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The Funky Case for Small-Batch Kombucha

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Last autumn there was a small and well-curated beer festival held in Nashville. The host, Yazoo Brewing, had brought together brewers from across the country and imported beers from around the world in a celebration of funk— those good microbes that make fantastic beer.

Amid the lambics and gueuze, the saisons and mixed cultured ales, I found myself repeatedly drawn to the Harvest Roots table, a Birmingham, Alabama outfit specializing in kombucha. As an open-minded drinker, I’ve dabbled in the booch from time-to-time.

I can appreciate the skill involved and admire the presence of probiotics—even if an eyebrow is raised to some of the too-good-to-be-true good-for-you claims. I just generally gravitate toward other imbibables. Yet here I was at a world-class beer fest—drawn to this hippie vinegar.

I was not alone. Attendees lined up to speak with Pete Halupka, who co-founded Harvest Roots in 2013 with his wife, Lindsay Whiteaker. As he poured samples of his small-batch booch, flavored with all manner of ingredients from ginger and yuzu to flower blossoms and hops, he extolled the virtues of the liquid pouring from the stubby 12-oz. bottles, speaking passionately about fermentation and microbes.