Pioneering Australian sake brewery Sun Masamune recently announced its closure after 25 years in business.
Founded in Penrith, western Sydney in 1996, Sun Masamune produced the Go-Shu Sake brand.
Its Japanese parent company, Konishi – based in the famous sake brewing hub of Hyogo Prefecture – started making sake in 1550 as a sideline to its herbal medicines business.
“I would like to advise to advise you that after 25 hard and rewarding years, our owners have decided to close Australia’s first and only sake brewery on 31st March 2021,” Sun Masamune announced in a memorandum.
“With kind support of our local customers… Go-Shu Australian sake has survived droughts and downturns over the past 25 years, including COVID-19.
“We believe that our business has played an important part in promoting the understanding and the rise of Japanese sake in Australia.”
Melbourne restaurateur and sake expert Andre Bishop told Drinks Adventures he had frequently poured the Go-Shu sakes at his venues and he was shocked and saddened by the news.
“They were pioneers at using Australian rice to brew locally, and their product was solid,” he said.
“Their range was always very reasonably priced, and it was fresh, it was bright, it was great value for money.”
Bishop said the Go-Shu sakes were particularly impressive given the local rice varieties they were working with differed to the specialist Japanese rice strains developed over many years for sake brewing.
“We often had Go-Shu Junmai as house sake in my restaurants. It was a good, honest quaffing sake,” he said.
“And for awhile there, they made a daiginjo that was really, really good.”
Bishop said he sympathised with Sun Masamune because COVID-19 would surely have played a role in the closure, with restaurants being an important distribution channel for its sakes.
“Being a restaurateur in Melbourne, I know the pain,” he said.
“I lost a major venue during COVID – our 30-year institution Izakaya Chuji – and the sake bar next to it, Nihonshu.”
He said trading conditions had likely become tougher for Sun Masamune in other respects.
“When I first started in the late 90s, there were very few sakes available in Australia,” he said.
“Now, it’s the other end of the scale. There are so many importers jumping into the market and there’s almost a glut of choice.
“It’s a great thing for the consumer, but it makes things very hard if you’re then competing with a lot of imports.”
Sun Masamune managing director Allan Noble did not respond to a request for comment.