Episode 66 Show Notes

Episode 66. This week, John and Timothy continue their series of interviews with U.S. Sake Brewers, scoring a fun and interesting sit down chat with Byron Stithem, the owner and toji at Proper Sake Co. out of Nashville, Tennessee. Byron has been producing excellent sake down south since 2017 and has a soft spot for yamahai style sakes, given their depth of flavor, acidity and ability to pair well with non-Japanese cuisine. With a true pioneer spirit, Proper Sake Co. is blazing a trail and is the first port of entry to the world of sake for many consumers in Tennessee and beyond. Bryon crafts a fabulous and flavorful Yamahai Junmai called “the Diplomat” that combines balance, flavor and just the right amount of tart acidity, and is winning fans and followers across the region. With a new taproom and expanded brewery opening up later this year in East Nashville and new online sales distribution coming soon, be sure to check out Proper Sake Co. any chance you get for a fantastic introduction to what American sake can be. Kanpai, Byron!


Skip to: 00:19 Hosts Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy


Skip to: 01:44 Introduction: Byron Stithem Proper Sake Co.

Byron Stithem of Proper sake Co.
Photo: © Proper Sake Co.

About Proper Sake Co.

Description from the Proper Sake Co. Website:
At Proper Saké Co., we take great pride in our symmetry of historical reverence and modern technique. Beginning with the koji, every step of the process is painstakingly completed in small batch by a single human! Each bottle delivered is hand packed and sent out at peak freshness for a quality of product that has previously been unattainable in the Americas. Our tasting room offers a revolving cast of unpasteurized, unfiltered sakes on draft, Japanese style dry lager and taproom only special releases. Our aim is to continue experimenting with both classical and innovative methods, to please purists and newcomers alike.

Website: https://www.propersake.co/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/propersake
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/proper_sake_co/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Proper_Sake_TN


Skip to: 17:33 Sake Introduction


Skip to: 19:02 Sake Tasting: Proper Sake Co. “The Diplomat” Yamahai Junmai Muroka

Proper Sake Co. “The Diplomat” Yamahai Junmai Muroka

Rice: Jupiter (somai)
Brewery: Proper Sake Co.
Rice Polishing: 60%
ABV: 16.0%
Classification: Yamahai Junmai Muroka Namachozo
SMV: +2
Yeast: Kyokai #7


Skip to: 33:32 Show Closing

This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!

Episode 66 Transcript

John Puma: 0:22
Hello, welcome to Sake Revolution. This is America’s first sake podcast. I’m your host, John Puma from the Sake Notes. Also that internet Sake Discord guy and, uh, the notable non sake samurai on the show.

Timothy Sullivan: 0:37
And I am your host, Timothy Sullivan. I am a Sake Samurai. I’m also a sake educator as well as the founder of the Urban Sake website. And every week John and I are here tasting and chatting about all things, sake and doing our best to make it fun and easy to understand.

John Puma: 0:53
So Tim, this is a rare treat. Uh, I want to say this is, and just a handful of episodes. This is the second time I’m looking across the table and seeing your face

Timothy Sullivan: 1:01
I know we’re in person.

John Puma: 1:02
we are in person. We are actually at the, at the, the, the samurais dojo. Is that we’re going to call this. No,

Timothy Sullivan: 1:10
this is the Sake Revolution Lair

John Puma: 1:12
Oh, okay. I like Lair that works too. Um, however we are, uh, interestingly not alone. There’s a there’s there’s somebody else in the Lair, Tim.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:20
Yes. This is one of those VIP VIP episodes.

John Puma: 1:24
Excellent. Excellent.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:28
We are here with a very special guest all the way from Tennessee sake, brewer and founder at Proper Sake Company, Byron Stithem.

Byron Stithem: 1:37
Hey guys.

John Puma: 1:37
Welcome Byron.

Timothy Sullivan: 1:39
you

Byron Stithem: 1:39
long time listener.

John Puma: 1:41
Oh, excellent.

Byron Stithem: 1:42
first time caller.

John Puma: 1:43
That’s

Timothy Sullivan: 1:44
Yeah. So you are in a small band of very motivated sake people who are brewing sake in the U S absolutely. Fantastic. And the first question that I want to ask you, I’m sure you get a lot. How did you get sake into sake?

Byron Stithem: 2:02
It’s probably some sort of mental health issue really, but, um, you guys know sake is pretty great So probably the best beverage on the planet.

John Puma: 2:14
Yeah, that’s it. That’s not bad.

