The fizzy, fruit, booze-spiked take on the quintessential health beverage is taking over happy hours across the country. Many are queuing the drink to be the next White Claw, presumably because it’s a “healthier” alternative to the majority of drinks on the market (thanks to the probiotics, prebiotics, and adaptogens in the drink).
While Kombucha’s entrance into the booze world is new, the drink has been around for 2,000 years. It is made with SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast): a mother bacteria-yeast culture that turn, after fermenting for weeks, turns teas into a slightly sparkling beverage with a yeasty tang. Folk flavor the end product using anything from lemon to lavender to chili to grapefruit.
Hard Kombucha may be new, but this focus on fermentation feels in line with the rest of the industry. Natural wine (in pared-down terms, winemakers let natural yeasts stick around longer, imparting wilder flavors to the drink) has stepped into the spotlight of the wine industry, while more cideries are focusing their fermentation technique. A fermentation festival even takes over Brooklyn annually.
While we’re still just starting to see companies spike kombucha with booze, the drink has always has ties with alcohol – the average kombucha contains around 0.5% ABV. Brands are started to extend the fermentation process or add a second fermentation, upping the alcohol content to up to 7%.
How is booze coming into play? Kombucha already has alcohol (generally 0.5%) but brands are extending the fermentation to increase the alcohol from anywhere to 4 – 7%. But each brand interprets Hard Kombucha differently, There are some that cater to beer drinkers, and others, for fans of vodka sodas65. Some are super quaffable and designed for all-day sipping, and other, are high-in-alcohol. Below, the brands that make up the market.
JuneShine is a California-based company with a California-minded mentality, the brand’s flavors span Cucumber Mojito, Blood Orange, and Tropical (dosed with activated-charcoal), all packed into Instagram-friendly cans. Each is made with a base of green tea, and sweetened with honey over sugar. But don’t let that fool you – the drink clocks in at a zesty 6% ABV.
Think of Kombrewcha like a more mature cousin of the coolers you sipped in the early aughts. Launched in 2013, the brand initially churned out non-alcohol kombucha, until a big investment from the Anheuser-Busch’s ZX ventures veered the brand into the emerging hard kombucha category. Now, expect millennial-minded kombucha that packs a punch at 4.4 percent ABV. Catering to health-minded women in the 28- to 45-year-old range, the brand’s core offerings include Royal Ginger, Lemongrass Lime, and Berry Hibiscus. flavors.
BoochCraft caters to more serious drinkers. The uber-bubbly drink is a mean 7% ABV, and Boochcraft offers more out-of-the-box iterations like Watermelon Mint Chili, Grape Coriander Anise, and Apple Lime Jasmine. If you’re a craft beer connoisseur, this one is for you.
GT’s Kombucha has long been a player in the Kombucha market, offering up a range of 0.5% ABV kombuchas, as well as kefirs, probiotic shots, and wellness waters. More recently, it launched a line of alcohol-inspired flavors that ring in at 3% ABV. Think New World Noir (with Pinot Noir-leaning noted of woody oak and blueberry), Pina Paradise (think more tepache then pina colada), and the Heavenly Hops (it drinks like a peachy IPA).
Sierra Nevada Kombucha
Even major beer players are entering the hard kombucha game. The beloved beer company just rolled out an unpasteurized, USDA Certified Organic hard kombucha dubbed Strainge Beast. They hope to have three flavors hit the market by the end of the year. If this is any indication, expect a wave of kombucha hitting craft breweries near you.