Neighborhood Kombuchery Growlers
Photo courtesy of Alex Heflin
Kombucha fans who had dabbled in homebrewing, aerospace engineering student Andrew Rhodes and marketing worker Carissa Herman discovered a co-op that sold kombucha on tap during their travels. This sparked the idea that Morgantown, WV needed a place that brewed and served kombucha on tap. The downtown area of this college town is full of cafes, restaurants, a farmer’s market and monthly art walks that now host pop-ups from tents and restaurants in the Kombuchery district with their own taps to fill growlers or top up. the meals they serve.
Andrew Rhodes and Carissa Herman from the Kombuchery district
Photo by Joel Wolpert
Andrew, a PhD candidate at West Virginia University at the time, submitted his business plan to the West Virginia Business Plan Competition and was one of the winners. Open to high school and college students in West Virginia, the competition is hosted by WVU John Chambers College of Business & Economics and the Enova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Competition winners receive cash prizes and the expertise of the institution and seasoned professionals across the country to bring their business plans to life. Rhodes used the resources to write the business plan and received assistance with editing and finalizing his plan from WVU’s business incubator, Launch Lab, staff. After two previous attempts at a winning business plan, Rhodes won on his third try. After winning the competition and starting the business, Rhodes returned to present to subsequent contestants to share his experience of starting a business from his winning plan.
Neighborhood Kombuchery Taproom
Photo courtesy of Alex Heflin
From choosing local graphic designer, Tara Smith, to hiring a local carpenter to make their faucets with the Smith logo, Rhodes and Herman’s business plan had one guiding principle: to use local businesses whenever possible. Using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients whenever possible and focusing on beneficial herbs, Andrew and Carissa have been brewing and serving since 2019. Kombucha, a fermented, fizzy drink made from tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast has grown in popularity as consumers. look for probiotics and fermented foods for their positive effects on gut health. The sober curious and those looking to limit alcohol and looking for substitutes are also part of the kombucha crowd. Although the fermentation process leaves residual alcohol and is not for those who completely avoid alcohol, those looking for a drink that is refreshing, interesting and potentially beneficial to health are queuing up to have their growlers and their glasses in Morgantown.
Kombuchery Brewing Quarter Photo courtesy of Alex Heflin
Known for their seasonal and innovative combinations, past flavors have included seasonal herbs and fruits like the popular Blueberry Lavender, Strawberry Spearmint, Juniper Fenugreek, Cucumber Lime Mint, and Fruit seasonal like watermelon and Pink Lady apple. Mango and Pomegranate Jalapeno, Ginger with Pineapple and Cocoa with Blood Orange are also on the menu throughout the year. The brewing process can take up to 6 weeks for each batch before they are bottled and put into barrels.
Kombucha flavored with seasonal and local fruits, herbs and vegetables
Photo courtesy ofAlex Heflin
Their mid-2019 launch and plan to become a brewery selling kegs and bottled kombucha to restaurants was upended by the pandemic and its impact on the restaurant business which was to be their primary customer base. To overcome the pandemic, they turned to direct-to-consumer sales at farmers’ markets and pop-up tents, which had been phase 3 of the business plan, not phase one. The benefit of the markets has been to facilitate relationships with local producers with local ingredients to incorporate into their kombucha. The increased contact with the public allowed them to encourage the efforts of home brewers with advice on how to flavor and tailor beers to the brewer’s taste. They even hold small workshops in the markets to teach brewing techniques. As restaurants in the area have reopened and their taps are dripping again, Neighborhood Kombuchery is back on the plan to supply kegs for sale on tap.
Future plans include more fermented foods and beverages as they have started getting requests for their kombucha from all over the state. While both partners have full-time jobs and Andrew is now Dr. Rhodes, they have grown enough to hire employees to help with sales and brewing. The tap room is now open for limited hours in hopes that “normal” life can return in the coming year and hours can be extended to enjoy a glass of kombucha with friends and enjoy the local art lining the walls of the tap room. Raising awareness about fermented products and the history and benefits of functional foods and beverages is a passion that guides and inspires them for the future. As pioneers in the state as kombucha brewers with draft sales at markets and restaurants, they also hope to inspire and encourage others to try brewing their own or start a business.
Find Quartier Kombuchery on Instagram
Wendy Gregoirehas spent her career working with children as a cooking and gardening teacher at an art summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer who recently moved to her ancestors’ home in West Virginia and is exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here.
All bloggers in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS community have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.