Panacea Brewing Company, Wilmington’s only kombucha brewery, is celebrating seven years in business.
Panacea Brewing Company, a family-owned business featuring the area’s most loved kombucha, is about to celebrate its seventh anniversary, and the owners are thankful to still be serving the community their probiotic goodness.
The adventure began in 1993, when husband and wife team Artie and Robin Hill began experimenting with fermentation in upstate New York. After college, Artie began home brewing beer, wine and coolers while Robin decided to start brewing her own ferments. After a few years of battling over her open ferments cross-contaminating his beers, Robin decided to try another probiotic ferment – kombucha.
Growing up on a farm and being a natural plant enthusiast, Robin discovered her key to success came naturally. Finding a ferment they could both agree on (and resolving Artie’s lifelong acid reflux issues), the couple began getting rave reviews about their non-alcoholic homebrew kombucha beverage with its delicious, tart and tangy taste and also packed with probiotics, antioxidants, amino acids and enzymes. Always raw and unfiltered, using only organic teas and fermenting naturally, Panacea’s kombucha keeps stomachs and guts happy and healthy.
After 20 years dabbling in fermentation and focusing on kombucha for the last three, the Hills knew they were ready to share their home brews with the community. In 2016 the couple began brewing from the Burgaw Incubator Kitchen and started selling their product at farmers markets from Artie’s custom-built tap system on the side of their 1975 Volkswagen Westfalia, fondly referred to as the Boochbus.
In 2017 Panacea expanded into a space off Eastwood Drive, opening the first kombucha brewery in coastal North Carolina.
The business continued to grow until it was time to relocate again. In 2020 Panacea opened its plant-based kitchen and taproom at 4107 Oleander Drive. Patrons can now enjoy their lounge area, full-service restaurant and outdoor seating.
Taking healthy to whole new level, the earth- and ocean-friendly establishment branched out to create healthy restaurant choices featuring fresh and veggie-based foods. Panacea’s creative menu features comfort food that appeals to a wide variety of tastes. Chef Dennis Meyers offers a plant-based menu with fermented fruits and veggies, vegan meats and cheeses, all made from scratch. It’s hard to believe everything on the menu is vegan. Menu items such as the Pimento Burger and Bavarian dog are sure to please even the most hard-core meat lover. Vegan or not, patrons will struggle to tell the difference and relish discovering new tastes.
Panacea’s friendly and knowledgeable staff is on hand to answer any questions and enhance an already unique dining experience. Just visiting their location is not only a tasty experience but also a visual one. The vibrant floor-to-ceiling murals are painted by local artist Erica Nelson of Mural Modern. The eclectic interior further showcases the free spirit nature of their enterprise.
True to their ever-evolving spirit, Panacea began creating an “elevated” hard kombucha around four years ago and released it last year. Hard kombucha, a boozy version of regular kombucha, is fermented longer with more sugar and yeast to bump up the alcohol content.
What makes hard kombucha different from other brews are probiotic cultures. Flavors include Raspberry Lemonade, Blueberry Blackberry Basil Hops, Peach Basil and Pineapple Hops.
Panacea’s natural-colored and flavored non-alcoholic kombucha selection includes a multitude of rotating flavors. The taproom features eight active taps with staple and seasonal brews including house-brewed kombuchas, immunity-boosting elderberry syrup, hard Kombucha, local beer and a full bar. You can also take home a brew pack of their colorful cans designed by Wilmington-based Creature Theory.
“Business is always evolving and we try to grow organically,” Robin says. “Art and I are always open to change and above all, we remain a family business.”
The Hills prides themselves on their continued efforts to provide sustainably processed products and constantly find ways to improve their systems and decrease their carbon footprint. Customers are welcome to purchase a growler and bring it back to have it refilled for free. Panacea’s growler refill program saves thousands of pounds of glass each year and lowers greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for shipping.
Opening a restaurant and brewery has been a fun challenge for the couple. When asked what she loves most about the Wilmington business community, Robin is quick to point out how supportive the community is of small local businesses. Opening in their current location three months before COVID-19 pandemic hit proved to be a true test in resiliency.
When Panacea opened in 2016, very few people on the East Coast knew what kombucha was. Robin and Artie educated the community by holding an assortment of events to introduce the community to the vegan lifestyle and kombucha.
“It’s also fun to be more than a restaurant,” Robin says.
They host special events, and live music is featured throughout the week and at Sunday brunch. Quickly becoming one of Wilmington’s hottest brunch scenes, Panacea boasts a special Sunday menu. The next event scheduled includes the upcoming Fungi Festival in May, featuring vendors and local musicians.
Plans for Panacea include expanding their brewery and continuously refreshing their menu. They still participate in local farmers markets when in season including the Wrightsville Beach Farmers Market, The Farmers Market at Poplar Grove and The Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek. You may even see Robin serving customers at the bus!
In addition to the taproom and farmers markets, customers can find Panacea’s probiotic fermented tea around Wilmington at local restaurants, coffee shops and breweries as well as at small grocers that serve as refill stations for people to fill up empty growlers.
Stop by the taproom for a pint, a brewery tour or a growler to go. Panacea is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The taproom and kitchen are open 11 am until 8 pm. They are closed on Tuesdays and have extended summer hours. Follow their social media channels to see where the Boochbus is headed next, check out daily specials, upcoming events and discover what’s on tap.
Want to go?
Panacea Brewing Company
4107 Oleander Drive, Unit H, Wilmington
Photography by Megan Deitz