Kombucha is a slightly sweet, slightly vinegary beverage made by fermenting tea with a culture, known as a "mother" or a "SCOBY" ("symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast"). And being fermented, it contains alcohol. Not enough to get you drunk — just enough to put it under the purview of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Naomi Auth, of Pig Hill Brewery, began brewing the drink on a large scale in Troy Hill a few years ago, but found out only last year that its 1-to-2 percent alcohol content meant it was subject to regulation. One doesn't generally drink kombucha for the alcohol; it's usually marketed as a health-food product.
But Auth and business partner Joseph Reichenbacher want Red Star to be more than that. Reichenbacher plans for their brew, called Red Star Kombucha, to be on tap at local watering holes, and as a mixer. ("I think it's great with bourbon," notes Auth.) Both the Downtown and South Side Winghart's are early distribution points; it's also being used in smoothies at Embody, in Lawrenceville. Customers can pick up growlers at the brewery on Saturdays.
While Auth and Reichenbacher are looking to formulate a zero-alcohol kombucha eventually, for now it's strictly over-21. And maybe you'll get a little buzz.
"Every once in a while, you'll feel it just a little," says Reichenbacher. "Just enough to take the edge off."