Founder: Valerie Roth
Year founded: 2015
Product description: Health tonics in bold, kicky flavors you would expect to be served in New Age sanitariums.
Yearly sales: It’ll probably close out the year at a half-million.
Is it profitable?: It’s not in any debt.
Available at: About 400 stores nationwide and counting, including QFC, Market of Choice and New Seasons
Valerie Roth takes a shot every day, and thinks you should, too.
There’s no booze in the glasses she regularly knocks back. Instead it’s a tonic made of veggies, roots and spices with health-boosting properties—ingredients like ginger, garlic and horseradish that for centuries have been used to aid digestion, fight infection and clear congestion.
The original formula known as “fire cider” was developed in the 1970s by the godmother of herbalism, Rosemary Gladstar. Roth discovered the apple cider vinegar-based drink about five years ago while studying to become a nutritionist and was curious why it wasn’t more prevalent.
“I think all of the stars aligned for me at that point,” she says. “It was like a perfect storm of, ‘That’s my product.’ It was one of those now-or-never sort of moments where I could either keep dreaming of this or jump off the cliff and see how it goes.”
She decided to enhance the drink’s accessibility. It didn’t take much to get started—Roth figures about $500, some trips to the supermarket and three cases of bottles from homebrew supply shop F.H. Steinbart. She first tinkered with the traditional recipe in her home kitchen by incorporating beets, which turned the tonic a brilliant shade of red.
From there, she wondered what else she could add. Turns out, a lot. Fire Brew now offers an entire garden of flavors made in a 4,000-square-foot warehouse nestled among a slew of other manufacturers near the Portland-Gresham border. Variations include strawberry basil, wheatgrass mint and mushroom Douglas fir—all of which have a back-of-the-throat tickle that throws you off balance thanks to a healthy dose of habanero.
Guilty pleasure snack: The three ch’s—chips, cheese, chocolate.