The Nikkei newspaper reports on a brewery in Hida, Gifu Prefecture with an American employee who’s crazy about brewing sake.
Darryl Cody Brailsford, a kurabito at the brewery, is passionate about making sake. It’s easy to see how hard he works when you consider that he weighed around 130 kg when he started, but has dropped some 30 kg since.
[Never mind dubious claims of drinking sake to make yourself more beautiful, how about becoming a kurabito to shed those last few stubborn pounds? No?]
Originally a trainer for athletes in Texas, Cody married a Japanese woman from nearby Takayama and moved with her back home. After arriving, he happened to see a recruitment ad from the Watanabe brewery. He thought he didn’t like sake, but after a recommendation from his father in law he tried and fell in love with Watanabe’s water-light junmai daignijō. Communicating his passion through an interpreter, he joined the brewery in October of the same year.
He knew nothing about making sake, so devoured the manga Natsuko no Sake which was set in a brewery in Niigata. His work days involved a 5:00 am start washing large quantities of rice in ice-cold water, followed by steaming it at high temperatures. Watanabe’s tōji was from Hanamaki in Iwate Prefecture, and Cody struggled to understand his instructions given in local dialect – occasionally resulting in being shouted at for his handling of the rice. It was a while before he learned the words for describing sake, such as kire (finish) but he was happy to be working at such a traditional job and never thought about stopping.
When he joined Watanabe they were not exporting to the US, but Cody wanted to send the sake he had helped to make to his own homeland. In 2015 he suggested making a sake aimed at the overseas market, asked for advice from his tōji on creating a sake that would go with foreign food, and negotiated with a broker to create a new label. The sake was finally brewed in February 2016, a fruity junmai daiginjo that he called “Cody’s Sake”. It won a gold medal at the US National Sake Appraisal that year, and is now available in both the USA and the UK.
Watanabe credits Cody’s Sake with the expansion of their overseas sales channels, adding that Cody’s advice is their best weapon for popularising sake abroad.
Despite his unsteady start, Cody is now a reliable senpai to the younger members of staff, and has his sights set on becoming a tōji himself.