In March 2018, Turtle Mountain Fermentery opened their nonalcoholic, kombucha taproom and brought the first business of its kind to Fort Collins. Now, with five years of operation under their belts and one full year in the taproom, sisters and co-owners Natalie and Hannah DiSanto are settling into the small business community—and the brewing industry—of Fort Collins.
“Fort Collins is so supportive,” Hannah said. “What an awesome community where people are constantly shopping locally and seeking out farmers markets or locally owned businesses.”
“We’re proud of our entrepreneurs here,” Natalie added.
We sat down with Natalie, Hannah and Natalie’s baby boy, Everett, to learn about their story and to find out what it means to be a kombucha brewery in Fort Collins.
A woman with many hobbies and passions, Natalie has been brewing her own kombucha for years and drinking it because she loves it. “It just makes me feel good,” she said.
She went on to explain the process of transitioning from homebrewing to selling, which she did through a beloved community event in Fort Collins: the farmers market. “I wanted to share [kombucha] because I saw such drastic effects on my own body when I started drinking it. I had been really sick one winter, started drinking kombucha, and haven’t been that sick since,” Natalie explained. “Then, I brought it to the farmers market and it took off.”
Over the course of five years, Natalie and Hannah have expanded Turtle Mountain from one market to six summer markets and nearly 70 wholesale accounts. Natalie said, “Hannah came on in 2017 when I said, ‘Hey, I need some help running the business side of things so I can keep brewing.’ Then, we said, ‘we’re either going to jump in or jump out,’ and that’s when we decided to open the taproom.”
Hannah explained, “Once it went from Natalie brewing, selling and doing the paperwork to us being able to divide and conquer, it really took off. Now, both of us are full-time here.”
She went on to say, “Now our customers, who have been our customers for so long, can get kombucha year-round—not just at summer markets. And we have this spot, too, where people who are interested in learning about kombucha or fermentation can come and hang out and learn, whether you’ve tried 100 kombuchas or don’t even know what it is.”
Today, the sisters operate a fully non-alcoholic bar-meets-tea house where anyone—no matter their kombucha experience or age—can try fresh kombucha, sip hot, house-blended tea, study in the taproom, hang out with friends, snack on fermented foods, and support local business.
“Some days I get so happy at work, I feel like I could cry,” Hannah said. “I can’t believe this is actually happening.”
Kombucha itself has become extremely trendy in recent years. You may recognize it from grocery store shelves or from the fridge of your health-obsessed cousin, but at Turtle Mountain, Natalie and Hannah are working to make it more approachable and much tastier.
Natalie, the brewer and kombucha expert, explained, “Kombucha is a probiotic tea. It’s just tea and sugar, then you add a culture and that creates the live probiotic. It’s kind of similar to how milk becomes yogurt.”
As Hannah showed off a culture you can view in the taproom, Natalie went on to say, “The culture is called a SCOBY, a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s packed full of all these wonderful bacteria and yeast strands that are great for our digestive tract and immune system. That ferments the tea and the sugar and creates the kombucha.”
Hannah said, “It’s kind of like sourdough bread in that you need a starter. Then, the SCOBY, or the mother, regenerates other ones. And that’s what actually turns the hot sweet tea into a probiotic. Once you transfer that into a separate container without the SCOBY, you can add all sorts of fun flavoring. That’s where Natalie shines. She’s continually coming out with new flavors. For example, Earl Grey is Earl Grey tea infused on top of that original.”
In addition to using whole fruits and vegetables, organic juices and organic herbs to infuse their kombucha, there’s one other important factor that sets Turtle Mountain apart from other kombucha businesses.
“We only brew with Yerba Mate,” Hannah said. “Traditionally, kombucha is brewed with black or green tea, but Natalie has always loved Yerba Mate. We wanted to use a tea that was different, that we were never going to get tired of, and the Yerba Mate blends really well with other flavors. So, even when you see our flavors like Earl Grey or the Chai Bucha or a Rooibos, that’s always added on top of the Yerba Mate. That way, you always have the Turtle Mountain taste, but still get different flavors.”
“Usually, the feedback we get is that our kombucha is the most drinkable kombucha,” Natalie said. “And I think that’s because of our crisp Yerba Mate base. It keeps it light and refreshing.”
Turtle Mountain can be found in several locations throughout Fort Collins, Loveland and the Front Range. So whether you make it into the taproom or you’re visiting a different business in town, there’s a good chance you’ll run into their happy, turtle logo. You can’t miss him—or the mountain on his back.
“We’re on tap at Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, Maxline Brewing and Prost,” Hannah said. “You can find bottles at Odell, Horse & Dragon, Snowbank, and Tap and Handle. You can find us in so many places.” Turtle Mountain is also available at the new Lucky’s Market in Fort Collins, at Bean Cycle Roasters in Old Town, and at Beaver’s, Natalie’s first client ever.
But if you really want to experience this family-run, hyper-local, small business, we recommend stopping by the taproom. Open Thursday through Sunday, it’s located in the heart of a neighborhood packed with other Fort Collins originals, including Funkwerks, Horse & Dragon Brewing Company, Snowbank Brewing and Odell Brewing Company.
Hannah said, “We’re in the middle of so many breweries. So if you’re down the street at Funkwerks or Horse and Dragon, stop by and grab a glass of kombucha.”
“Every time someone buys our kombucha or comes into the shop, it’s amazing for both of us,” Natalie said. “You’re supporting all of our dreams, all of our hard work, and the last five years we’ve put into this.”
And next time you’re sipping Turtle Mountain kombucha, snap a photo and tag #NoCoSpeaks so we can join in the fun!