April 4, 2023

HK Brewing: Han’s Kombucha’s New Kombucha Bar & Brewhouse

Han’s Kombucha started out in the closet. Literally. In 2018, Hannah, aka “Han,” started brewing Kombucha in her dorm closet while at the University of Utah. And she kept having friends say, “Oh, it’s so good. Maybe you should try to sell it.” So she did. Five years later, Han’s Kombucha has remodeled an old auto repair shop into a beautiful brewhouse and lounge—the first in Utah featuring Kombucha, HK Brewing.

I sat down to a flight of Kombucha, a mini picnic, and a conversation with Kate Lubing, co-owner & director of operations, about the journey from a closet to their shiny (complete with disco ball) new home. Proudly woman-and-queer owned and operated, the new space feels welcoming, warm, and restful. Plus, I got to geek out on the industry and community we have here in Salt Lake City, as well as tour the ‘booch brewery with my lovely host.

In BIG news this week, the Tap Room and Brewhouse was granted a precious (and rare) bar license. Which means… drumroll… kombucha cocktails are incoming soon. “We were very surprised,” said Kate. “We were expecting to wait until May at least. We are thrilled to bring this exciting concept to Utah, combining the health benefits of kombucha with the craftsmanship of mixology. We want to create a unique and inviting space where people can socialize, unwind, and enjoy delicious kombucha creations.”

The space at HK Brewing is airy and welcoming, with different areas to settle based on the purpose of your visit. You can come to lounge, work, or gather and chat with friends. The arched mirror over the bar bounces light around, and the touches of whimsy, like the wispy dried florals, cow skull, and splashes of live green plants make it a comfortable space to spend a couple of hours. “We all had different ideas when it came to design, but we wrangled them together and have been able to represent each of us in the space,” said Kate of the design. “We see ourselves in it. I’m from Wyoming, born and raised. And so this little Western flair to it definitely represents me. Hannah is all the plants and desert vibe.”

“When we were building out our fermentation space, we leaned on the local brewing community a lot. And they came out to help us big time,” said Kate. “Bewilder helped us understand the process of a small canning line because we knew they had one. We went to TF Brewing to discuss yeast strains because Kevin’s a genius. We went to Grid City because Jeremy knows about water better than anyone. The community really came through for us. There’s no competition. We all make different products. We all support and love each other. And it’s cool to be a part of that.”

And community is what the new HK Brewing is all about. Kate’s background running restaurants and a huge winery in California came into play when designing the space. “Every piece of furniture is on casters – so it can easily be moved around or out of the way,” she explained. “We also have the giant garage doors so we can roll things out and take what’s inside to the outside. So we can have a dance party, or we can have a sit-down dinner. It’s definitely transformable.” Currently, HK Brewing is producing collaborative events of their own, and space is available for rentals. They can even pull a special event permit to provide kombucha cocktails. “We want to welcom the community,” emphasized Kate.

Photo by Lydia Martinez

The best feature of the new brewhouse is a literal window into the fermentation room. As Kate walked me through it, she explained that with kombucha, you want an open ferment – the tanks are covered with a permeable top to allow for interaction between the yeasts in the air and the Kombucha. On the tour, I got to see the jars with the mother, as well as the natural herbs and flavorings that go into the ferments. They are proudly on display for full transparency – proof of the small-batch status and craft that goes into things.

One of the things that sets Han’s Kombucha apart is that it’s on the lower end of the fermentation scale, which means it is less aggressively tart and vinegary on the nose and palate. “The biggest reason for that is because we use significantly less sugar than most national grocery store brands. When people think of Kombucha, they typically think of the really bold vinegar flavor,” said Kate. “Their Kombucha can be upwards of 28 grams of sugar where we’re in the 5 to 7 grams range. So during that fermentation process, there’s less sugar to eat, which means our kombucha flavors don’t get that strong vinegary flavor. Our branded word for that is just that it’s ‘gently fermented.’ So definitely really approachable. And then we have our fun flavors.”

If you are new to Kombucha or are trying to decide which flavors you love, I recommend getting the kombucha flight. You get four draft pours of 4 oz each. I favor the Pineapple Cactus Nectar, the Raspberry Rose, and the Beet Lemonade. You’ll also find a special rotating draft with seasonal or limited-run flavors. You can also get a growler filled or pick up some cans to take home from the mini shop.

While the HK Brewing taproom does not have a full menu (and never will, since there isn’t commercial kitchen space), there are some beautiful “picnic bites” on the menu. The empanadas from Tina’s Bakery out of Heber are delicious. I downed the Traditional Beef in about three bites. It is served with a slightly spicy chimichurri sauce. Kate also worked with Caputo’s to source conservas and cured meats and cheeses. I practically made a meal of it. Be sure to snag some crackers, and get the Les Mouettes mackerel in mustard and creme fraiche. It was a new one for me, and it now makes my list of favorite conservas. You can also get Creminielli salami, Laziz Kitchen dips, and pickles.

Photo by Lydia Martinez

Finally, I highly recommend the Booch Float if you are in the mood for a sweet treat. It was the most surprising sweet-but-not-too-sweet thing I’ve had recently. A Normal Ice Cream Vanilla Bean Bar coated in White Chocolate is dunked in your favorite Kombucha flavor for a perfect sweet kiss ending.

In addition to the kombucha cocktails, they will offer a full bar selection, including local craft beers, wines, and premium spirits. Plus a variety of non-alcoholic kombucha drinks will also be available, providing a refreshing alternative for those looking for a sober night out.

HK Brewing is an inclusive space. All are welcome. NOTE: HK Brewing will be closed briefly for small interior updates to comply with their newfound liquor licensing requirements. To get up to date details of their reopening, follow along on Instagram.

HK Brewing is open Wed to Fri from 11:30am to 6:00pm.

370 W Aspen Ave, 385.227.8240

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