Byron Stithem: 2:15
yeah. Yeah. So i, actually fell in love with sake when I was, living in New York way back, when. my background’s in culinary science and fermentation. So the art of making sake, you know, forget about how great the finished product is is very romantic on its own. Just the process is incredibly endearing and also the finished product is a beautiful thing as well. So it’s kind of a no brainer.

John Puma: 2:39
Nice. Nice. And you mentioned that you, you did some studying of fermentation here in New York. Where, where did you study?

Byron Stithem: 2:44
Well, so I worked at a bunch of different restaurants. Clover club was the place I was at instead live over in cobble hill. right? By kind of wandered in one day and asked him the job

Timothy Sullivan: 2:55
Famous last words.

Byron Stithem: 2:58
yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 2:59
Awesome. So, being a fan of sake and being in hospitality is one thing. Opening a sake brewery is completely different ball of wax. walk us through that journey a little bit. How did you go from being a fan of sake to saying this is something I want to make and I want to make a career out of it.

Byron Stithem: 3:16
Yeah. Well I think especially to moving back to Tennessee, where there is a real dearth of interesting sakes. So if I wanted to drink yamahai sake, the only way it was going to happen is if I made it. That’s really what prompted. the high level experimentation. and then from there, I just knew that it was something I wanted to be able to share. Um, and so yeah, my business partner and I kicked the doors open in 2017 and it’s just been a real journey

John Puma: 3:45
I like the idea of like, well, if I want to have sake over here, I’m gonna have to do it myself. That’s a good attitude. That pioneer spirit.

Byron Stithem: 3:53
you know,

Timothy Sullivan: 3:53
if you want it done. Right. You’ve got to do it yourself.

John Puma: 3:56
right, right. Uh, now I understand that you guys, uh, are opening up a new tap room over in Nashville. What’s the scoop.

Byron Stithem: 4:03
Yeah. So believe it or not, we’re way behind schedule. on it.

John Puma: 4:08
I can’t imagine.

Byron Stithem: 4:10
Yeah. I’m hoping. that we have new space opened within the next two to three months, probably. so on the east side of town, which is where I live. so that’s really cool for me, the space is much larger. and we’ll have a more amenable production facility. as well as, a much more. uh, cohesive Shall we say tasting area.

Timothy Sullivan: 4:29
Now in Nashville. I’ve never been, have you been John? You’ve been to Nashville. Okay. So we’re completely ignorant here. What, what kind of reception does sake get in Nashville besides your operation, are there any other sake bars or good sake shops? What, what type of, um, uh, vibe does sake have in Nashville right now?

Byron Stithem: 4:49
We’re we’re getting there. So. starting to get some more interesting sakes more importers are, are focusing a little more energy but there’s no specific sake- only bars. which I hope someone changes at some point. I mean, I guess you could consider ours mostly sake bar. Um, but I’m excited for, you know, the next Decibel to open in Nashville. and then, you know, shout out to Kenzie Hunter at, at Locust in Nashville, Um, they’re doing some really great stuff. and she, she certainly knows her way around some sake.

Timothy Sullivan: 5:23
Yeah, she was my sake student that Sake School of America. Yeah.

Byron Stithem: 5:28
So she’s, she’s spreading the good word in Tennessee.

Timothy Sullivan: 5:31
Absolutely. What’s the reaction been to the sakes that you’re making?

Byron Stithem: 5:37
Well, nobody has gagged or vomited in my presence. So

John Puma: 5:44
what we like to

Byron Stithem: 5:44
That’s been a win. Um,

John Puma: 5:47
but I imagine that a lot of cases, the people there, this may be their first encounter with sake. Is that do you find that’s often what happens?

Byron Stithem: 5:54
Yeah, very much. so, Um, always kind of, a weird introduction for folks too, because I do almost exclusively Yamahai styles. Um, so not only is it folks first introduction to sake, it’s, you know, 9% of the sake is in the world. So I hear, um,

Timothy Sullivan: 6:14
From reliable sources

John Puma: 6:15
from a reliable source. I was way off of my estimation,

Byron Stithem: 6:19
okay. Um, so yeah, I think, I think Yamahai when done correctly. I don’t want to say correctly there’s no right way to do anything, But when done um, in a way that kind of brings together the harmony of the wild, you know, lactobacillus and complexities with some of the, beautiful ginjo-ka that you can get from, you know, a long slow ferment. I think, I think I’ve heard you say pretty Yamahai before and that’s, that’s always been my goal.

Timothy Sullivan: 6:48
Sounds like you’re chasing some depth of flavor there.

