Food & Drink

Review: HEX Superette Dazzles with Fermented Cocktails in Govans

The hybrid bar and small supermarket has one of the most unique drink menus in the city.
An array of colorful cocktails from HEX Superette. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

Just what is HEX Superette anyway?

Half of this hybrid in Mid-Govans fits the traditional definition of the second half of its name, which means a small supermarket. Customers can buy locally grown produce and made-in-Maryland goods like stationery and soap. Beer, wine, spirits, and sauces line the
shelves, along with plenty of jars of sauerkraut.

Which brings us to the first part of that name. In the back of the building, HEX Ferments makes kraut, kimchi, and kombucha. For years, owners Shane and Meaghan Carpenter had longed for a building of their own where they could both produce and sell their food and drink, as well as offer a place for people to relax and enjoy them on site. (Leading the fermented food craze, they sold their jarred products at Belvedere Square Market for years before closing during the pandemic. Their fermented products are still for sale at the JFX and Waverly farmers’ markets.)

Last year, they opened HEX Superette. A bar anchors the tasting room, which has one of the most unique drink menus in the city. The cleverly named Timm’s Cup is a mixture of spiced floral liqueur, sparking wine, lemon, and HEX’s turmeric tonic kombucha. The more traditionally named Whiskey No. 1 is a rye-based drink with rosemary oxymel and HEX’s ginger kombucha. Both are refreshing takes on classic cocktails—with a twist.

“Kombucha has natural carbonation, which is a by-product of the ferment,” Shane says of the tea drink that is often hailed for its health benefits. “Most of the bubbly drinks you’re drinking in the world have been force-carbonated by a CO2 tank hooked up to some pressurized vessel to create that bubble. It’s a lot bigger, more acidic bubble than what you find in kombucha.”

The cocktail list stems from years of experimentation by the Carpenters and the tasting room staff. In addition to the mixed drinks, there are mocktails, wines, housemade sodas, and a few beers available, including Year of the Peach, HEX’s collaboration with Peabody Heights. (At only 2.5 ABV, it tastes more like a cider—a delicious one—than a beer.)

Snacks, salads, soups, and a few sandwiches emerge from the kitchen. Every dish includes something fermented because, as Shane puts it, “We want to participate in the full spectrum of fermented delights.”

Despite how all of this might sound, there’s nothing pretentious about the Carpenters’ methods. “We’re not using tweezers or foams, it’s very approachable food that’s extremely nutrient-dense,” Meaghan says.

The vibe in the tasting room is casual. Music plays as customers shuffle in past the 10-seat bar, grab a basket, and shop at the attached superette. In fact, one of the best ways to enjoy a drink here is while browsing the store. There you’ll find ground beef from Liberty Delight Farms, duck eggs, produce, a book on wild fermentation, plant-based hair products—you get the idea. And of course,
jars and bottles of HEX Ferments products, all of which are available to taste at the bar for free.

What is HEX Superette? It’s a place we’ll return to soon