Stay ROOTed Get WILD. I am thrilled to share my first Caitlin Crowe Creative feature about the story of Root Wild Kombuchery, a new kombucha bar here in Portland, Maine and its founder / brewmaster Reid Emmerich. You can find me there most Saturday or Sunday afternoons after riding my Peloton Bike or a long outdoor ride. With every visit, I enjoy learning more about not only how to make kombucha and catching up with friends, but also the process of starting this super cool entrepreneurial endeavor. On one such visit after a ride, I asked Reid if he would be up for being my first blog feature and he said absolutely. If you find yourself in Portland, Maine, let's meet up for a kombucha tasting at Root Wild. You might fall in love with kombucha too.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Reid Emmerich, and I am the founder / kombucha brewmaster at Root Wild Kombuchery in Portland, Maine.
2. Tell me about how Root Wild came to fruition. How did it all begin?
Root Wild began out of a desire to produce the highest quality kombucha possible. Using years of kombucha production experience combined with elements of the craft beer industry, we strive to explore flavor, support local, stay fresh and have fun.
3. What did you do prior to starting Root Wild?
Prior to starting Root Wild, I was the head brewer and production manager of Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland, ME.
4. What do you hope to achieve through Root Wild?
At Root Wild we hope to educate and excite people about local flavors through kombucha and beer. We hope to provide a space (our tasting room) that supports community, art, food, music and healthy living.
5. How do you make kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented tea. Ours is made with organic green and black tea, organic cane sugar and filtered water. After the tea is cooled, a starter is added that contains the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria) and is then fermented for up to three weeks. During the fermentation process, the yeasts consume the sugar and produce CO2 and alcohol. The bacteria convert the alcohol and the caffeine and tannins in the tea into B-vitamins, amino acids and probiotics. The slightly sweet, slightly sour, naturally effervescent fermented tea is then flavored using any number of in house made herbal teas or pressed juices. We use local and organic whenever possible.
6. How do you balance kombucha production, running a business and serving customers all at once?
Right now we are very young as a company and we anticipate growth as we progress. The key to our operation is efficiency. As much as I love making kombucha and exploring ingredients, I also truly enjoy serving that finished product to our customers and discussing their experience with it. I am fortunate to have two partners who have business degrees, so I get to focus more on the production side of things. Hosting yoga classes in our space has helped, since I get to attend them!
7. What have you learned in your first few months of being in business?
Since we’ve opened our doors in October, I’ve learned that winters are longer than I’d like them to be. Really though, I’ve learned that people appreciate what we are doing and truly share in the excitement that we have for our products and this company.
8. What has been your biggest challenge in launching a kombucha bar?
Besides the actual labor and cost required to create an efficient production facility and tasting room, our biggest challenges came from permitting and licensing. There is no other kombucha brewery in the state of Maine, which meant that we had to define and explain our way through the whole process. Selling a less than 1% ABV kombucha as an alcoholic beverage has its own challenges but we make it work.
9. What’s your vision for the future of Root Wild?
The immediate vision of Root Wild is to embrace warm weather, our wonderful neighborhood, our wonderful state and our fans. We hope to release a series of locally foraged seasonal flavors in cans. The first being Rose Petal. We plan to experiment with kombucha beer hybrids and the possibility of offering a higher alcohol kombucha. We will continue to offer classes, workshops and events in our space that promote community, art, food, music and dance. We will look to expand the distribution of our products throughout Maine and into Massachusetts.
10. What would you like people to know about kombucha and Root Wild?
Our biggest goal is to educate people on the concept of kombucha, it’s use as a low alcohol fermented beverage as well as the possibility of using it as a unique cocktail mixer. It is very refreshing to have people sit down at our kombucha bar having never had or sometimes even having never heard of kombucha before, only to see them thoroughly enjoy their experience and leave with product. That makes us feel like we’ve done the job we set out to do.
Don’t fear the Booch. ~ Reid Emmerich