of heating the brewed liquor after alcohol fermentation, cooling the vaporized alcohol, and extracting it as a liquid. Simply put, it is the task of collecting pure alcohol from brewed liquor. Alcohol content is high because alcohol is condensed. Also, distilled spirits do not contain sugars, as no sugars are extracted by distillation.

Typical distilled liquors

Typical distilled liquors are shochu, whiskey, and brandy. Others include rum, gin, and tequila. All of these liquors have a high alcohol content.

Distilled liquor production method

In the distillation process of making distilled spirits, alcohol is extracted using the difference in boiling points of alcohol and water. Since the boiling point of water is 100°C and the boiling point of alcohol is 78°C, only the alcohol evaporates before the water in the brew evaporates. Collecting this steam, cooling it, and making it into a liquid makes it possible to make sake with a high sake brewing content.

The difference between brewed liquor and other liquors

So, what kind of alcoholic beverage is the third type of mixed liquor? The differences from the ``brewed liquor'' introduced so far, as well as the differences from ``Honjozo-shu'' are introduced below.

Differences between brewed liquor and mixed liquor

Mixed liquors are made by adding flavors such as fruits, fruit juices, and medicinal herbs to brewed or distilled liquors. They are also called “re-made liquors”, and they create a deeper flavor by supplementing the slightly lacking parts of brewed and distilled liquors. Typical mixed liquors are plum wine, medicated liquor, and liqueurs. Actually, mirin is another type of mixed liquor. Mirin is widely popular as a familiar ingredient used for flavoring sweets and dishes. Because of the wide variety, the alcohol content varies from one liquor to another, even within the same mixed liquor.

The difference between brewed liquor and Honjozo-shu

Finally, let’s also look at the difference between brewed liquor and honjozo-shu, which have similar names. As we have discussed so far, brewed liquor is one of the three major categories of liquors in the world. On the other hand, "honjozo-shu" is one of the special names of sake. Honjozo-shu is defined as “sake made from rice with a rice polishing ratio of 70% or less, rice malt, brewed alcohol, and water.” Also, the amount of brewing alcohol that can be added is limited to 10% by weight of the rice used.

Enjoy the charm of each liquor

Sake, wine, and beer, the three major brewed liquors, are all familiar to Japanese people. Although they have one major thing in common in that they are all brewed liquors, , they are all different from one another. Knowing about liquors from around the world is an opportunity to get in touch with the climate and culture of the land. Learn which sake is to your liking and expand your enjoyment even further.

Written by

Kubota is "Tanrei-Karakuchi" - crisp, clean and dry sake brewed in Nagaoka, Niigata. We are hoping that foreign customers also understand the beauty of sake, and experience the enjoyment of this versatile and fascinating drink.

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