Zero seconds from the sea; the brewery most close to the sea in Japan
Mukai Shuzo was established in 1754 in Ine-cho, Tango, Kyoto. The brewery is located about 30 minutes by car from Amano-hashidate, a national park known for its beautiful views.
They brew sake in a very unique area where many traditional "funaya" houses line up along the seaside, as many as 230 of them. A house having a personal dock instead of their garage is called funaya, and they were there in Ine-cho from 300 hundred years ago, taking advantage of the geographic location where the waves are calm.
The brewery's building is also a funaya house, so it is considered "closest to the sea" among all other sake breweries in Japan. The exterior of the brewery remains unchanged from that of the original one built during the Edo period since the government designates this area as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, which means that changes to the exterior are restricted.
A row of funaya
Since the site cannot be expanded, the brewery is quite small in terms of floor space, and the brewing process is carried out with various ingenuities such as maximizing the use of vertical space within the existing space.
Not just the floor space but also the climate is the other factor they have to cope with. The area gets a lot of snow. When the snow piles up about a meter high, their day has to start from snow shoveling before brewing sake, which is not an easy task.
We try everything
Mukai Shuzo is run by siblings, with the elder sister imbued with challenging spirit being the toji (Head of Brewer); and the younger brother as brewer/president of the company.
From left, President Mukai and Toji Mukai
The first unique point about their brewing is that all of their products are brewed as pure rice or "junmai" (a grade of special-designation sake; it hasn’t add a distilled alcohol.). In this area, because the sea is right in front, sake is often paired with locally produced fresh seafood. They believe junmai sake goes well with such local dishes, and that is why they chose junmai style.
The other uniqueness is utilizing the characteristics of the yeast and rice obtained through various challenges to improve the quality of their sake.
Mukai Shuzo’s popular product "Ine Mankai" is a sake developed 20 years ago targeting females and a younger generation. It was a rare product brewed from an old variety of rice called Akagome (or Akamai).
Another sake, the now phantom "Ine-Burimaru", also adopted an unusual method of brewing which is frying and roasting sake rice before the standard brewing process. The taste was pretty good, as though a sake version of Guinness, but it had too many issues in the brewing process. For instance, smoke from roasting the rice makes brewers' eyes hurt, and the manual squeezing (a standard squeezer couldn't be used because of the unique nature of the product) was too much of a burden. So, they eventually had to give it up. In the past, the brewery also tried using yeast from pine trees and beer yeast, using just malted rice as an ingredient, using sprouted brown rice, etc. The brewer just can't stop testing out things that come to their mind.
Continued trial-and-error practices brought them inspiring bits of knowledge that can be leveraged in many ways. A good example is their local product "Kyo no Haru." One of the essential factors in establishing the taste of the product was using just the specific type of yeast, and that technique was derived from their past experiences. Learn from everything you experience for delivering even better sake - it's their strong belief.
Seafood Night, produced by the seemingly opposite duo of sister and brother - the toji with the joyous and challenging mind, and the President who is quietly passionate about sake - is a sake that goes well with any occasion, whether it is a relaxing evening at home or a party with many guests. Please enjoy the taste, and during that time it would be perfect to think about the sea.
A strong flavor of this sake is a virtue of unpasteurized sake.
Served chilled, it goes well with tuna or salmon, and its mild taste makes good harmony with western cuisine and spicy foods such as curry. If you discover your favorite pairing, please let us know!