November 28, 2018

First Look at Root Wild Kombucha

My sister once described kombucha to her husband as "vinegar soda," which, you're either here for or hard pass (my brother-in-law being in that second category). I came to my current (high) levels of consumption after my attempt at the Whole30 last year. I found kombucha to be a good substitute for alcohol, with its carbonation and tart flavor. Put it in a wine glass at the end of the day, apply some suspension of disbelief, and you're all set. 

During that time, I started my habit of filling growlers from Urban Farm Fermentory, where they make different flavors of kombucha, infused with seasonal fruit, herbs, and foraged products. I love going and seeing the different flavors available and trying new flavors and blends. I still make sure to have a growler (OK, two) of the stuff in the fridge, even if none of the other Whole30 habits stuck. 

Enter Root Wild Kombucha, a new kombucha brewery on Washington Ave. in Portland. The brewery's tasting room and production facility opened in the former home of the Sahara Club, ironically where AA used to meet. Root Wild is run by Reid Emmerich, who helped to start the Urban Farm Fermentory with Eli Cayer. So there are definitely similarities between the two facilities, and comparison is unavoidable. The other owners, Tom Madden and John Paul, run Lone Pine Brewing, so you know the beers are going to be good too. 

Root Wild has three flagship kombucha flavors: lemon cayenne ginger, blueberry lemon thyme echinacea, and vanilla rooibos white oak. The seasonal flavors on the day I was in were purple shiso, hopped, strawberry, rhubarb, and beach rose. There were also three beers: a maté IPA, orange juniper DIPA, and a stout with chaga and toasted oak. 

My friend G. and I tried several 2 oz. samples of the different flavors, and I was really pleased by them all. The hopped tasted a bit more beer-like than UFF's version does, and the fruit flavors are bright and pleasantly balanced. I was impressed by how thoroughly the added flavors came through. 

Just like at UFF, you can fill growlers, so I happily took home a strawberry fill. Root Wild has just started canning its lemon, blueberry, and vanilla rooibos flavors in 12 oz. cans. 

The tasting room is a pleasant space, sure to become homier with time. It has a beachy, surfer vibe, so perhaps that is more your style than the foraging hippie vibe down at UFF. Personally, I'm happy to have two local options to satisfy my kombucha habit. The more the merrier!