Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita has a new kind of brewery, and its tap room opens this weekend

What is kombucha?

Amy Goldman and Sean Galloway set out last year to open a beer brewery and bread bakery called The Brewkery in Kansas City. Their plans changed after they "fell in love" with kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea drink.
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Amy Goldman and Sean Galloway set out last year to open a beer brewery and bread bakery called The Brewkery in Kansas City. Their plans changed after they "fell in love" with kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea drink.

Wichita has a new brewery, but this one doesn’t make beer.

On Saturday, Apollo Fermentations — a kombucha brewery owned by three young Wichitans — will celebrate the grand opening of its tap room in a bright and sunny spot at 1631 S. Hillside.

To start, the tap room will be open from 10 a.m. on 5 p.m. on Saturdays only, and it will serve up the kombucha that Chris Hannemann has been brewing for the past five years.

Kombucha, for those who don’t know, is a carbonated, fermented tea that is full of probiotics and antioxidants and is believed to improve gut health. It’s the star of a health food trend that has spread across the country and has been bubbling in Wichita for the past three years or so.

Hannemann, a longtime bartender at Central Standard Brewing, has always been passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle, he said, and he discovered kombucha about five years ago. He quickly became hooked.

Apollo Fermentations has a sunny new tap room that will be open to visitors on Saturdays each week. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

“I was drinking it a lot and spending a lot of money on it,” he said.

One day, he went to visit a friend who made kombucha, and he left with some of his friend’s kombucha “starter,” a blob of bacteria and yeast that is the starting point of all kombucha recipes.

Hannemann brewed a batch, then another, then another. He invented about 20 different flavors over time, and he was getting his own friends hooked on it. He began to think he should start a kombucha business.

“I couldn’t make enough of it,” he said. “So I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose.’”

Hannemann got help learning about how to brew using big equipment from Central Standard co-owner and head brewer, Ian Crane. He found an old pet store space on South Hillside and invited his girlfriend, Emily Haltom, and his best friend, David Weldon, to go into business with him. They started in earnest about a year ago.

The trio has been working on moving kegs of the kombucha to people who will sell it in their own businesses. Central Standard has Apollo Fermentation’s kombucha on tap, as does Nora’s Kitchen food truck and Kirby’s Beer Store, which mixes it with beer and gin to make signature kombucha cocktails.

The space on South Hillside where Hannemann and his partners set up their massive fermentation tanks had a nice, sunny space in the front. They decided they could use it as a place where kombucha lovers could hang out and sip on their creations or pick up a growler of the stuff to last them though the week.

Apollo Fermentation’s new tap room is on South Hillside. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

Starting on Saturday, people who visit can purchase a glass or flight of four kombucha flavors then sit and enjoy it in the brewery’s small but bright and cozy tap room, furnished with five tables. The space also has a bar and taps from which the owners will dispense Hannemann’s various kombucha flavors. His most popular so far, he said, are lavender blueberry, mango passion fruit, and ginger lemongrass.

Hannemann said he’s carefully calibrated his recipes and that his friends say they’re smooth and easy to enjoy, with less of that acidic bite some kombuchas have.

“I feel like people have this perception that kombucha is this super vinegary, unpalatable thing,” he said. “I do make stuff that’s heavily fermented, but I also make some that’s really light and easy to drink, without a ton of sugar and that’s not an acid bath.”

If the taproom goes over big, Hannemann said, he’ll consider opening it two days a week, but he has to see what the demand is first. No matter what happens with the new business, though, he said he has no intention of ever giving up his CSB job.

Those who seek out the tap room should know that parking wraps around the building, which also houses Farha Roofing. But the two businesses won’t be open at the same time, Hannemann said, so parking shouldn’t be a problem. Large signs will direct customers where to park.

Apollo Fermentations menu

The menu board at Apollo Fermentations Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

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Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.