It's May, and for almost all of the nation's 1,700 or so sake brewers, this means brewing activities are over for the season. There are a handful of larger breweries that have climate-controlled factories, and do brew year-round (known as shiki-jozo). But everyone else is limited to the coldest months of the year. With the peripheral work involved, and cleaning up included, most places wrap up about the end of April.

Here are some significant facts and occurrences related to this time of the year:

* After the last batch of rice has been steamed for the season, plenty of work still remains. That steamed rice must then be added to the final hungrily waiting fermenting tanks, the 18-day to month-long fermentation must run its course, and the sake must then be pressed and stored. Indeed, there are still several more weeks of work. But after that last steaming, a light appears at the end of the tunnel. And that is cause for celebration.