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Nathan Zeender, longtime homebrewer and future head brewer at the upcoming Right Proper Brewing Company, has a new side project: WildCraft Soda, a line of small-batch, draft-only sodas made with foraged botanicals and lightly sweetened with honey.
Zeender, whom I profiled in a recent City Paper cover story, aims to have the business up and running in time for next year’s farmers-market season. He says he is currently in talks with D.C.’s Department of Health and has arranged to borrow kitchen space from an existing D.C. establishment, although he won’t say where.
Like the barrel-aged sour ales that Zeender will show off at Right Proper, these artisanal beverages will have an esoteric edge to them. His newly launched Kickstarter page highlights two flagship flavors: Groot Beer, a “true root beer” made with sarsaparilla, licorice, and burdock, and Ebulon, a fruity and tangy brew containing elderberry and hibiscus.
So why become a soda artisan in addition to a professional brewer? “One, I’ve had this budding interest in herbalism, and it has collided with my obsession with archaic beverages,” Zeender says. “For me, the aromas in these sodas are really the driving force for them, and that’s what I really get excited about.”
In addition, Zeender mentions the birth of his son, Fhinnegan, late last month: “I wanted to make something that’s healthful and good for him. Obviously, he’s not going to be drinking my beer for a number of years.”
Once he has released a couple of more mainstream offerings, Zeender hopes to experiment in much the same way he will at Right Proper. “I’d like to do some kind of soda from tree anatomy,” he says, noting that he recently went foraging for spicebush, a native plant used as a substitute for allspice and cinnamon during colonial times.
“But I don’t have a working recipe for that,” Zeender adds. “Just a few ideas.”
Photo courtesy Nathan Zeender