December 29, 2023 | Rebecca Scott for Travel Phoenix Oregon
Unlocking the ancient alchemy of flavor, nutrition and preservation, fermentation is a time-honored culinary tradition. From enhancing nutritional profiles to promoting gut health, the age-old practice of fermentation is not just a culinary delight but a journey into the science and art of transforming raw ingredients into something extraordinary.
U Ferment is a full-service DIY fermented food and beverage store located in downtown Talent. In addition to beer, cider, mead and wine, they also offer supplies for making cheese, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and much more.
Learning a new skill
The fermentation community is highly diverse, with customers wanting to learn how to make a variety of fermented foods and drinks. The needs of his customers are always developing, which keeps owner Brian Kolodzinski on his toes.
“Seldom a day goes by where someone doesn’t ask a question or comment that’s new to me, because there’s so many different things people in our community want to ferment,” said Brian.
With a focus on equipment, ingredients and education, Brian strives to create an environment where repeat customers and newcomers feel at ease. In addition to the more than 800 items in his store, Brian also helps people learn how and where to source ingredients.
In his experience, there are usually two main types of new customers interested in DIY fermentation. The first has always wanted to try it but knows nothing about how to make fermented foods and beverages—or where to start. In that case, Bian is happy to guide them through the process and help them make informed decisions.
“I’ve created a lot of equipment kits in-house that have been inspired by my customers. Once I made a smaller mead kit because those customers tended to want one gallon containers rather than the more common five gallon containers,” he said.
Or, a customer comes in and feels overwhelmed because they have gotten too much conflicting information about fermentation. They might be confused by the sheer amount of content that’s available and don’t know what to do next. In that case, Brian tries to keep things simple and easy to navigate.
“I’m all about information, clarity and helping people understand how fermentation works,” said Brian.
When people come in and see all the different equipment—some of which they might not even need—and think they have to use everything in order to be successful, it can be an information overload. Brian tries to keep things simple and educational. He wants to help everyone feel comfortable and make the fermentation of foods and beverages as approachable as possible.
Looking toward the future
U Ferment’s fascinating journey started many years ago. In 2010, Brian started a Facebook page about brewing gluten-free beer. He had been gluten-free since 2006 and the more research he did, the more he realized a lot of the available information was scattered across various sources. There was no central place he could go to for reliable content. He wanted to make things simple and easy to locate, so he started posting everything he found in one convenient location.
His thirst for knowledge grew into a years-long passion and eventually evolved into a new business venture.
In 2022, Brian opened U Ferment at its Talent location and it has been a gathering place for fermentation fans ever since.
“The community has been amazing and overwhelmingly supportive. Like many businesses, we’ve had a lot of growing pains as we figure out what the community wants,” said Brian. “We were surprised and happy about all the things people in our community want to ferment. It’s made us pivot again and again, but in the best way possible.”
Brian is excited to see what the coming seasons will bring and how it will impact the fermentation world. He tries his best to be inclusive of all fermented food and beverage hobbies that his customers want to pursue. But whatever comes, he’s looking forward to responding to the desires of the community.