Byron Stithem: 6:51
There’s a, There’s a nice intersection there somewhere.

Timothy Sullivan: 6:54
Great. It’s really interesting that you’re focusing on Yamahai so much

Byron Stithem: 6:58
Yeah. Well, I think, uh, specifically with Western cuisine, it shines a little bit

John Puma: 7:04
Hm.

Byron Stithem: 7:05
less subtle in a lot of ways, a little more acid

John Puma: 7:09
And again, not very experienced with, uh, with Nashville, what’s like the local cuisine, like over there?

Byron Stithem: 7:15
Um, we’ve gone through a bit of a Renaissance over the last few years, so it’s, it’s become super progressive and they’re like, Michelin quality restaurants that they’re not getting Michelin stars in Tennessee yet, but someday, some, some really great progressive cuisine. where they’re pulling from all over the place. So we also do a lot of fermentation and koji related production for different restaurant.

John Puma: 7:39
That’s nice.

Byron Stithem: 7:41
So not, not a whole lot of Japanese restaurants, but um, a lot of folks that are willing to put sake on the menu. even. Probably not the first thing people think of when they go there.

John Puma: 7:51
That’s cool.

Byron Stithem: 7:52
Yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 7:53
So maybe you could walk us through a little bit of the different styles you mentioned Yamahai already, but maybe you could tell us a little bit about the different styles that you make, as far as your sake portfolio goes.

Byron Stithem: 8:06
Yeah. So predominantly. what we distribute is, the sake that I brought for us to enjoy today. it’s called The Diplomat. It’s a, Yamahai 60% mill rate. we do a nigori of that. as well. Um, and that is predominantly what we distribute, on-site for tasting and just for drinking and consumption on, on premises. I’ll, I’ll do some more experimental stuff sometimes. Um, and I’m very much into kind of unearthing old styles and recipes. So kimoto, bodaimoto, Anything that I can can dig up from the past. Um, I’m very interested in, but I also, love really Beautiful fruity floral ginjos and daiginjos And just, I’m I’m in for anything, really.

Timothy Sullivan: 8:51
now making all these different styles of sake, I’m wondering, uh, we talked briefly moment ago about studying fermentation, like making bodaimoto and all that stuff requires pretty deep study. Have you gone to Japan? And if so, tell us about your experience.

Byron Stithem: 9:08
Yeah Um, I’ve had the good fortune of going to Japan, um, quite a few times now. And As this journey has progressed more and more folks have been very open. and kind with their resources and time and just education points as it were. Yeah, some of my my favorite breweries, are, surprise, the ones that are doing a lot of Yamahai, but um, I really love Kido Izumi. I think they’re making some, some really beautiful, as I mentioned the intersection of, of Yamahai and, uh, you know, refined flavors. I think they do a wonderful job. Niida Honke, similarly, I mentioned earlier, I’m a Phillip Harper fan boy, for sure. Phillip, if You’re out there. Sorry. keep doing what you’re doing.

Timothy Sullivan: 9:59
And when you visit these breweries, they let you in on their secrets, they show you around, or is it just a polite tour or do you get to like stir the mash?

Byron Stithem: 10:07
You know, as time has progressed, and people have realized that, this isn’t a joke, and I’m serious about making sake in Tennessee, Yeah. people have been really forthright with a lot of information and resources. And, it’s been really wonderful to grow those relationships over the years.

John Puma: 10:25
very nice.

Byron Stithem: 10:25
Yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 10:26
You know, I’d also be interested to know a little bit about your brewery setup that you have in Tennessee. I know that one thing I hear from brewers that are getting started in the states is that it may be difficult to source equipment and yeast and all that stuff. And I’m curious if you’re doing that all yourself brewing solo. And where did you get all the equipment that you work with? The tanks and the press and all that stuff. How did that come about for you?

Byron Stithem: 10:53
Yeah, I think that is probably the ultimate challenge of, of American sake brewers is assembling your equipment without access to what would be deemed traditional sake equipment Um, So. tank wise, it’s all pretty similar. You can get jacketed tanks from, from pretty much anywhere at this point. That’ll work for sake brewing for sure. So we have a handful of stainless steel tanks with, with jackets on them to control temperature. Our original pressing apparatus was a beekeeping table. So are the, uh, stainless. is essentially a fune, but it’s a stainless box and it had the false bottom. And so I had just rigged up a system to apply weight to the bags. Um, fortunately now, we’ve been able to build a little more robust fune press. Um, and actually my father-in-law helped, helped assemble that one with his, his Woodworking and metalworking knowledge. Um, and so yeah, we, we got a new fune press finally, earlier this year.

