Something brewing in Wolseley

Kombucha in Winnipeg

Local brewery Wolseley Kombucha opened their storefront at 749 Wall St. on Jan. 1, joining Prism Kombucha as the only commercial kombucha breweries in town. Kombucha is a fermented drink touted for its many health benefits and made from caffeinated tea with the help of a SCOBY, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Wolseley Kombucha owner and head brewer Michelle Leclair says “Kombucha is good for digestion, helps with mental fog and also contains organic acid, so it detoxifies the liver and the blood, (however) you don’t have to drink a lot to get the benefits.”

But not all kombucha is the real thing. “There is a lot of kombucha out there that is not real kombucha,” Leclair says. In order to know what you’re drinking is the real thing, “meet your maker,” Leclair says, or you can brew your own.

Michelle Leclair, owner and head brewer of Wolseley Kombucha. // Photo by Hannah Foulger

“Homebrewing is great, because you can control all the factors,” Leclair says. “Anyone can make kombucha, but it is hard to get it to taste good. My biggest advice is, (since) you’re only using three or four ingredients, use the best sugar, the best water, the best tea, and that will help with your end product,” Leclair says.

Carolyn Muir, a local brewer, makes kombucha for private consumption. While she enjoys ready-made kombucha, she says “it averages out to be $2.50 to $4 per drink. When I started brewing (my own), it was about 70¢ per bottle.” Over time, she has modified her recipe by using high-quality organic ingredients, which improve the taste but increase the cost.

Making kombucha is more difficult than it sounds. “A lot of people are grossed out by the SCOBY that floats on top of (the kombucha) and ferments it,” Muir says. “(At first), I didn’t want to touch it. It looks like a pancake/placenta floating on top of your brew and has the texture of raw chicken. So it is kind of gross but also amazing at the same time. I got past that. Now I think it is really neat.” Muir says.

“Even though I do enjoy brewing my own kombucha, I think it is important to support local businesses. I’m happy to see kombucha on the menu of certain local places, (like) at The Common in The Forks. As nice as it is to see local beers on the menu, it would be nice to see local kombucha at restaurants.”

Muir makes her kombucha plain, but Leclair works with several different flavours and tries to use local and organic ingredients. “Obviously, tea isn’t local,” Leclair says, “(but) being local is something that is important to me. So we have been sourcing local berries. We have a saskatoon kombucha, which is made with local saskatoons.”

“We try to be as environmentally friendly as possible. The idea (is) that you can buy a bottle and refill it forever. I have customers from three years ago still reusing the same bottle ... I like the idea of reduc(ing) and reus(ing) as much as possible,” Leclair says.

At the time of publication, you still can buy Wolseley Kombucha at their store, and they have refill stations at Vita Health Fresh Market and Generation Green. Delivery will be available starting March 19.

Published in Volume 74, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 19, 2020)

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