Drink locally, eat bountifully: It's a rule of thumb that has served us very well over the years in Japan. Places that specialize in good nihonshu invariably serve food of similar quality. So it would stand to reason that, if a brewer of fine jizake were to open its own restaurant, then the results would be outstanding.

Such is definitely the case with the Kumazawa Brewing Company, a small kura (brewery), founded 133 years ago close to the coast of Sagami Bay. Kanagawa Prefecture may not be noted for its sake -- the winters are too mild -- but the nearby Tanzawa mountains provide a source of good water, always the most vital criterion for brewing Japan's traditional tipple.

Until recently, Kumazawa was languishing in obscurity, close to joining the thousands of other regional kura that have gone belly up since 1945. But thanks to a combination of new, dynamic management and changes in the brewing laws, it has reinvented itself to become one of the most innovative small-scale brewers in the Kanto region.