Helios distillery boasts Okinawa’s largest alcohol selection

Helios awamori is famous for its golden color, which it gets from the wooden casks used to mature the drink instead of the more common pottery containers.

Helios distillery in Nago City is best known for its long-time best selling ‘Kura’ Awamori, but there’s much more in its arsenal than merely Okinawa’s most famous liquor.

Helios distillery is located in Kyoda, at the foothills of Nago. It offers backyard tours every day, except during the New Year holidays.

Kura is the gold colored Awamori that gets its hue because of its aging process in wooden barrels instead of the usual pottery or stainless kettles, and Helios Todoroki Awamori ranks a close second. Todoroki takes its name from the Todoroki Falls in Nago City.  They’re just the tip of the iceberg (or ice cube, if you want to be cute), as Helios is special because it produces the largest number of different kinds of alcoholic beverages in the prefecture.

The company is proud of its craft beers, rums, liqueurs, cocktails, ume shu and shochu.

It’s interesting to note that each different type alcohol must be licensed in order to be produced, and the Japanese government has to issue a license for virtually every alcoholic beverage known to the nation.

Helios’ distilling assembly.

Helios distillery has been around since 1961, when founder Tadashi Matsuda set out to fulfill his belief that an alcoholic beverage should be made by local ingredients. He produced an original rum sprit using sugar cane from local fields for his first product and the concept is still the same. Helios produces many types of alcohol now, but there’s still much caring about the products and their ingredients.

Helios’ famous craft beer “Go-ya-Dry” is easy to find, right? Nowhere else except in Okinawa would someone think about adding goya to beer Sounds strange, using a bitter melon, but the craft beer Go-ya Dry won the gold prize of the international beer competition in 2011, as well as the governor’s prize of Kanagawa Prefecture and the City Mayor’s prize of Yokohama, also in 2011. The special taste of the Go-ya dry is, naturally, bitter. Usually, a beer’s bitter taste is caused by the hops, but Go-ya Dry gives a second bitter feeling after the bitterness of hops goes away. It’s the time-lag of bitter!

Beers with creamy foam is special, too. Helios produces a total six kinds of craft beers and will put those to the All Japan BeerFes in Okinawa 2015 which will be held on April 4th from 1 p.m. ~ 9 p.m., and on the 5th from noon to 5 p.m at the Helios Pub on Kokusai Street in Naha. All the tasty details of the beer festival will be presented in next week’s Japan Update.

Helios’ main factory is located in the Kyoda district in Nago City, just before one enters the city itself.  Backyard tours are available every day of the year except during the New Year’s holidays.  Helios provides a tasting of its products after the tours.  While Helios wants visitors to taste, they encourage those planning to imbibe to bring along a non-drinking designated driver. All Helios products are available for purchase at the factory. This includes all Awamori, cocktails made of Okinawan fruits and the very popular Awamori among foreigners, “Habu Sake,” although without the snake itself in the bottle.  Visitors to Helios should call 0980-50-9686 in advance for a tour. An English speaking guide tour is available.