Search This Blog

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Urban Farm Fermentory

It's another chilly New England winter day and we are still talking about the foodie little city of Portland, Maine.  I promise to provide you all with a nice little "Winter Weekend in Portland Guide" soon, but before I wrote that guide up, I wanted to feature a few places that I really loved in the city.  Earlier in the week we talked about Allagash Brewing and today we are talking about another brewery (kinda!) -- a visit to the Urban Farm Fermentory.  Weird name, not so exciting storefront, but what is inside is so many sorts of awesome. 

A good friend kept insisting we visit UFF.  "Do not leave Portland until you have been to this place" was the urgency I was getting .  We kind of kept just nodding our heads and weren't really sold on the place by just the name and not many details.  I was a little confused by the name as in a "what the hell will a fermentory have that I want to drink" kind of way?  All I could really think of was fermented foods and I wasn't exactly sure what UFF had to offer.   I didn't really think this one through and I wasn't expecting to see such a cool spot with so many amazing options on tap.  From different types of beer and mead to ciders and kombuchas, there was something for every palate inside UFF.  And no, nothing tasted or looked like kimchi.  

The building is tucked away in a quiet corner of the city in an industrial park (we may or may not have sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for it to open, early bird gets the... kombucha?).  The outside is really unassuming which confused me even more, but the inside was trendy, bright and an awesome space for a brewery, er, fermentory. Walk in past the cornhole setup and head to the bar and be prepared to be surprised with the fun and funky flavors of UFF.   

"Urban Farm Fermentory® is an experimental urban farm, fermentation factory, and community engagement hub located in Portland, Maine. It is here that we craft authentic kombucha, jun, cider, gruit, and mead using local and foraged ingredients, when available. To sample our full selection of fresh, and seasonal concoctions on draft, visit our tasting room to experience the culture!"

Tastings:  Flights of five were 5$.  You can pick any five off the board. You can also fill a growler (32 oz that you have to buy from them, and take certain drinks home with you -bottles and cans).  Under Maine law, brewers can only fill growlers that are properly labeled with all the elements required under federal and state law for a bottle, including the brewery name and location, surgeon general’s warning etc. As a result, most Maine brewers will only fill their own branded growlers.” Heather Sanborn, Rising Tide Brewing Company

Why is UFF a top Portland "must see':   It is an AWESOME break in the IPA crazed local beer scene. Think of it as your post holiday detox, or a break in the high octane beers you have been sampling all weekend.  UFF has such a variety of samplings from Kombucha to Beer. It's a brewery (if that's even fair) doing really new, neat stuff with a major emphasis on locally sourcing ingredients and taking risks.  You'll find a number of things you've likely never had before, like gruit, jun, and some pretty great kombucha.  Beer was a new thing for them and was already pretty great.  Mead is something they brew just for the community and they don't sell it outside of the tap-room.  Along with growlers to go, pints to drink on site, samples of various brews readily available and non (low) alcoholic options, there is also a Saturday makers’ market, and events and classes.  Let's not forget a really cool space and cheap tastings for all!

ADDRESS:  200 Anderson Street, Portland, ME 04101.
HOURS:  Tuesday - Saturday: 12PM to 7PM,   Sunday: 12PM to 5PM   Monday: CLOSED
PHONE:  207-773-8331

One thing I loved about UFF was their commitment to using local ingredients- from your normal hops to some fun and funky stuff like Mugwort.  They even host foraging events like a morning spent foraging rosehips (oh you so hipster, Portland).  On their website, they have a cool list of local plants used in their  beersLeaves and Stems: Rhubarb, Mugwort, Yarrow, Bay Berry, Sweetfern, Spruce, Sage, Basil, Thyme.  Flowers: Dandelion, Sumac, Chamomile, Rose Petals, Lavender, Hops, Echinacea, Bee Balm, Calendula.  Fruit: Juniper, Cranberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Hot peppers, Squash, Coriander Seeds.  Fungi: Chaga, Reishi, Lion's Mane  Roots: Beet Root, Dandelion

Looking at the board, there were 22 different drinks to sample on tap (things were being added and removed in just the few hours we were there).  There are a few meads, several beers ciders and kombuchas and a few 'Jun's".  They are also know for their Gruit but did not have any available to sample when we walked in to UFF.  If you are looking at that board trying to figure out what the heck any of this stuff is, I will let UFF explain (keep reading!). 

You know what beer is so let's talk about a special type of brewing UFF does. Typically, you will find five dedicated taps of beer (both gruits and non-gruits) in the tasting room.

"Gruit (grut or gruyt) is an old-style beer brewed using a variety of botanicals. Before hops were readily available, brewers looked to what they could source locally. We like to think about gruit as beer brewed using one's back yard as a plentiful pantry--varying through the seasons--providing a diverse set of ingredients". 

