For years, ladies with yoga-toned arms and expensive sweatpants have been preaching about the benefits of Kombucha. “It makes you glow!” they say. “It can pretty much cure cancer!” some have claimed. “It’s so delicious!” they cry, between sips of the weirdly spicy, disturbingly funky brew.
I want to be the kind of person who digs kombucha, but sadly, I am not. Fermented tea does nothing for me. The price tag makes me grimace, as does the unsettling bubbly feeling it leaves in my stomach.
And yet, I adore, absolutely love, will pretty much kill for a glass of Urban Farm Fermentory cider. Made by the beloved kombucha, mead, cider and gruit brewer in Portland’s “Yeast Bayside” neighborhood, this delicious drink is just a hop, skip and a jump from kombucha. It’s made by a similar process of wild fermentation. It has a similar mouth feel. But for me, it’s a far superior beverage. And the reason for that is simple: alcohol.
You know that old Bagel Bites commercial? I find myself singing a modified version of that jingle whenever I leave Urban Farm Fermentory with my growlers filled: “Cider in the morning, cider in the evening, cider at suppertime. When alcohol’s in apple juice, you can have cider anytime.”
Part of what makes UFF cider so delicious is the lack of additives. Many ciders are overly sweet and cloying, chock full of empty calories and additional sugar. While some of UFF’s brews do feature natural sweeteners, my favorite options are dry, crisp and refreshing. There’s a hint of funk in every glass — a slight smell of wet hay — but for me, this is a pleasant reminder of its natural origins, like when you find a clump of dirt stuck to a lumpy red potato.
Furthermore, the UFF headquarters and tasting room is a wonderfully happy, hip place to be. Art adorns the walls and bunches of wild foraged sweet fern hang from the rafters. The colorful paintings and mismatched furniture, coupled with the bunches of herbs and chunks of chaga, make it feel as though you’re hanging out in the home of a 21st-century hedge witch.
On Saturdays, UFF holds a makers’ market, where local craftspeople can sell their wares. On weekday afternoons, visitors from out-of-town hang out at the bar, tasting and testing the various brews. The company also hosts foraging expeditions, where would-be wild food eaters can learn what botanicals are ripe for the picking.
While the tasting room isn’t a bar in the traditional sense, it can function like one — but only if you get there early. For most of the week, it closes at 7 p.m., which means this isn’t a late-night spot. It’s better for sipping and sampling (not hardcore drinking).
However, it’s a perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon with a group of friends. There are free samples of many brews, and if you happen to find one you particularly love, you can buy a growler (or four) and bring some home, thus creating your own little craft cider bar on the couch.
WHERE: 200 Anderson St., Portland
HOURS: Noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
AMENITIES: Large space, bar seating, table seating, couches, art and gallery space, Saturday makers’ market, events and classes, growlers to go, pints to drink on site, samples of various brews readily available, non-alcoholic options.
BOTTOM LINE: When you want to pretend your booze habit is healthy, head here for highly addictive and additive-free pints of hard cider. The tasting room is bohemian and wholesome — perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon tasting session with friends.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes