The Sudo Honke brewery, considered to be one of the oldest businesses in the world, dates back to at least 1141.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017
© Great Big Story

Genuemon Sudo carefully opens a bottle, pours clear liquid into a Burgundy glass and puts it to his nose before taking a slow, thoughtful sip. The sake Sudo sips so reverently is his family's own creation, the foundation of a business and tradition passed down through an astounding 55 generations.

"We've been making sake for at least 870 years," Sudo says in this short documentary produced by Great Big Story. The clip takes us to the Sudo Honke sake brewery in Obara, Japan—nestled in a lush, leafy forest, with sun pouring through the ancient branches to the buildings below.

Sudo says there was only one time when the future of the sake business was in jeopardy. Following the 2011 quake and subsequent nuclear meltdown, Sudo decided that if the brewery's water source was affected in any amount by radiation, they would cease operations altogether. Luckily, a radioactivity analysis on the property found that it was spared from contamination.

Thanks to this, Sudo Honke sake is still being produced. According to Sudo himself, his family's sake is "elegant," rather than ordinary, and represents something bigger than a single family's legacy. "We don't want to just sell sake," he says, "we also want to communicate to the world what's good about Japanese culture."

Watch the video:

[h/t Kottke]