Timothy Sullivan: 11:53
Wow. Wow

Byron Stithem: 11:54
That was a big one.

John Puma: 11:57
Yeah.

Byron Stithem: 11:58
And then as far as that I mean, we have some wine and sake related lab equipment, and those are becoming more and more easily to come by. Um, and you can certainly order those from Japan. You know, shipping is okay. It’s once you start to get into large, large pieces of equipment, that it gets a little tough.

Timothy Sullivan: 12:16
you would, you would say for any young people out there dreaming of opening U S sake brewery that it takes some ingenuity.

Byron Stithem: 12:24
Yeah. Yeah. it helps. if you have an engineering background, which I do not. Um, Yeah, if you can weld, you’re going to be well ahead of the competition.

Timothy Sullivan: 12:34
And that’s in addition to the microbiology degree that you need.

Byron Stithem: 12:39
Yeah. And of course, if you can read Japanese that’s,

John Puma: 12:41
probably, probably. Right. So Japanese learn welding microbiology. Three, the three steps.

Timothy Sullivan: 12:47
almost

Byron Stithem: 12:48
no barrier to entry here.

John Puma: 12:51
And that’s a

Byron Stithem: 12:51
you have to be a lunatic, but yeah.

Timothy Sullivan: 12:56
along your whole journey. What would you say was the most difficult of all those stumbling blocks we talked about? What for you personally, what was the most difficult to overcome?

Byron Stithem: 13:06
I think, I think there were a lot of unknowns. I wish I had more knowledge when I first started, but ultimately. you know, a lot of learn as you go, and that’s how we got there. But, I do wish there was some more English language materials. Um, and since then, you know, I’ve been able to access more of that, but especially, you know, 10 years ago, they’re really just like William Ald’s brewing sake at home book.

John Puma: 13:35
It seems like, eh, I think in the United States, a lot of. Landscape of sake in general, not just the local brewery scene, but acceptance popularity, the volume that gets imported, like just the interest and awareness of sake has changed so much. And so, yeah, I would imagine that, you know, as that grows, that those resources will become a little bit more, a little more available, which is nice. I also think that like the, a lot of the people on the Japanese side are realizing that, you know, helping out breweries on this side and kind of making it so that people in America who have a first sake experience, that’s a place like yours, have a great experience and do everything that they can to make sure that, uh, and that’s something that, that Kuji san said when he was on our show was that he wants to make sure that people hear when they’re having sake for the first time, that was good and they want to end it, and he wants to encourage people to good sake so that people here enjoy have a good sake experience. And then they want to know more about sake and eventually try his sake.

Byron Stithem: 14:32
That’s right. And I think that’s absolutely correct. and probably the largest reason that the Japanese brain trust has been as open as, as it has been. Um, and it makes perfect sense, you know, the sales and imports for sake and the U S are growing year over year and, the more that they can get people to drink sake and not taste really bad American sake and walk away from the beverage entirely. is a it’s in their best interest,

Timothy Sullivan: 14:57
Absolutely. What was your first batch like?

Byron Stithem: 15:00
Not the worst. Actually,

John Puma: 15:02
So it was a later one. That was the worst.

Byron Stithem: 15:08
The first batch I made. was, was in my basement, I guess, probably about 12 years ago in Mason jars

John Puma: 15:13
Oh wow

Byron Stithem: 15:14
Um, using a cooler to inoculate koji in, uh, And, you know, when you’re working in that small scale. if your recipes, right, it’s not that hard, but, um, to make really great sake of course requires infinite more knowledge and equipment than I had at that point.

Timothy Sullivan: 15:32
Yeah. And was that after experimentation with beer or did you go right to sake?

Byron Stithem: 15:37
I’ve definitely made beer before. And I like beer it’s a nice thing, but it’s not sake. It never will. be.

John Puma: 15:44
So, uh, you, you clearly really loved sake. Do you remember what your sake aha moment was? What your, what you were drinking, where you were or anything like that?

Byron Stithem: 15:56
Well, so, so Decibel is is ground zero of course. But, there, there, are probably a couple of moments along the way. Um, as a teenager who was not old enough to drink, I may have come into some pretty cheap commodity sake. and I actually enjoyed it. so even as a young man, I was interested in sake though. I didn’t know. There was such an abundance of premium sake out there Um, that deserved much more attention. But yeah. Then when I moved to New York the first time I went to Decibel, um, in the first time, I had Yamahai sake was, it was pretty eye-opening.

