A trendy drink is brewing in Federalsburg. Gayle Galbraith and her partner, Stanley Nowak, a Marine Corps veteran, opened Federal Brewing Company in a 100-year old building at 102 Main Street in Federalsburg. Instead of brewing craft beer, the couple is brewing kombucha, a fermented tea popularized in the United States first on the West Coast as a health food trend before becoming popular on the East Coast.
The drink, which Galbraith affectionately refers to as “booch,” is thought to have originated in Northeastern China and over the years has been consumed in Russia and Eastern Europe. Federal Brewing Company’s booch is based on a 2,000-year-old recipe that starts with a simple mixture of tea and sugar. A symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, usually called a SCOBY, is cultivated for several years. A six-week fermentation begins when the SCOBY is added to the sweet tea, transforming the tea into a tangy beverage, which proponents say has a low glycemic index, and is rich in nutrients and probiotics. When the brew reaches a certain Ph level, the fruits and flavors are added.
Fermented foods contain a trace amount of alcohol. Federal Brewery regulates the fermentation process and closely monitors the alcohol content of its kombucha to ensure that it remains below the legal limit of 0.5 percent. For those who choose to drink alcohol, kombucha can be used as an alternative to a standard cocktail mixer. Galbraith said many people report that kombucha prevents hangovers. Federal Brewery’s kombucha is a live, raw food that is gluten-free, vegan, low calorie, and low sugar, with no artificial flavors or colors. She recommends drinking four to six ounces a day at first to receive kombucha’s therapeutic benefits.
According to Federal Brewing, kombucha can help restore gut health, promote healing, regulate bowel movements, and help regulate blood sugar levels. Galbraith said other benefits can include reducing acid reflux, creating healthier skin and hair, and detoxifying the liver. According to the Mayo Clinic, limited evidence suggests kombucha tea may offer benefits similar to those offered by probiotic supplements, including promoting a healthy immune system and preventing constipation.
Galbraith’s personal testimony is that she became interested in gut health when her child, at age three, developed eczema. After taking her child to a dermatologist for treatment, Galbraith said she realized that she couldn’t just treat her child from the outside with topical treatment and began to look at other alternative treatments. She said she gave her child probiotics and fish oil, and within two weeks the eczema was gone.
“I got fascinated in gut health and how it can affect your entire life,” she said. “I became a fermentation and gut health professional and certified health coach.”
Galbraith began making kombucha for family and friends. In 2015, she was encouraged by Hannah Crum, “Kombucha Mamma,” co-founder of Kombucha Kamp and Kombucha Brewers International, to expand.
“I am passionate about the art of fermentation and it being a catalyst connecting real people to real food,” Galbraith said. “We have a platform to be influencers.”
According to Galbraith, what sets apart Federal Brewery’s kombucha is its proprietary blend of organic fair-trade teas and unique flavor combinations formulated to maximize health benefits. In addition to its “Original Gold” kombucha, Federal Brewing Company has three core flavors: Blueberry/Lemon, Cherry/Vanilla, and Pineapple/Pepper – all brewed with real fruit. New flavors are part of experimental batches, created every 10 days. Next on the horizon for Federal Brewing Company is to make kombucha vinegars and fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut).
Federal Brewery kombucha is currently available at the farmer’s markets in Easton, St. Michaels, Kent Island and Denton, as well as at Hair o’ the Dog, Graul’s Market, Black Bottom Farms Collective, and Shore Gourmet. In addition, the following restaurants offer it: Out of the Fire, Piazza, Tidewater Inn, Victory Garden, Hill’s, Ava’s Pizzeria, Federal Bar & Restaurant in Annapolis, Rabbit Hole in Salisbury, and Rutabaga Craft Juicery in Annapolis.
Federal Brewery has a brewery certificate and will have the ability to make alcoholic versions of kombucha in the future. But for now, the company is focusing on getting its product to the people.
“I feel like Lady Liberty on Ellis Island – give me your fruits and vegetables and I will turn them into something magical,” Galbraith said. “This is a mission building business and we are allowing people to be a part of our story.”