On Sunday, Cultured South, the burgeoning fermentation company from Golda Kombucha founder Melanie Wade, debuted its new taproom and fermentation marketplace adjacent to the Atlanta Beltline’s Westside Trail.
Billed as the first of its kind in Georgia, and one of only a few kombucha taprooms in the Southeast, the grand opening was timed to coincide with the second annual Atlanta Fermentation Fest.
The lively afternoon event included music and educational talks and featured rows of tents with local and regional brewers, bakers, cheese and pickle makers, and others who helped spread the word about the history and health benefits of traditional fermented foods.
Cultured South’s remodeled warehouse space at the new Lee + White food and beverage district on White Street in West End also houses the Golda Kombucha brewery, along with the kitchen for Wade’s other brand, Pure Abundance Cashew Cheese. And it will soon serve as a launching pad for more of the company’s probiotic-focused products.
But it’s the taproom that offers the most visible sign of what could be called kombucha cool. Decorated in shabby chic style, with polished concrete floors, reclaimed wood paneling and light fixtures repurposed from Golda Kombucha bottles, it joins Monday Night Brewing’s Garage as part of an exciting Beltline destination.
Though the opening menu is somewhat limited, in addition to multiple kombucha tea flavors on tap, including popular Peach Ginger, Strawberry Mint and Lavender Lemon, it will feature cold brew coffee, gelato, kombucha floats, and vegan cheeses to taste and take away.
A few days before Fermentation Fest, I caught up with Wade at Cultured South, where she and taproom director Amanda Sutton were getting things ready for the opening.
Wade grew up in Kennesaw, and studied at Georgia State, graduating in public relations and printmaking, before going to work in marketing for several Atlanta companies. While she was in college, her Appalachian grandmother taught her how to make kombucha.
“She bestowed her cultures on me, and taught me everything about kombucha making and the health benefits of it,” Wade said. “I started making it at home and selling it on the side at festivals, where I was also selling jewelry. People could sip and shop, and everyone really loved it.
“I started trying out new flavors, and started to think maybe I could turn it into a business. I started the company in 2013, and toying around with branding, I landed on Golda, my grandmother’s name. She’s an Appalachian mountain woman, she’s very close to nature, and she loves holistic medicine and healthy living.”
Of course, many people still don’t understand what kombucha is, or how it’s made, but Wade has a fairly simple explanation.
“It’s a culture of yeast and bacteria, almost like the mother you see in the bottom of apple cider vinegar,” she said. “It starts like that, and then you make a sweet tea, you put the culture in it, and then you ferment it for seven to nine days. We use wood barrels for fermentation.”
Since 2013, Wade has expanded the Golda operation several times, from a shared kitchen, to a production facility in Tucker, to the current Westside location. And Golda Kombucha is available in over 100 Kroger stores, and Whole Foods in Georgia.
With the Golda brewery and Cultured South taproom together under one roof, she said the parallels to what’s happening with the nearby craft breweries are similar but different.
“What we’re trying to create here is a place where people can have a really cool fermented drink, but not necessarily with alcohol,” Wade said. “So it’s in line with the craft beer movement. You see breweries opening up taprooms and selling directly to the public. But with us, it’s nonalcoholic.”
As far as what to expect from Cultured South in the future, Wade said more fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, are on the horizon.
“Our whole concept is fermentation,” Wade said. “Cultured South is going to be a go-to, one-stop shop for all things fermented. Right now, we’re focusing on the kombucha and the cashew cheese. But down the road, it will be kefir water, Jun, maybe even mead. And as we go through the first year, we want to do some classes on fermentation and how to make kombucha, and we’ll get into retailing some kombucha kits.”
1038 White St., Atlanta. 770-823-9568, culturedsouth.com.
More images from a First Look at Cultured South