A new brewery has arrived in the Flathead Valley, but it’s brewing kombucha tea, not beer.
Canvas Kombucha Brewing Co. is owned by Rebekah Alcott and Aaron Roberts, both Flathead Valley natives. Roberts returned from Bend, Oregon, about seven years ago after perfecting the science of brewing kombucha tea.
On Tuesday, Canvas Kombucha received its state license to brew kombucha teas in a full-sized commercial kitchen in the Apple Barrel on U.S. 2. Along with Shannon Rubow, their brewer’s assistant, Alcott and Roberts are set to fill a gap they expect to be a hit in the Flathead Valley.
“Aaron’s really gotten it down to a beautiful science,” Alcott said. “It’s been a challenge, waiting for the license, but it’s going to be really nice to be able to offer it locally.”
Kombucha is a fermented tea that uses a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast in the brewing process. The final product has several health benefits, Alcott said, such as digestive health and mood stability.
Roberts develops the flavors that pair well with the strong tea. One of their most popular flavors, the Burning Mango Kombucha, is a blend of blood orange, habanero and tangerine. He plans to offer more local flavors to the tea, such as a huckleberry-mint flavor.
“There’s a lot of details that go into it,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of science and patience.”
Roberts said developing his process took a lot of trial and error work in the kitchen. Several elements can affect the outcome, such as temperature, tea types and even the mood in the kitchen during the brew process.
Roberts uses only organic, non-toxic ingredients in the kitchen.
Canvas Kombucha began selling the tea on tap at farmers markets in Whitefish and Columbia Falls. Several people were excited to see the product in Montana, Alcott said, while many others were getting their first taste.
Rubow joined the start-up business before the farmers market stint, after discovering a love for home brewing kombucha.
“It’s pretty easy,” she said. “It just takes a lot of patience.”
Running a kombucha brewery means the trio has to wear a few different hats. Just to get the product to market, Alcott and Roberts transition from scientists to brewers, keeping a precise science while experimenting with a variety of flavors.
They’re business developers as well, reaching out to businesses to put their products in stores around the Flathead Valley to get their products on the shelves. They hope to eventually establish stores in Whitefish and Kalispell as the brand grows.
Once Canvas Kombucha has retail space, Alcott and Roberts plan to put local artists on display in their future space as a way to help the local art community gain exposure without the high cost of gallery commissions.
“We really want to pair up with artists from around here,” she said. “We want to make this place thrive.”
Roberts said he doesn’t know what the brewing capactiy will be at the Apple Barrel’s kitchen.
“If I can make good kombucha and educate people, and they’re healthier because of it, that’s a pretty good deal,” Roberts said.
For more information, visit Canvas Kombucha Brewing Co. on Facebook.
Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A detail shot of the SCOBY (Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) used in the kombucha tea brewing process. (Seaborn Larson/Daily Inter Lake)
A few mini-kegs of kombucha sit in the walk-in freezer at Canvas Kombucha Brewing's kitchen in the Apple Barrel. (Seaborn Larson/Daily Inter Lake)