Freshly brewed: Samply a newly-opened barrel of Zenkuro sake are, from left, head brewer Dave Joll, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon sashimi chef Scott Murray and pro Japanese rugby coach Jimmy Maher


It’s remarkable enough that Queenstown craft sake brewery Zenkuro exports its product to Japan, but now the company’s involved in a campaign to encourage Japanese to drink  more of their national beverage.

Zenkuro co-founder and head brewer Dave Joll says it’s received funding from the Japanese government, through the Japan Sake Brewers Association, to promote sake and sake culture.

That was the theme of an event the company hosted at its Repco Boulevard premises earlier this month, attended by more than 50 people, that also celebrated the opening of a tasting room and sales outlet there.

Local videographer James Hirata filmed footage of the event, which featured tastings of Zenkuro sake as well as sake from Japan, and a barbecue for demonstrating how well the beverage goes with not only Japanese cuisine, but popular Kiwi fare like beef, lamb and venison, and salmon, whitebait and eel.

The subsequent video’s expected to be screened in Japan on trains, at seminars, and possibly on TV, later in the year.

‘‘It’ll show Japan how we, in NZ, are enjoying sake … and it’ll hopefully encourage Japanese to drink it more,’’ Joll says.

NZ’s only commercial sake producer, Zenkuro has been operating for nearly six years, and is one of only about 40 craft breweries out side of Japan.

It’s aiming to produce 5000 litres this year, about 10% of which it exports to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Australia as well as Japan, while the balance is sold to about 100 restaurants and bars throughout the country.

Joll says the Covid-19 lockdown caused a temporary drop-off in domestic sales that prompted the company to switch to online sales.

‘‘That picked up very quickly, and once restaurants came out of lockdown, it came back to where we left off, along with a lot of new restaurants and customers and retail outlets as well.

‘‘I guess Kiwis have been drinking a lot during Covid — we had a dip but it’s come back.’’

Although the business is thriving, Joll says he and his three co-owners — locals Craig McLachlan and Richard Ryall and Christchurch- based Yoshi Kawamura — will continue to make ‘‘small steps’’.

‘‘We’re happy with how we’re going, and we’re managing to sell everything we make.’’

Anyone keen to have a look around the brewery and have a free taste of the product should call in advance to ensure someone’s available to look after them — it’s open
on week days from 10am to 4pm.