John Puma: 16:30
Oh, wow.

Byron Stithem: 16:30
Yeah,

John Puma: 16:31
So what do Yamahai.

Byron Stithem: 16:33
it was a Tengumai I believe

Timothy Sullivan: 16:36
We’ve

John Puma: 16:36
on the show

Timothy Sullivan: 16:37
had that on the show. Yes. Yeah. That is, that is not a beginner’s sake…

Byron Stithem: 16:42
Sorry

Timothy Sullivan: 16:43
We establish that.

Byron Stithem: 16:45
I tend to prefer to, be challenged in all arenas, especially when it comes to tasting food and beverage

John Puma: 16:51
so

Byron Stithem: 16:51
it was, it was a no brainer. what’s the weirdest. one you have. give me that.

John Puma: 16:57
Wait a minute.

Timothy Sullivan: 16:58
That’s not something I usually say.

John Puma: 17:01
wife usually says though. Um, but what do you remember your first Yamahai then

Timothy Sullivan: 17:06
oh, I don’t remember my first Yamahai no, but, um, i

John Puma: 17:10
remember mine

Timothy Sullivan: 17:12
let’s hear it.

John Puma: 17:13
uh, to, uh,Tedorigawa Junmai,

Byron Stithem: 17:14
Oh, a, that’s a pretty Yamahai.

John Puma: 17:17
Yeah, yeah, yeah. All their stuff is a little bit on that. That pretty Yamahai scale. Um, their their Yamahai Daiginjo is like one of my absolute favorite sake is that was so delicious. I haven’t had that in years though. It’s really nice stuff.

Timothy Sullivan: 17:33
Well, speaking of sake flavors, uh, we have, sake that you’ve brought to us from Tennessee and we are so excited to give it a try. So why don’t we get that open All right. So we have the, uh, here, would you like to give us an introduction to the type and the statistics for this one?

Byron Stithem: 17:58
Yeah, for sure. so this is a Yamahai, It is made with Jupiter rice, which is a local Arkansas delicacy,

Timothy Sullivan: 18:06
Jupiter,

John Puma: 18:07
I have never heard of that.

Byron Stithem: 18:09
It’s also referred to as, somai sometimes.

John Puma: 18:12
I haven’t heard of that. Okay.

Byron Stithem: 18:14
Yes. Um, So yeah, we get all the rice grown in Arkansas and then blake Richardson up at Moto-i. He does the milling. Um, and yeah, I really, I really love this rice because it is unique to the area, but also has a similar structure, and production capability. as yamadanishiki. A Junmai Yamahai it is also totally unfiltered. So muroka.

Timothy Sullivan: 18:41
Yep So, uh, you don’t mean cloudy by that. You mean not charcoal

Byron Stithem: 18:46
Not charcoal filtered, there’s no bentonite or finding agents, Um, it’s just straight off the press.

Timothy Sullivan: 18:52
And the, somai Jupiter rice, what’s the polishing rate on that.

Byron Stithem: 18:57
It’s a 60% Polish. and then the SMV is about plus two.

Timothy Sullivan: 19:02
So looking at this in the glass, we have a little bit of just, just a hint of color there. I think that comes obviously from the lack of charcoal filtering. So that would be Muroka

Byron Stithem: 19:13
I should mention it’s also a Namachozo.

Timothy Sullivan: 19:15
namachozo. Okay. So that’s once pasteurized. All right, let’s give it a smell. Maybe you can walk us a little bit through. The aroma and flavor.

Byron Stithem: 19:28
Yeah. So it’s a number seven yeast. Um oftentimes can be more subdued compared to you know, some of its other contemporaries, but, um, in the tank. it’s pretty wild- cotton, candy, watermelon, bubblegum. And then I think once it gets packaged, in the bottle and pasteurized once, especially as it sits for a little bit, it starts to pick up some kind of tart cherry there’s definitely a good acid content. because of the Yamahai product production. Um, So I think it’s really great with grilled foods, Um, we had it with barbecue yesterday at Brooklyn Kura, and I thought that was nice.

Timothy Sullivan: 20:06
Yeah, absolutely. a lovely, soft aroma, very delicate.

John Puma: 20:12
This, this has that, that pretty Yamahai aroma.

Byron Stithem: 20:17
Thank you.

