WHITEFISH – When you ask Aaron Roberts what his favorite flavor of Canvas Kombucha is, he’s quiet at first and you can sense the mental gymnastics underway, and his face screws up into a near-grimace, much like the face of a parent asked to choose their favorite child.
“We did a cardamom-spiced-apple-cider kombucha that I liked a lot,” he says, before rattling off several other adjective-laden drinks he also liked a lot.
In a way, it is a bit like selecting a favorite offspring, as Roberts is the brewing brain behind Canvas Kombucha Brewing Co., which he owns and operates with his partner Rebekah Alcott.
Luckily for Roberts, there’s no pressure to pick just one of the more than 40 flavors of kombucha the couple’s business offers, especially now that they have a brick-and-mortar presence here.
Canvas Kombucha is now a tenant of the Mountain Mall in Whitefish, just around the corner from the RockFish Climbing gym and across the walkway from the Red Poppy Gluten-Free Bakery. Now every Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m., folks can pop into the shop and fill up growlers with five types of kombucha on tap, sit in a comfortable art gallery space, and enjoy.
“Hopefully this summer we’ll be able to hire an employee so we can stay open longer,” Alcott said.
Both she and Roberts have different full-time jobs, but the kombucha is their passion project. It started a couple of years ago, when they decided to start selling the various brews Roberts had been making for seven years.
Kombucha is a fermented, effervescent drink made from green or black tea, which is then either flavored in various ways or is left plain. It has gained popularity in the Flathead, with filling stations and taps installed in grocery stores and restaurants as more folks get comfortable with a fermented drink meant to make you healthier instead of tipsier.
Canvas Kombucha was a project without storefront since it started up in 2016, but the drink’s popularity has installed it in Montana Coffee Traders locations (except Columbia Falls), Ceres Bakery in Kalispell, the Red Room Basement Bar at Latitude 48 in Whitefish, and locations in Missoula and Ronan.
Their Whitefish storefront is also situated next door to Super 1 Foods, and Alcott said they’ve received traffic from grocery shoppers looking for the crispest, freshest kombucha they can find.
“There’s something different about super fresh kombucha,” Alcott said. “And we make it with high-end organic ingredients Aaron (selects) by hand.”
The shop will keep five types of kombucha on tap: sweet, spicy, IPK (which, like an IPA beer, tastes hoppy with local oils and hops), unflavored, and one selection determined as the donation flavor. That means proceeds from those drinks go toward a cause; for example, Roberts makes a special brew called Spirit Bear, named in memory of Ben Parsons, a well-known Whitefish firefighter and endurance athlete who died in an avalanche in Glacier National Park last year.
Proceeds would go to his family, Roberts said.
The new storefront also needed decoration, and the pair decided the walls could pull double duty and showcase not only beautiful art, but pieces made by local artists looking to get their start. Art is hung for appreciation and for sale, Alcott said, and will rotate with time.
As the business continues to evolve, so will the flavors, Roberts said. He’s working on a couple surprises now, but in the meantime, said he is experimenting with unique teas, such as oolong or guayusa, instead of green or black tea as the base of the drink.
It’s a fun, important time for Canvas Kombucha, and Alcott said they’ve been thrilled with the response to the store so far.
“It’s beautiful and bright, and a good starting point,” she said.
For more information on Canvas Kombucha Brewing Co., including on how to host an event in the space, visit www.canvaskombucha.com or contact email@example.com.