NATHAN STEPHANY, RUN THE VALLEY EDITOR
“People come in and say it was something they completely were not expecting,” Ted O’Brien, bar manager for Verve Kombucha, said. “They’re often surprised, usually in a good way. It’s cool to see them react and try something new when they’re downtown and usually not that far from home.”
Kombucha bars are a growing business across the United States. Verve Kombucha has brought fermented sweet tea to the Cedar Valley, at the Public Market Building in downtown Waterloo. Customers ask the owners of the new business what is kombucha?
At Verve, kombucha is brewed on site. Alexander Hottle’s interest in kombucha began years before opening the new business. Hottle is one of the partners of Verve Kombucha.
“Someone suggested that I drink kombucha to help with stomach problems I was having,” Hottle said. “Kombucha is naturally fermenting but how we brew ours is non-alcoholic. You can drink it any time of day. With all the probiotics it’s good for gut health and so that’s how I got started. I was a high school athlete who needed a solution and that’s how it came to me.”
Years later, when Hottle was working at a coffee shop, the shop owner noticed kombucha was spreading, even being served at bars as much, or in some cases, exceeding beer.
Original plans to sell kombucha out of the coffee shop were stopped by fermentation laws in Iowa, so the business began searching for a separate building. Waterloo approved an application for Verve to lease the Public Market, a process which took nearly two years.
The building was transformed into Verve Kombucha, complete with full bar and open plan seating area. In back, visible through glass to customers, is the kombucha brewery, which prepares enough kombucha to keep the bar, which serves kombucha alongside craft and local beers as well as cocktails both with and without kombucha, fully stocked. Verve offers a shared plates menu, where in place of ordering individually, groups order multiple dishes to share.
“Our food concept is simple food elevated,” Hottle said. “It’s simple in the fact that anybody could come in, you could find a burger, you could find fries on there. We’re serving food as hot and fresh as possible, too. When your fries are done, they’re at your table a minute later. We want people eating and drinking the whole time they’re here.”
“We’re from the Cedar Valley, we’re part of it, so we really want to represent the area well,” Hottle, said. “We want the community to know who we are and accept us someplace they can come to, as a cornerstone of Waterloo life.”
For more information on Verve Kombucha, visit vervekombucha.com.