By now, you’re probably familiar with the kombucha phenomenon. Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been showing up on the shelves of health food markets and juice shops over the last few years. Only recently did anyone think about brewing kombucha in Buffalo, but now there are a couple of brewers floating around town. One of those brewers is Snowy Owl Kombucha.
Owners Andrew Bannister and Tara Sasiadek have started their own kombucha brewing company in the Old First Ward, and are currently selling their brews out of the Old First Ward Community Center. I stopped by on Wednesday evening to taste test some of the flavors, and to learn more about the operation. Andrew was manning the table at the time. He told me Snowy Owl is currently growing in a grassroots manner – very organically. At the moment, they are headquartered in the Community Center, but soon enough they will be relocating the entire business to The Barrel Factory, located just down the street. At that point, Snowy Owl will be able to spread its wings.
Andrew and Tara got their start when Tara gave Andrew a SCOBY (a mix of cultures of bacteria and yeast that looks like a giant pancake). At the time, Andrew was busy home brewing beer, but he took the SCOBY and ran with it, and the rest is history. “As soon as we started making kombucha,” said Andrew. “We were making a lot of it. We were giving it to friends and family. That’s when we realized that we should start selling it. At the time, nobody else was doing it. I grew up in the Old First Ward. I assisted at the Old First Ward Brewery here and there. Tara’s brother is a distiller at Great Lakes Spirits (coming to The Barrel Factory), her father is CEO, and her husband is VP, so brewing and distilling kind of runs in the family.”
Currently, Andrew and Tara are selling the kombucha in growlers. Customers arrive to the Community Center, bottle in hand, to get their refills. There are also growlers available for sale. At any given time, there are six varieties available, some seasonal and some best sellers. Once they move into their production facility at The Barrel Factory, they plan on bottling their concoctions, but for now they are selling retail, and to a handful of bars and restaurants. They have even developed a signature cocktail list. “Kombucha is best served fresh,” Andrew told me. “There’s no reason to buy a bottle of kombucha from the West Coast when you can get it brewed in Buffalo. It’s economically sensible as well. There’s nothing better than drinking eight ounces of freshly brewed kombucha each morning on an empty stomach (read about the health benefits). It’s been interesting running this business in the Old First Ward. Growing up here, this place has been an island for a long time, but that’s starting to change. We’re introducing a lot of people to kombucha who have never heard of it. But our farm share system is taking off, and we’re seeing repeat customers on Wednesdays and Saturdays when we set up (see Facebook for schedule).”
Aside from selling kombucha, Andrew and Tara are also selling their pressed juices at Undergrounds Coffee House and Roastery. Since they juice in-house for their kombucha drinks, they figured that they should also sell some juices on the side. They also sell super original organic products like watermelon jerky, which sets them apart from the rest. Oh, and be sure to take a pinch of their homemade kale chips that they prepare and hand out at their stands. I have a feeling that once these guys move into The Barrel Factory, their creative minds will be set free, and Buffalo will have some amazing new treats to try on a regular basis. Until that time, be sure to take the time to sample some of these very special kombucha brews at the Community Center on Wednesdays (5-7pm) and Saturdays (2-4pm).
There was a time when Buffalo was always five years behind any given trend. I can safely say that those days are now over.
Snowy Owl Kombucha | Old First Ward Community | 62 Republic Street | Buffalo, New York | Facebook