IOWA CITY — More than two years ago, Rachelle Schmidt and Tim Roed launched their kombucha company, Wild Culture Kombucha.
They started with handing out samples and selling growlers of their fermented tea-juice mixes at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market. Their brews were soon on tap at a few places around town.
Now they’ve taken the next step and created their own space to serve their kombucha — Wild Culture Kombucha Taproom and Lounge, which opened in Iowa City’s Northside neighborhood on Oct. 23.
They’ve greatly expanded their footprint since 2016, hiring people and adding more equipment to help with the brewing. Wild Culture Kombucha is now available at more than 30 locations in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and elsewhere.
Opening their own taproom was an idea that grew from the beginning. Kombucha taprooms have been growing in popularity and have opened around the country, but there were none in the Corridor.
“It was something in the back of our minds,” Schmidt said. “It’s something customers asked about and a space we wanted to provide for people.”
They didn’t vend at the Iowa City or Cedar Rapids farmers markets this summer, and they missed the interactions with customers. The tap room brings that back.
“We definitely did feel disconnected from our customers and our community,” Schmidt said. “This space is a direct connection.”>
They renovated a space between Hamburg Inn and Oasis that most previously housed the bar Sonny’s Tap and I.C. Uglies before that. With fresh paint, a redone bar and a chalkboard menu in place of TVs, they’ve made the location their own. A shelf of games invites customers to linger and socialize.
“We wanted a community gathering place,” Roed said.
Having their own taproom also means they can serve a wide range of kombucha flavors, rather than the one or two available on tap at other places. They have regular features, plus seasonal brews and small batch experimental flavors. Their flavor lineup currently includes grapefruit carrot ginger, honey lavender camomile and apple cinnamon maple.
Creating new mixes is a combination of looking at what is in season and available locally with finding the right flavor profiles.
“It’s fun. It’s like a passion,” Roed said.
All their kombucha is 1 percent ABV, or alcohol by volume. Most beers, by contrast, fall between 4 and 10 percent ABV. The fermentation that creates that small alcohol content is also what gives kombucha it’s carbonated fizz and it’s probiotic-rich, gut-friendly kick.
Kombucha isn’t the only thing on tap at Wild Culture. They also have Iowa beers, cider and mead, plus one red and one white wine on tap. Other beverages include tea, coffee, juices from Get Fresh of Cedar Rapids, La Croix and Millstream sodas. They also make kombucha shandies, mixing their kombucha with beer for drinks like Sour Flower, which combines Jefferson County Cider’s Hibiscus Rose with honey lavender camomile kombucha, or Cedar Harvest, which mixes Lion Bridge’s Compensation with apple cinnamon maple kombucha.
While they don’t have a kitchen, snacks are available, including La Reyna chips and salsa, Tiny But Mighty popcorn, Heartland burritos and Valerie’s French Kitchen croissants.
Their menu of local producers and drinks lineup from local breweries hearkens back to their starting place at the farmers market and relying on other breweries to serve their kombucha Roed said.
“We can support the Iowa brewers who have put us on tap,” Roed said. “We just want to thank all the people who helped us get here.”
If You Go
• What: Wild Culture Kombucha Taproom and Lounge
• Where: 210 N. Linn St., Iowa City
• Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 3 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
• Contact: (319) 351-3737, wildculturekombucha.com
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