Although there were not any gruits on tap for us to sample, we did try four of their beers (Chaga stout, Wild Red, Cool Guy and The Captain).  The Wild Red was definitely a favorite.  I am not a huge red ale fan and I even enjoyed this one.  The stout was also delicious but like most stouts, a "half a glass and done" beer for me. 

Mead is also gaining in popularity and fast. A type of beer made with honey is a little on the sweet side for me but delicious in small quantities. We tried the cranberry and sage mead and thought they were both delicious with unique flavors. The sage and Cranberry helped to cut the sweetness.   

So, what is Mead exactly? "Mead has whittled out a niche and generated a following here. Although mead is historically one of the most accessible ferments to humans, our supply is limited to what we put on draft in our tasting room. It's our way of setting a little something aside for Portland residents, it's also our way of giving you a great excuse to visit us! Our mead is a result of our spirited experimentation. As is the case with all our products, we only select natural occurring phenomena to improve aroma and taste. In the case of our mead that means utilizing the wild apple yeast we already have in-house. The simple combination of wild yeast, local honey, water, and time concluded in a mead that begins with the gentle sweetness of honey and finishes as crisp as a ripe apple. We'll chalk that one up to a little daring and a lot of science".

Kombucha is taking the health and fitness community by storm.  You have probably seen this drink grow in popularity and may have even tried some yourself.  Kombucha is pretty much EVERYWHERE these days.  We sampled 5 of the 6 kombuchas and they were all delicious.  My favorites were the Blueberry and Ginger, so much that I grabbed two bottles to go (there are even tales of mixing these two delicious flavors, or adding them to a cocktail).   I have had kombucha before but they were usually very acidic and not as drinkable.  These were less "boochy" as they say, without that super acidic taste and with the addition of awesome flavors like wild blueberry and ginger.  In case you haven't heard about kombucha, I will let UFF explain a little more about this good and "good for you" drink. 

"Kombucha is fermented tea. Alcohol is a natural result of fermentation. Our kombucha comes in at 1.5% ABV, as does any kombucha made in the traditional style. Many companies are willing to strip alcohol in order to sell their booch alongside juice. We, however, reject any process that compromises the taste or living culture in our kombucha.

We begin by brewing a batch of organic green and black tea. The brew is cooled and then blended with liquid from a previous batch, introducing our tea to the yeasts and bacteria native to our SCOBY. SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast and is the culture responsible for fermenting the tea. When the SCOBY is introduced to the brew, the yeasts will begin converting sugars into alcohol and the bacteria, in turn, will convert that alcohol into B vitamins and organic acids."

Fermented drinks and foods like kombucha are renowned in the health community for all their positive benefits.  Specifically, Kombucha is known to detoxify the liver, aid in digestion, boost your immune system and offer lower sugar "nutrition in a bottle" option for those of you who just need something more than water.  Yes there is alcohol in it but the amount is typically comparable to an over ripe banana.  And yes, there is sugar, but most of this is eaten up by the (good) bacteria. Read more about Kombucha here

UFF is known for their kombuchas and in my opinion, it is what they do best.

Jun is very similar to kombucha.  Jun uses green tea and raw honey instead of the black tea and concentrated sugar used in Kombucha. We tried the Fir Apple and the Matriarch and similar to the kombuchas, absolutely loved it.  

We sampled a few of the ciders offered on tap at UFF.  I think we may have even tried them all.  I loved the uniqueness of flavors from the "Rum Raisin" to the "Dry Hopped".  They were definitely not as sweet as most ciders and had that sharpness that UFF talks about.  While all good, they still didn't hold up to how good their kombuchas were.

So why did UFF rename Cider?  "Cid’ah’? – our spelling of cider echoes the locality of our native yeast strains. While other cider makers pitch foreign yeasts, any U.F.F. product with the cidah label is fermented with 100% wild Maine yeast.

Our farmhouse style cidah follows in the footsteps left by farmers from the pre-prohibition era. Dependent on their autumnal yields, their pressed apples were loaded into barrels in the fall and fermented over the cold months, allowing for the wild yeasts to feast on the apple’s sugars until it became tart and crisp.

Our work is to further that tradition by standing behind the belief that hard cidah tastes best when dry, not sickly sweet. We rely on and respect the wild yeasts and sugars that come with our Maine apples, leaving sulfites – compounds that kill natural, wild yeast – out of our cidah. The process takes approximately two months and results in a bright, near sugarless cidah that tastes as sharp as you’ll feel the morning after you indulge."

UFF was one of our last stops on our Portland winter weekend, and probably one of our favorites.  We loved the easy going vibe, cool and comfortable space, and the variety of tasty treats on tap.  It was a breath of fresh air to get away from the IPA scene and sample something different on the local brewery sector.  After a weekend of heavy eating (and drinking) this was the perfect way to end the trip.  I will continue to spread the hype and promise me if you make it to Portland (and you should), you make a stop at UFF.

For a list of what's on tap, check out our seasonal menu here.


No comments :

Post a Comment

Let's Chat!