In sync with the new colors and cooler weather of fall, the brewing season begins. Except for a few dozen brewing factories operated by the largest sake-brewing companies, sake is brewed in the colder months, generally from the end of October to the beginning of April. Larger brewers' facilities keep fermenting tanks cold all year round, but this is indeed the exception, not the rule.

For taxation and accounting purposes, the sake-brewing year begins Oct. 1. The shogun made it official in 1798 by dictating that no sake brewing was permitted before the autumnal equinox. Stipends and taxes were paid in rice, and sake was brewed with what was left.

Much has changed over the last several centuries, yet much has remained the same. There are a number of "then and now" comparisons that can be made.