This is Kuniko Mukai. She is one if the most passionate, hardworking, humble and funniest brewers I know. Her Sake is served in some of the finest establishments, not only in Japan but around the world and it is this concept that astonishes her the most. A few years ago when I showed her a picture of her Sake being served in a restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbour she literally fell off her chair.
Mukai Shuzō is a tiny brewery with an exceptionally long history having been founded in 1754 and is still a family run business today. Kuniko Mukai who is the Tōji [Master Brewer] and the eldest daughter of the Kuramoto [Brewery Owner] Yoshihisa Mukai. Kuniko left her hometown to study fermentation and brewing techniques at Tokyo’s Nodai University of Agriculture and after graduation spent one year as a brewery worker before assuming the role of Tōji at her family's brewery in 1998. Kuniko was one of the first women Master Brewers in Japan at the young age of 22, and by becoming Tōji at Mukai kept alive the family-run tradition at their brewery that has now been brewing for 265 years. She is an exceptionally creative brewer who makes Sake that are unique to her style.
While studying fermentation and brewing techniques at Tokyo University, Kuniko met Professor Takeda who encouraged her to create a sake made from the red rice he knew grew locally in Kuniko's hometown area of Ine. Professor Takeda also emphasised that the most important thing in sake brewing is the balance of flavours, with sweetness and acidity in harmony. In May 2000 Kuniko launched her first ever red rice sake called ‘Ine Mankai’ or ‘Ine in full bloom’. Also that year Kuniko brewed another incredibly unique Sake called Natsu no Omoide. This Sake was created using an ancient strain of yeast given to her at Nodai University and is know as the ‘100 year yeast’. A strain of yeast that had been propagated for over a 100 years. Now 19 years old this Sake has developed into an incredible drink.