Cross Culture Kombucha on tap sets new standard
There is a new type of tap room coming to the area — one with no alcohol on the premises.
The founders of Cross Culture Kombucha will open their first location with a commercial kitchen and taproom next week. Located at 52 Division St. in Danbury in the former location of Bike Express, the owners worked with the city to allow for manufacturing at the location. Cross Culture will meet the necessary retail component by having the taproom and by offering cases and bottles of its beverage. It will also sell artisanal food items from other local businesses.
“If you were in California or Colorado, you’d see kombucha taprooms. In Connecticut, you just don’t see it,” said Liz Ceppos, who founded the company with her husband, Ian. “As people get away from unnatural ingredients and continue to be health conscious, the market will grow. I still think it’s underserved, especially if you’re looking for a local company.”
While it is believed to be the first kombucha taproom in the state, it is not the first taproom to offer non-alcoholic beverages exclusively. Athletic Brewing Co. in Stratford, which makes non-alcoholic beers, opened a taproom last year.
Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea made with cultures of yeast and bacteria. It is made similarly to beer as it is brewed and then fermented. Kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol, but is considered non-alcoholic. At Cross Culture’s new location, the vats used for the fermentation process are adorned with stickers of 1990s hip-hop artists, such as Lauryn Hill, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube and Easy E. One of Cross Culture’s flavors is Hip Hops IPA.
Kombucha’s roots go back thousands of years, but it has recently become a popular drink because of its health benefits and as an alternative to alcohol. It contains antioxidants, probiotics, B vitamins, beneficial bacteria, healthy acids and is good for gut health, Ceppos said.
At Cross Culture, the kombucha is made with filtered water, organic tea and organic sugar. Its flavorings are locally sourced, when possible.
It is the second taproom to open in Danbury this year. Charter Oak Brewing opened its craft beer taproom on Shelter Rock Road this spring.
Cross Culture Kombucha will hold a grand opening from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday. The event will include raffles, giveaways, discounted growler fills and gifts from local business. One raffle prize is a growler fill each week for a year. The Green Grunion food truck will be there, as well.
The grand opening weekend will continue from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“We were going to have a soft opening, but then just said: ‘What the heck, let’s just open the doors,’” Ceppos said.
Following the opening weekend, Cross Culture will be open Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ceppos said they may reassess the hours after opening and gauging demand.
The Cross Culture kombucha taproom will include six rotating flavors, depending on the season and demand. Varieties include Earl Gray, ginger, mojito, black and white, jasmine, Boogie Down black, original green, and jalapeno/watermelon. Jasmin is the best-seller, Ceppos said.
Like traditional taprooms, the beverages will be available in full pours, flights and growlers. It is open to all ages.
“It’s been an inspiring process watching Liz and Ian grow their business right here in the greater Danbury area,” P.J. Prunty, president and CEO of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, said. “To hear their story and to see how they have scaled this businesses to a full-blown kombucha taproom and brewery is truly impressive. We know they will continue to prosper and grow and we wish them the best of luck.”
It didn’t take long for Cross Culture Kombucha to rise from idea to taproom and having its own commercial brewing area. Ian and Liz Ceppos formed the company in January 2017 and launched the brand that May.
They got their first break that summer when the bakery Mothership on Main in downtown Danbury started to carry the kombucha, both in bottles and in draft. Pour Me, another restaurant in downtown Danbury, has also offered Cross Culture Kombucha since it opened in June 2017.
The Cepposes also started selling at farmers markets in Westport and Fairfield and their product quickly gained in popularity.
“We would not be in a position to open this if we didn’t have Mothership and Pour Me. They gave us credibility and gave us a chance,” she said. “We’ve grown a lot of local relationships and want to help other small businesses, too.”
The kombucha is also available at Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery, which opened earlier this year in downtown Bethel. Broken Symmetry co-owner Lisa Tassone said it makes for a good beverage option to complement the craft beers.
“It’s been well received,” said Tassone, who also sells the kombucha at her other restaurant, LaZingara. “Their limited editions go really well. To have that option has been great and they have a following. It’s also nice to support a small business. We try to keep everything local.”
They soon outgrew the commercial kitchen they were renting in Danbury and started looking for their own location. They added their first full-time employee when they started brewing on Division Street, which quadruples the output possible from the original kitchen.
It is now sold in 51 locations — including stores and restaurants — throughout Connecticut and New York. Even with the early success, Liz Ceppos said every dollar they’ve made has been reinvested into the company. Cross Culture does not have outside investors.
Ceppos said they want to remain a small, regional business — at least for now. It still does its own distributing, and has bumped production from 100 gallons a month last year to more than 900 a month.
“We’re scaling up slowly,” she said. “I want to be the best-known kombucha in the region. Even that’s a lot of business.”
No beer here
The Cepposes feel strongly about offering a non-alcoholic option for a night out and a place where people do not have to explain why they aren’t drinking “an adult beverage,” Ceppos said.
“We are embracing that you can have a celebratory or social drink that is not alcoholic,” she said. “There aren’t many non-alcoholic beverage options for adults other than soda or juice. We are filling a space that’s out there.”
Cross Culture kombucha may be reached at 203-794-4773.
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