Timothy Sullivan: 20:18
And there’s a little bit of like, banana aroma for me as well, like a little like the banana taffy kind of smell a little bit of sweetness, really lovely, but soft and gentle. And there’s also, I mean, staying with the aroma for just a moment. There’s also a little bit of a floral note too.

Byron Stithem: 20:38
Yeah. So this

Timothy Sullivan: 20:40
flower. It’s really

Byron Stithem: 20:41
this particular number seven was donated by a brewery that remain are named their safety, but, um yeah, it was really fortunate to come across it and, it is extremely foaming. So I’ve I’ve had a couple of mistakes in the past, But have figured it out. Now of course, um, be it, you got to leave a lot of head space in that tank.

Timothy Sullivan: 21:06
Yeah. So for our listeners, there are low foaming and regular foaming varieties of yeast. And if you have the regular foaming variety during the most active stages of fermentation, the foam can bubble over the top of the tank and make a big, mess.

Byron Stithem: 21:21
mess. It, It turns to cement almost immediately.

Timothy Sullivan: 21:28
Sticky too. It’s like it’s yeah. It’s something you want to avoid for sure. All right. So let’s give this a taste as well.

Byron Stithem: 21:36
Sorry, guys. I already started tasting.

John Puma: 21:41
That’s okay, so did i. Yeah, this is, I don’t know if this is right way to put it, but this is some Yamahai Yamahai like, this is very easily recognizable as that style and. pretty. You know, as you mentioned, it is, it does have a little bit of a refinement to it is not just a super wild, Yamahai usually not my style, the super wild ones. So I’m relieved in that. It’s not really the phrasing I want to use. I’m very pleased with that. That’s nice.

Byron Stithem: 22:16
Good. Good. Well, yeah, I like I was saying, I think. the intersection of some of the more interesting, elements of Yamahai, especially, you know, probably excessive umami in some cases, but generally complex backbone, and a little more acid than, than a lot of contemporary styles. So It does make it a little more versatile food wise.

Timothy Sullivan: 22:37
And what’s the alcohol percentage?

Byron Stithem: 22:38
It’s going to be a 16.

Timothy Sullivan: 22:39
16. Alright. And I think when I taste this, I pick up a little bit on the tartness. You were talking about like the tart cherry. So towards the end, the, uh, not quite the aftertaste, but getting towards the, back of the palate, this tartness really comes through and that’s really, uh, nice and brings kind of a crispness to the finish. Yeah. I really liked

Byron Stithem: 23:02
Yeah. Thank you. and so the, the lactobacillus culture that we use. Basically Propagated from, multiple shubo. So over time I did a bunch of rice experiments, getting different motos ready, and then we took the lactobacillus and isolated them. so it gets a defined lactobacillus, to start. Um, so in that regard, it is a little bit, uh, less traditional for the Yamahai, but it is still building its own lactic acid.

Timothy Sullivan: 23:32
I want to ask you, if you could give us your definition of what Yamahai is for our listeners. Like if a customer walked in and you said this is a Yamahai and they say, what’s

Byron Stithem: 23:44
that?

Timothy Sullivan: 23:45
We’ve described it here on the podcast, but I’d love to get your take on how do you describe Yamahai for folks?

Byron Stithem: 23:49
Well, you guys did it much more eloquently than I would be able to I’m sure. But, um, when folks come in, I kind of try and meet them where they are. so it could go any number of ways. Um, if it’s somebody that doesn’t seem like they have a long attention span, I’ll try and make it akin to a, more of a natural wine or something with an ambient production or non refinement, basically building your lactic acid culture naturally, instead of that, um, then of course, if folks really want to get into the weeds, we can

Timothy Sullivan: 24:24
Yeah. How would you explain it for someone who might say listen to a sake podcast?

Byron Stithem: 24:30
Oh boy, this is why I don’t have my own podcast, but um, yeah, I mean, we definitely want to start with the shubo conversation, and all roads lead from there, essentially, So, um, essentially telling people like you gotta get your yeast going before it’s going to make anything good. So How are you going to do Yamahai is the way I like to do it and because you get. The refined mix of bugs that collect themselves in there before things get and add some complexity in this product.

Timothy Sullivan: 25:01
great. Awesome. Very cool.

John Puma: 25:04
I th I, you mentioned like the tartness and, the acidity, and I feel like the they’re doing a nice little dance here and there it’s really, like, everything’s just really complimentary. really like, um, you know, it’s, it’s got, it’s got some, some funky, unusual flavors, but they’re like, nothing is, is overshadowing. The rest of the experience. That’s been something I’ve really enjoyed about this.

