Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewery's ASTRONOMICA® research team presents to the world the potential of Japanese fermented foods
This is the name of the in-house research team at Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce, a 150-year-old brewery in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, a place blessed with abundant water sources, nature and snow in winter.
Yamamo was originally a local brewery that was dedicated to preserving the traditional miso and soy sauce in Akita. Even now, the taste and techniques are passed on by the brewers who have been supporting the brewery for many years, and continue to provide a stable taste to the home kitchen. It is a brewery that has retained the "usual taste" that is expected in Japan, as well as the so-called "classic" miso and soy sauce breweries that the rest of the world generally expects.
It was not until the seventh generation, when Yasushi Takahashi took over the family business, that the business began to take a new turn. One of the main catalysts for this change was the discovery of a unique and rare yeast strain that had been lying dormant in the brewery for many years.
The yeast is called Viamver® yeast (Zygosaccharomyces rouxii).
This yeast, with its unique characteristics, was presented by Yamamo at the Japan Brewers Association in 2020 and is now named Viamver® yeast. The company has applied for a patent for both its existence as a “house” yeast and its production method.
Why is this yeast so special? What is Yamamo trying to do with it?
When it comes to the global positioning of Japanese miso and soy sauce, the word 'tradition' is unquestionably attached to them wherever they go. It is a word that is genuinely admired and revered both at home and abroad, and one that is expected to remain unchanged. That is where the seventh generation posed his question.
Japanese fermented seasonings still have infinite possibilities. Even the Japanese people fail to imagine that because they are so used to the "traditional" taste. The familiar taste is delicious, and that's a given. It’s not a negative thing.
However, despite the fact that Japanese fermented seasonings are now spreading all over the world, and the value of these products is being rediscovered in Japan, it is becoming more and more difficult for a single brewery to survive as an industry. Why?
The answer lies in the new potential of Japanese fermentation, a hitherto undiscovered treasure trove that Takahashi the 7th has set his eyes on.
There are countless varieties of traditional Japanese fermented seasonings, each with their own complex flavours, and each brewery has its own final taste. In order to enhance the final product, or to keep the taste unchanged, the ingredients are constantly analysed and the brewing process is reviewed, but there is still very limited research in Japan into the application of these ingredients to other brews.
This is because, as mentioned above, there are not many breweries that have time and energy to invest on such experiment. They are busy enough only to survive.
It was while confronting these issues from an industry-wide perspective that Takahashi met Viamver® yeast. This was a microbe that he would never have encountered in the same method of miso production.
Normally, yeast strains used to brew miso are halophilic, meaning that they thrive in the presence of salt. However, Viamver® is different. This yeast is not only halophilic, but it is also able to live and work in the absence of salt, and is capable of producing almost 6% alcohol.
Moreover, it was also found to have a high capacity for the production of succinic acid, which is involved in the umami flavour, as well as the ability to produce a floral aroma similar to that of fruit and ginjo.
In order to make unlimited use of this encounter with this yeast with a new character, Takahashi set up a research team both inside and outside the company.
The team is not only applying this yeast to miso and soy sauce, but also to the brewing of natural wine and exploring new seasoning prototypes.
The name ASTRONOMICA® is based on the idea that the mechanism of fermentation is reminiscent of a celestial body: the various ingredients are considered as stars, the myriad of ingredients as the starry sky, and the coordination of ingredients and metabolic pathways as constellations and the orderly operation of the planets.
What does ASTRONOMICA® have to offer the world?
Tradition and innovation are what the company has been exploring for a long time. With Viamver® yeast, ASTRONOMICA® will go beyond the boundaries of miso and soy sauce and give shape to its innovation as a brand.
As a first step, this winter, MONO MONTHLY would like to give you the opportunity to try some of the existing products of Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewery, as well as some of the new fermented seasonings made with the world's first Viamver® yeast.
These are seasonings that use this yeast in a unique and flexible application, in the genuine pursuit of flavour.
Let’s find out how that tastes like.