Though Lake Tahoe’s shores are dotted with dozens of craft breweries, there’s only one company producing the latest effervescent beverage to find its way to mainstream popularity, kombucha.
Founded in 2014 by husband and wife Brett Kendall and Jennie Fairchild, FOLK Brewing Company creates small-batch, slow-brewed kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea from its facility atop Kingsbury Grade in Stateline, Nev.
What started as a hobby for Kendall over 20 years ago while working as a chef eventually morphed into a budding business with restaurant and grocery store clientele from Reno to South Lake Tahoe.
“At the time, we were dating and I would go to his house and he had jars of kombucha everywhere,” recalled Fairchild with a laugh. “He really introduced it to me.”
Kombucha is made by adding a gelatinous, mushroom-like SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to sweetened black or green tea. The SCOBY digests the sugar and some of the caffeine and burps out carbon dioxide bubbles, creating a natural carbonation, and trace amounts of alcohol (less than 0.5%).
“Booch” contains B vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics, which can aid in digestion and support a more balanced gut microbiome.
But not all kombucha is created equal, cautioned Kendall, who slow-ferments his product in stainless steel Italian wine vats for one to two weeks and uses only organic and whole food ingredients, like flowers, roots, and spices, to flavor his drinks.
“A lot of the big bottle companies mix half vinegar and half sweet tea and then they force carbonate it. We don’t don’t do that,” explained Kendall. “We slow brew all of the sugars and caffeine, which makes it into a very crisp, dry champagne like product.”
With eight flavors always on tap, the couple self-distributes their kombucha in kegs to their clients as well as a rotation of seasonal brews, Kendall is all about mixing up unique flavor combinations that you won’t find from other producers.
The Tour de Fleur features organic jasmine tea, lavender, rose petal, chamomile, jasmine and hibiscus. Berry Hops mixes the sweetness of all organic raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries with the tanginess of fresh hops.
Seasonal favorites include Lavender Ginger Vanilla, made with fresh ginger root, whole vanilla beans and lavender flower, and Rhubarb Black Pepper, a unique concoction that Kendall is always pleasantly surprised to find well-received. Inspired by the Sierra Nevada, the Mountain Crush mixes oolong and jasmine tea with sage leaves, juniper berries and Douglas Fir tips.
Each batch is brewed using water sourced directly from Lake Tahoe.
FOLK can be found on tap at establishments like Alibi Ale Works in Truckee and Incline Village, Grass Roots Natural Foods and Freshie’s Restaurant and Bar in South Lake Tahoe, and Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema in Tahoe City.
Bite Restaurant in Incline Village uses FOLK’s Evil Jungle Prince with lemongrass, kaffir leaf, ginger root and Serrano chili to create a cocktail containing mezcal, housemade Thai coconut syrup, lime and firewater tincture.
“We intentionally grew really slowly and still do because we want to maintain the quality of the product and not compromise the integrity of the product,” explained Fairchild, who handles the operations side of the business. “It’s why we self distribute and have a limited number of customers.”
Though FOLK gets requests from places in Sacramento and San Francisco to carry their kombucha, the duo says they are content with keeping things local.
“We thought at one point we wanted to get big and expand, and then we thought, ‘Why?’ We’re happy doing it at this level and keeping the quality and having a product that we’re proud of and a job we love,” said Fairchild. “It makes it a destination drink.”