Byron Stithem: 25:27
Thank you very much.

Timothy Sullivan: 25:28
Yeah. And when it comes, you mentioned barbecue before, but when it comes to food, pairing as the brewer, the maker of the sake, what are some of your, recommendations for pairing this particular? Junmai Yamahai

Byron Stithem: 25:40
So you mentioned earlier, I think anything grilled, goes pretty famously anything that’s received, some sort of Bernoulli effect gentle, charring.

Timothy Sullivan: 25:48
gentle charring.

Byron Stithem: 25:50
Um, which can come in any, any number of forms of course but yeah, I think the umami and any savory notes are very complimentary with that. Also grilled oysters are really nice time. I think oysters are obviously famous with sake for a lot of reasons, but when you get that grilled element, you also kind of combine the best of both worlds.

Timothy Sullivan: 26:14
now I’m curious to ask you, since you get so many consumers coming in off the street who have never had sake before. And this is a delicious premium sake, handcrafted and bright and vibrant right out of the press. Have there been any funny comments you remember that people have said to you or any, any like hot takes that you’re you’re, uh,

Byron Stithem: 26:37
You know, I’m never surprised by the amount of strange questions that get asked or tasting notes that just would never have. Come to me, Um, and probably for good reason, but, um, you know, cinnamon and

John Puma: 26:56
Cinnamon

Byron Stithem: 26:57
like this is a whiskey right? It’s it says it on the sign guys. That’s a sake you’re in the wrong place.

John Puma: 27:04
I’ve never got, I’ve never gotten whiskey from, uh, from a

Byron Stithem: 27:07
Yeah, I think that one’s out of bounds.

John Puma: 27:09
I certainly don’t get cinnamon from it.

Byron Stithem: 27:13
I think somebody was visiting Nashville and had had a lot of fireball probably and everything that’s going to taste like that, for the rest of their trip.

John Puma: 27:20
You know, that happens. So we’re having this chilled right now, but being a Yamahai I have to ask, do you have any temperature preferences outside of that?

Byron Stithem: 27:30
yeah, Um, this is a great question. And another reason that. I think Yamahai is I don’t want to say superior but it does have characteristics. that make it a little more shelf stable a little more indestructable

John Puma: 27:45
A little more indestructible.

Timothy Sullivan: 27:46
there’s that word.

Byron Stithem: 27:47
It is. It has that acid content, so it ages really well. and for that reason also does well with heat. So I love this but I also, sometimes I’ll throw in an ice cube. Um, That’s a Phillip Harper trick. Um, um,

John Puma: 28:05
He said, he’s a fan boy, let him have

Byron Stithem: 28:07
let me go, let me go. Um, but yeah, I love it heated as well. and even a little bit warmer than a lot of people, probably suggest, but, I think it, it has an interesting nuance throughout the spectrum, and I think there’s somewhere in there, that would be amenable to almost anyone. So,

John Puma: 28:27
Nice That’s that’s always a lot of fun when you encounter like the real, uh, real nerdy sake places, that’ll always want to play with temperature and things like that. And I, this, I can imagine, like, I’ve been to places in like parts of Japan where I’m like, I know specific, like proprietors that would have a ball with the sake. It would blast with what they can do with different, different temperatures of it.

Timothy Sullivan: 28:50
Yeah. Have you ever brought your sake to Japan and poured it for other brewers? What have they said?

Byron Stithem: 28:56
Well, just inherently, the Japanese are very polite, so it’s hard to say if I’ve received any real critique. but, um, I certainly make sure to preface the fact that it is a Yamahai and like it’s supposed to taste like that. at least that’s my intention. I think the folks that do Yamahai have been pleasantly surprised that anybody would be dumb enough to do it in the states, but also that it’s hopefully somewhat palatable and somewhat in line with some, some sakes that they might, make themselves. So last year, right before the pandemic, actually, I went to Niizawa and they don’t do any, Yamahai like, it’s, it’s the exact opposite of what I do essentially. but, really incredible sake and they make some of the most just crushable you know, beautiful, not too in your face aroma wise. just imminently drinkable sakes. Um, and so I learned a lot from them, but they definitely put my stuff through the lab testing ringer. and did all of the analysis for me,

Timothy Sullivan: 30:03
you know, I like to say breweries like that. They wouldn’t touch Yamahai with a 10 foot pole. That’s a sake brewery joke

John Puma: 30:10
Oh, yeah, no, I, I get it.

Byron Stithem: 30:14
There’s going to be some eye-rolls on the other end of this somewhere. Huh?

