Appalachian Grown: Neighborhood Kombuchery

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When you think of tap houses and breweries, they’re often associated with beer or other alcoholic beverages. What if there was a brewery that offered a healthy non-alcoholic option? Neighborhood Kombuchery is a local brewery in Morgantown that offers hand-brewed kombucha drinks on tap.

Carissa Herman and her husband, Andrew Rhodes, opened the tap house several years ago. Rhodes was finishing his PhD at West Virginia University when they entered their idea to the West Virginia Business Plan Competition, a yearly competition available to high school and college students in the state. The competition awards young entrepreneurs in West Virginia by bringing their business ideas to life. The competition was their first step to opening their brewery.

Kombucha was something the couple has always loved drinking. Herman said that her and her husband were out of town, when they discovered a co-op that sold Kombucha on tap. That was when they knew Morgantown needed a tap house offering Kombucha.

“We were on a trip somewhere and there was a fabulous co-op, and they had kombucha on draft. And we said ‘why doesn’t Morgantown have this? Morgantown should have this’. So we decided to make it happen,” said Herman.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is an effervescent, fermented sweet tea. It’s often made from a mix of black and green tea. Apart from being a tasty, fizzy drink, Kombucha can offer several health benefits. Kombucha is said to:

  • Improve digestion
  • Improve diabetes
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce high blood pressure

It’s also promoted to help:

  • Rheumatism
  • Gout
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Nervousness
  • Liver function
  • Fight cancer

Herman said she has bad several customers tell her they have health issues, which is why they use the product. She mentioned her customer’s doctors have actually recommended they drink Kombucha.

Customers tell us their physicians recommend they incorporate more fermented foods into their diet, of which Kombucha is one. I have had so many stories from customers. People tell us they have a special condition which is why they’re using the product. It really makes their quality of life a lot better. It’s a really big deal for some people, for others it’s just a fun fizzy drink for them to enjoy,” said Herman.

Since Kombucha is such a healthy drink, how is it made?

At Neighborhood Kombuchery, their entire process can take up to six weeks to finish. The first step to brewing their kombucha is to first brew the tea. Rhodes said that he will begin by making the sweet tea, then mix it with previously made kombucha. From there, he will place it all into his fermentation tanks. The fermenting process takes about 3-5 weeks.

“We start off with just filtered tap water, then we heat that up to almost boiling. And then we steep tea and introduce some sugar. Which is the fuel source for the fermentation process. We then put that into one of our large fermentation tanks, and add some previous kombucha from a previous batch. And that kicks off the fermentation process for the next start,” Rhodes said.

After the product is fermented, Rhodes and Herman will then separate it all into smaller gallons. This is when they use naturally grown fruits, veggies, herbs and spices to flavor each gallon.

Herman mentioned that using natural ingredients is just as important to them as supporting local businesses is. Therefore they get all their teas from The Tea Shoppe, another local business in Morgantown. Herman and Rhodes source their other ingredients from local farms when possible.

On top of using ingredients that help support the community and other local businesses, Herman and Rhodes display their friends’ artworks, as well. Inside the Kombuchery, they display and sell several photographs from Joel Wolpert and pottery made by Keith Koury. Koury’s pottery can also be found at Appalachian Clay Works.

Currently, Neighborhood Kombuchery only offers pop up markets on Fridays from 5-7 p.m. Customers can then come in and purchase growlers of Kombucha. Herman also said customers can bring in their own containers to be filled, since they go through an entire cleaning process for the pandemic.

Their kombucha can also be purchased at several disturbers, when their pop up market is not available. Those distributers include: Chestnut Brew Works, Table 9, The Grind, Mountain People’s Co-op, Terra Cafe, Koin Coffee in Bridgeport, Wild Art and Wonderful Things in Fayetteville. It can also be purchased at the Bridgeport Farmer’s Market when it’s in season.

Herman and Rhodes do plan to make the Kombuchery a tap house where customers can come and hangout after the pandemic is over. For now, the pop up market on Friday’s are their way of keeping everyone healthy and safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Herman also mentioned that eventually they will make an alcoholic kombucha drink to serve, it just won’t promote the same healthy benefits as regular kombucha will.

Neighborhood Kombuchery is currently working on building a website for their customers. In the meantime, customers can visit their Facebook page or Instagram page to stay updated on locally brewed kombucha.

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