Booze-less brews

Custom coffees and kombucha are on tap around the Bay.

Posted by Meaghan Habuda on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

Nonalcoholic draft beverages are also tapping into growlers. - VIC DONATI
  • Vic Donati
  • Nonalcoholic draft beverages are also tapping into growlers.

The craft beer movement caused eateries to step up their draft selections nationwide, but these suds aren’t the only beverages hitting restaurant taps.

Wine by the keg, draft spirits, cocktails on tap and kegged sake are all part of the handle revolution that gets liquids to drinkers faster.

Alcoholic refreshments, though, can’t control the draft universe forever. According to Technomic, a food service research and consulting firm, tap technology is paving the way for other drinks looking to catch their big breaks.

Along with predictions about draft wine tasting areas in grocery stores and self-serve beer-tap walls at pubs, Technomic cited fruity, chef-crafted soft drinks from soda-water kegs and cold-brewed coffee offered through repurposed beer taps as two big restaurant trends for this year.

Luckily for coffee fiends in Tampa Bay, the latter caught on at Dough along Tampa’s South MacDill Avenue. Its carried a house-made cold-brew coffee on a nitro tap since opening last year, and Commune + Co., an Ybor City-based biz, is behind the bakery-bistro’s latest caffeinated draft.

Serving up pressure-brewed iced coffee to Dough patrons all summer, Commune + Co. sources its coffee from Madcap Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Founder Joel Davis doesn't create his coffee using standard cold-brew methods — he developed his own. He said traditional techniques don't extract the natural sweetness and excitement from coffees the way his does.

“We've found a wonderful way to highlight exceptional coffee,” Davis said.

He and his team don’t have a brick-and-mortar space, but he said the goal is to open a spot with the vibe of a brewery. It will have brewing and bottling areas, as well as a tasting room where drinkers may order flights of five to six coffees if they choose.

For now, the company hosts pop-up coffee events in Tampa to showcase its beverages, setting up shop at places like Microgroove, the Vélo Champ bicycle store and New World Brewery.

Tina Contes, Dough’s general manager, said she’s excited to have Commune + Co on tap. According to her, Davis’ method of introducing pressure into the cold brewing process produces “a completely different product” than Dough’s cold brew.

“No one does [pressure-brewed iced coffee] like he does,” Contes said of Davis.

The coffee company’s philosophy of sharing experiences and working closely with the community drew Contes to Commune + Co. She said the partnership is about the bakery branching out and appealing to those who haven’t stopped by yet, too.

Davis said he's working on getting his coffee on tap at additional locales so people are able to drink it more, and refill their 32-ounce growlers (another nod to the craft beer world), outside of the pop-ups.

Dough, which does growler refills, has gone through four barrels of Commune + Co. brew. The duo plans to collaborate on a doughnut glaze, gelato and more desserts.

One kegged beverage that Technomic didn’t mention was kombucha, a popular draft pick in other states that’s still new to Florida.

St. Petersburg’s Mother Kombucha, launched by Tonya Donati and Joshua Rumschlag in May, wasted no time creating the fizzy, probiotic tea for noshery taps. Donati said her company was one of the first kombucha brewers to receive licensing from the state’s Department of Agriculture.

After brewing and kegging its fermented teas in a local commissary kitchen, Mother Kombucha distributes the low-sugar liquids to eight establishments — including Wings Bookstore, Mad Hatters Ethnobotanical Tea Bar, Squeeze Juice Works (where the kombucha idea started) and Nature’s Food Patch — around the region.

The company also serves its draft “booch,” slang for kombucha, from tables at St. Pete's Saturday Morning Market and the Hyde Park Village Fresh Market.

Similarly to Commune + Co., Mother Kombucha sells 32-ounce glass jugs, reloading booch lovers' growlers during the markets. Some spots that carry the kombucha on tap refill its growlers, too.

“Serving it on tap just made sense to us — you can really control your product,” Donati said, adding that the kombucha’s done well at Mermaid Tavern.

Donati described the brewing process, which takes a week to 10 days, as a “magical science experiment.” Varying brew times and fermenting cultures make kombucha, even on a commercial level, hard to control or keep consistent.

“You just don’t really know what’s gonna happen,” she said. “Each person’s brew has its own personality.”

The kombucha culture likes black and green teas, Donati said, but Mother Kombucha's done herbal teas and oak-aged variations like tart cherry and vanilla oak, which she said tastes a little like bourbon, minus the alcohol content. 

More products will be made with the company’s kombucha once a larger kitchen space is secured. Hot sauces, salad dressings and skin-care items are a few possibilities.

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