Brew Pubs and Kombucha Culture
A couple of months ago, I had an epiphany.
I realized that a huge part of making people feel included is understanding what it is about an experience that can make others stand out, whether they want to or not.
Let me explain.
My partner, Jim, is a big fan of craft breweries. We were out and about one Saturday afternoon, and we stopped into Category 12 – a local brew pub – for some snacks.
As a non-drinker, I don’t usually get excited about brew pubs, but as long as they serve good food, I don’t mind going. I don’t drink for a number of reasons, some of which are medical, but I have no problem with others drinking or with being around those who do.
What bugs me is when people question my decision: “don’t you ever drink?” “You can just have one.” That kind of thing. Usually people are well-meaning, but I don’t feel like justifying myself to every person at every social gathering.
We went to Category 12, and listed on their draft menu were 2 flavours of local kombucha.
For the same price as beer.
They were the colour of beer; they were served in the same cups as beer; they had a slight head like beer, and they even smelled a bit like beer.
When the server brought our drinks to the table, she brought two glasses of draft – two glasses of beer-looking liquid.
This was the first time I’d experienced this, and it blew my mind how different the experience was.
For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t the one carrying a can of soda around, feeling like I stuck out like a sore thumb, or inviting unsolicited questions about my personal choices.
When I spoke with the owner, she said that this was a deliberate choice: she wanted everyone to feel included in the experience, even those who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol.
The Kombucha itself was delicious, but the experience was what made it truly special.
Since then, I’ve been trying to relay this feedback whenever we visit a brewpub. So far, the only other one I’ve found that does this is the Fieldhouse in Abbotsford, although I understand that Barn Owl Brewing in Kelowna is working on getting Kombucha on tap.
Interestingly, when I chatted with one of the owners of Barn Owl about Kombucha, he said that his reaction was that this would mean that they were over-charging for a non-alcoholic beverage.
At least not in my opinion. The fact that Kombucha is the same price as a beer is part of the experience. It’s having the option to blend in when you want to, and not being forced to the outside.
Now, I have no problem with other options being available, just like some people want a glass of wine instead of a beer, some also prefer a club soda. And that’s fine.
But I think it’s really important that people been given the opportunity to access the same experience and blend in.
Let’s flip this around.
Last week, Jim and I were over on Salt Spring and we stopped at a “Nitro Bar” for snacks – we’d never heard of a Nitro Bar, but it was one of the few places open on Canada Day.
The venue turned out to specialize in Kombucha – with several varieties on tap. I love Kombucha, so I thought this was the bomb.
But Jim doesn’t.
So he scoured the menu for something he would enjoy. He was on holidays, so honestly, he was hoping that they would have a beer or wine on tap.
Nada. No liquor of any kind.
But worse, absolutely no beverage options except Kombucha, which he doesn’t care for.
We ended up leaving, because he felt unwelcome and uncomfortable.
Now, obviously, not every restaurant can serve everything. Nor should it be expected to. But there’s definitely something to be said for offering an experience that makes people feel included in whatever the main attraction is.
Look at the massive success of A & W’s Beyond Meat Burger.
It looks to all the world like a burger. It’s not a healthy alternative. It’s definitely fast food, and definitely a treat. But it is an alternative that allows vegans to enjoy fast food with their non-vegan friends, without having to stand out.
And I think there’s something here that we can learn that goes beyond the food industry.
How are we – in subtle ways – making others feel like they don’t belong?
And, more importantly, how can we change this?
What small steps can we take to include those around us?
Food for thought.