Barrel + Brine
Based in Buffalo, NY, Barrel + Brine handcrafts a delicious array of raw fermented veggies and kombucha. Much of their produce is sourced from New York farms, keeping the whole process as local as possible. We spoke with founder RJ Marvin to talk ferments and how they’ve fared as a local producer in the last year.
Can you tell me a bit about how Barrel + Brine got started?
I spent 20+ years as a chef and cook in Western NY. My last job was working at a restaurant as the head of the fermentation department. I was able to take local produce, and preserve it so the chefs could utilize it throughout our colder months. I began noticing the higher demand for preserved foods, and my wife and I decided to take the leap and open a small shop in Buffalo.
What is your fermentation method of choice?
Good ol’ Salt & Time.
What led to creating the combination of krauts, pickles, and kombucha product lines?
I spent a lot of time making pickles as the fermentation lead. I was able to get more complex and experimental with flavors in a vinegar-based product. My wife, Lindsey, grew up around tea, and it was only natural that she would take the lead on the kombucha production.
How would you use your products for a summer cookout?
A good ol’ sahlens and kraut is a mainstay in our house, especially around grilling season. Of course with the huge array of dogs and sausages, and locally grown meats the ideas are really endless. For me though, a nice German style brat with some garlic dill kraut and a cold beer is perfect. And our kimchi pairs well with most grilled meats. For anyone who’s looking to avoid meat products, I’ve actually been enjoying Fieldroast Vegan Franks with Classic Kraut and Mustard.
It seems like more and more local producers have been popping up in New York State in recent years in response to a growing interest consumers have in knowing where their food is from. Have you seen even more of an increased demand for locally-made products since the pandemic started?
Yes. Buffalo is a great city, and people here are very supportive of local producers in any aspect. But the pandemic really pushed that home. I know farmers who would sell out of product, our local farmers markets were the busiest they’ve ever been. I know larger corporations will spend millions of dollars trying to sway people away from local and back into their megastores, but when it comes to produce, fermented and pickled items, meats and cheeses…always look for NYS first.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a small-scale producer?
Well, the pandemic really hurt us production wise. Not in the produce department, but the multitude of shortages that popped up. Glass shortages, plastic shortages, gas shortages, shipping has doubled, there’s an actual shortage of sand, the sand that produces glass and other important things. That’s insane to me, but it’s real. Of course, when these things happen we tend to fall back on our heels and focus on NYS first.