Pittsburgh has a kombucha to call its own.
is a local version of the fermented tea beverage and the first licensed kombucha brewery in Pennsylvania. The company is expanding to new digs in Pittsburgh and adding a second location in Philadelphia.
Founded by Joe Reichenbacher and Naomi Auth, business partners and brewers, Red Star opened last year on Lowrie Street in the Pig Hill Café, starting out as a growler filling station for kombucha drinkers.
Auth developed the recipe, three flavors: Zingerbuch, Green and 1877, the latter a robust black tea with lemon notes. Reichenbacher had the bar business know-how to get the venture up and running.
The brewery is relocating to Dallas Avenue in Point Breeze; the growler shop will reopen early next year in the Artisan Café, 5001 Penn Ave.
“There’s a pretty good kombucha base in Pittsburgh,” Reichenbacher reports, “although it will never be as popular here as beer.”
Kombucha, pronounced kom-boo-cha,
is a fermented fungus that is gaining in popularity, especially on the West Coast in health-conscious and hippie circles. China, Japan, Korea and Russia stake claims to being early brewers.
Many believe Kombucha has health-boosting properties, although it has not been scientifically proven. It should be noted that others, namely health experts
, warn against the home brewing of non-pasturized kombucha due to the risk of contamination.
The tea is brewed using a culture of bacteria and yeast, called the “scoby,” a process that takes place in large glass bottles. It’s similar to sourdough, Reichenbacher says, and "the glob" can be eaten or removed. Hence the company’s motto “in glob we trust.”
The final product is mildly alcoholic, .5 to 1 percent, giving it a place in several Pittsburgh bars where it is sold on tap or used as a mixer. (Beer contains 5% alcohol.)
Reichenbacher agrees it can be an acquired taste, generally resembling a light brown carbonated, slightly bitter tea-like cider.
“I believe if it makes you feel good, you should keep doing it,” he adds, noting that he has found it to be the perfect midday pickup. “It makes me feel good so I keep drinking it.”
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Joe Reichenbacher, RedStar Kombucha