Have you ever seen a sake label that says “BY”? BY stands for “Brewery Year” indicating when it was brewed. Sake is usually brewed during the fall through spring, so it is said that the start of the year for sake isn’t January 1st, but July 1st.
Steps to Make sake
Here is an approximate schedule of how sake is made:
May-June: Rice planting
July: Start of Brewery Year
September-November: Rice harvesting and polishing
December-March: Kanzukuri (Sake brewing during winter)
April: Bottling and prep for rice planting
Kanzukuri is a common method of brewing sake where prepping begins when new rice is harvested. Shikijozo is when sake is brewed during all four seasons. Making sake year-round has become more common as modern technology has allowed controlling temperatures and storing sake easier.
Difference Between Brewery Year and Manufactured Date
Aside from the Brewery Year, sake labels have a manufacturing date written on them. The manufacturing date indicates when the sake was bottled and is required to be put on the label by law. The Brewery Year, on the other hand, is when the sake was brewed. Typical sake may have a brewery year and manufacturing date close to one another, but the dates are further apart for sake that has been aged.
The Brewery Year falls between July 1st and June 30th of the following year, however, before 1964, the start was on October 1st and lasted until September of the following year. In older days, October 1st was the start of the “New Year” for sake breweries, so people went to shrines to hope for a good year of sake brewing. Sake Day is becoming more popular as more Events are being recognized. A “Kampai with Sake Across Japan” Event will be taking place online this year, held by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association.
Try seeing when your sake was brewed and manufactured next time you drink one.