By John Grossman, "Belly Up to the Fermentation Bar,"January/February 2014
At the sleek zinc and stainless-steel bar of SHED in Healdsburg, California, the tap system fills glasses with locally brewed craft beers, hard cider and, of course, Sonoma County wines. But what makes this bar special is its array of nonalcoholic fermented brews: kombuchas, kefir waters (fermented fruit-water blends) and colorful tangy drinks called shrubs, made with fresh fruits and house-made vinegars. No wonder it’s been dubbed the “Fermentation Bar”—the country’s first, claim the owners.
“People find our drinks refreshing, hydrating and healthy-tasting,” says SHED’s mixologist Jordan Lancer. Looking to highlight more than just beer and wine, Lancer hopes to inspire customers to learn more about the fermentation process. “The shrubs and kombuchas have a bit of an acid bite to them,” he adds, describing the kefir water as creamy, with no acidity.
SHED’s drinks change with the seasons. This time of year, Lancer might serve a shrub made with fresh pomegranate, sherry vinegar and thyme. (No pucker-face here. Antioxidant-rich, shrubs are diluted with sparkling water before serving.) Though trendy, shrubs aren’t new: in America, they date back to the “haymaker’s punch” of the 17th century. “A container would be run out to the workers sweating in the fields making hay, to rehydrate them,” Lancer explains. Colonial Gatorade, if you will.
Today, these homegrown drinks are popular among SHED’s younger clientele. The under-21 crowd “finds them a healthy alternative to soda,” he says. “I love demonstrating that something healthy can actually taste good.”
Pictured Recipe: SHED’s Blood Orange Champagne Vinegar Shrub