Rising Star Brewer Byron Stithem of Proper Saké Company - Biography

Nashville, TN

May 2022

When Byron Stithem moved from Kansas City, Kansas to Nashville, he never imagined that his career would evolve into brewing sake. It all started with a barback job—something that made him a little extra cash while studying music business at Belmont University. When work at a record label brought Stithem to New York City in 2010, he scored a role behind the scenes at Clover Club alongside Rising Stars alum Brad Farran. After falling in love with the menu at Sake Bar Decibel in the Lower East Side, Stithem began experimenting with koji alchemy at home. That first batch of koji evolved into a full-blown, sake nano-brewery.  

After Stithem’s son was born in 2011, he and his family returned to Nashville where he helped launch Hattie B’s flagship location and joined the opening team at Husk’s Nashville debut. One year later, Stithem was recruited to be a chef for the traveling culinary pop-up experience, Dinner Lab. He was promoted to director of curation, designing menus and coordinating events with young chefs across the country. Still, Stithem dreamed of sake, longing for the pre-modern styles that were impossible to source in the South. After years of research, several training trips to Japan, and endless hours of experimentation, Proper Saké Company was born in 2016. Nashville’s only sake brewery features Japanese-style beers and a variety of small batch, unpasteurized, unfined, pre-modern-style sakes, all made from Stithem’s koji. He continues to collaborate with many restaurants around the South to bring koji and an assortment of fermented ingredients to their menus.