Timothy Sullivan: 30:17
One of the great things about sake is that you can process it post fermentation. And there’s lots of things you can do. You can age it, you can pasteurize it in different ways. You can add water or not. Are you experimenting with any other processes for this particular Yamahai Junmai like aging or anything like that?

Byron Stithem: 30:33
Yeah. So I try and pull off a little bit of every batch to age. I love koshu. Surprise, But, um, um, so I I do try and save some sake and I do have some original, this recipe that I started working on. probably eight or nine years ago. I have some bottles still in the fridge today. I sample regular.

John Puma: 30:55
Oh, that’s cool. awesome

Byron Stithem: 30:58
and I also. do a project where I have a small tank that I throw a little bit of each batch in. And so it’s always near the top So I’ll pull a little bit off bottle, few bottles to put the next batch in, um, call it time-lapse. So it’s, uh, picture in time.

John Puma: 31:18
That’s pretty cool.

Timothy Sullivan: 31:20
Very cool. Now, are you aging, all those sakes case in bottle, the ones that you set aside, is it all aged in bottle?

Byron Stithem: 31:25
Um, yeah. so those are all in bottles, with the exception of that time-lapse project. this particular sake we’re drinking was pressed in November of 2020.

John Puma: 31:34
Oh, wow. so you, you mentioned earlier that you you’re also attracted to like kimoto, bodaimoto. have you done any production on those yet? Or

Byron Stithem: 31:44
nothing for distribution, but um, certainly for the tasting, room. and especially over the pandemic. I did a lot of experimentation mixed culture brews and certainly anything that builds a natural lactic acid profile. Um, so we did plenty of bodaimoto,

John Puma: 32:01
everybody else was making sour dough. Those guys.

Byron Stithem: 32:06
liquid sourdough,

John Puma: 32:07
There you go.

Timothy Sullivan: 32:09
Somebody has

Byron Stithem: 32:10
right

Timothy Sullivan: 32:12
All right. So, um, thank you so much for bringing this amazing Junmai Yamahai. It is an absolute treat to be able to taste it and also taste it with the maker. Thank you so much.

Byron Stithem: 32:24
It’s an honor to be here. Thank you guys so much for doing what you do and thanks for letting me join today.

Timothy Sullivan: 32:29
Now for our listeners who are interested in trying Proper Sake, where can they find you? Where can they first find your products? And then where can they find more information about you online?

Byron Stithem: 32:41
Yeah. So we do have a website, ProperSake.co. we currently distribute to nine states. So Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and looking to get into the New York market.

Timothy Sullivan: 32:57
that’s awesome!

Byron Stithem: 32:58
We also be launching an online store Where we should be able to ship direct to about 46 states But the best way, to drink the sake is obviously onsite. So come see us in Nashville.

Timothy Sullivan: 33:09
Yeah. And if people want to learn more about your taproom, that’s opening up, they can just visit your website, propersake.co All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us. It was an absolute pleasure to have you here taste your sake. I’ve been seeing you online and in sake circles for a long time, and it’s so nice to meet you in person.

Byron Stithem: 33:28
Likewise.

John Puma: 33:30
Yeah. This has been.

Timothy Sullivan: 33:32
All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us. And we want to thank our listeners as well for tuning in. We really do hope that you’re enjoying sake revolution. Now, if you’d like to show your support for our podcast, there’s one way you can really help us out. And that would be to join us on Patreon. We have two different levels of support that you could help us out with. The first one is $5 a month. And for that, you can join our monthly live zoom, sake, happy hour. It happens the first Wednesday of every month, you can join us live and sip with us, ask us questions and we can’t wait to meet you. and the second tier is our $3 a month. Tier we can give you some inside Intel and let you know which sakes will be sipping on two weeks in advance. If you’d like to get them for yourself and sip along with us, when the episode comes out.

John Puma: 34:23
And, believe it or not, there’s another way you can support the podcast. And that is by writing a review on apple podcasts still, you guys would not believe how much of an impact that actually has and then after you’re done writing your wonderful review, please tell your friends, tell your family, you got them to subscribe.

Timothy Sullivan: 34:43
Always to learn more about any of the topics, any of the brewers or any of the sakes we talked about in today’s episode, just visit our website, SakeRevolution.com, and you can check out all the detailed show notes.

John Puma: 34:56
And if you have sake questions that you need answered, we definitely want to hear from you. Please reach out to us. The email address as always is [email protected] So until next time, please pick up a glass, keep drinking sake and Kanpai!