Are you a sour beer fanatic? Do you call yourself a devotee to the lambics and gueuzes of Belgium, the Berliner Weisses of Germany, and their craft beer counterparts here in California?
If you are like me and the answer is a rousing "YES!" then your perfect nonalcoholic counterpart is undoubtedly kombucha. As much as we consume the craft brews here in San Diego, even the most allegiant needs a break and a detox ... especially after our numerous local festivals and bottle shares.
For many of us in the kombucha camp, the drink cleanses our palates, resets our guts with good bacteria, and even prevents and combats hangovers. The probiotic beverage is a healthy and positive alternative for designated drivers and those wanting to imbibe in something bubbly with friends, but without the alcohol. (Note: Most kombuchas contain trace amounts of alcohol, with the law requiring less than .5 percent)
Enter Bootstrap Kombucha, a brand new storefront and wholesale producer off Pacific Highway, making incredible kombuchas that will make your jaw drop with delight. After a period of negotiation and education with the county of San Diego on the classification of kombucha, owners James Farnworth and Susan McMillion opened their doors in May.
According to Farnworth, Bootstrap is the only kombucha brewer in the city of San Diego with a license to serve to the public and wholesale. (There is one more in the county, Living Tea, in Oceanside.)
Utilizing their special tea blend of green, black and yerba mata, along with some alien-tissue looking scoby, the couple has more than 20 flavors in their cooler with four on draft in their tasting room, including raw, cherry ginger, beet apple ginger and pear. I sipped while asking for answers we all want to know:
Q: Why kombucha?
Farnworth: We like it because it makes us feel good. Susan is a chef and I'm a regulatory affairs guy. What a team.
McMillion: We need spandex outfits!
Q: What is scoby?
Farnworth: It's an acronym, meaning symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. If you get a kombucha with a long mucus thing you just won the prize! That's real kombucha.
Q: How does it work?
Farnworth: The yeast turns the sugar to alcohol and the bacteria takes the alcohol and converts it to acetic acid. All of our kombucha is under .5 percent alcohol.
Q: How is Bootstrap different from the popular ones in the grocery stores?
McMillion: We recognize that bottling it is not the best way, it's deactivated. It's like drinking another souped-up soda pop. Companies have tapped into the emerging market, made a drink and just added in bacteria. It hasn't been developed in the brewing process. Kombucha is like a stew, give it time, and it will create something magical. If you take it off and just add seasonings, it's going to be something entirely different.
Address: 4085 Pacific Highway, Suite 105B, San Diego
Hours: 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Growlers: $5 for a 64-ounce bottle, $19 to fill ; $1 for a 16-ounce bottle, $4.75 to fill. Compostable cups are $4.75. Look for their frequent customer punch card, where you can buy 10 and get one free.
Q: I've heard you use special filtered water?
Farnworth: Kombucha relies on minerals in the water. We don't want the fluorides and heavy metals. We want "whole water" where heavy metals are removed but minerals remain. Reverse osmosis removes all of the minerals and actually depletes minerals from your body when drunk alone. So we have our own filtration system.
Q: Where in town can people find you?
McMillion: Tiger! Tiger!, Liberty Public Market at Fishbone, Krazee Burger on 30th, Hawthorn Coffee Shop on Adams, and Harvest. We are also looking to work with yoga studios, corporate offices, gyms and salons.
Q: Most popular flavor?
Farnworth: Recently it has been the beet flavors, we call them Bog and a Bag, Beet orange ginger, and Beet apple ginger.
With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.