COURTESY OF LUNA BAY
Though spiked sparkling water was the hot new trend everyone jumped on last year, it’s already the norm to keep a pack of White Claw in the fridge. This summer, hard kombucha is the drink trend we’re seeing everywhere. If you haven’t already spotted it in your grocery store, there’s a good chance you’ll start seeing it in stock soon. For anyone that’s unfamiliar with regular kombucha or wondering what an alcoholic version is like, you’re in the right place. Before you decide to grab a pack, we found out everything there is to know about summer’s boozy new beverage.
What is hard kombucha?
Before we get into the hard stuff, here’s a little background on how kombucha is made. Found in the refrigerated section (usually close to specialty juices), kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea that uses a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY starts as a residue on the surface of the tea, then grows to fill the diameter of the jar while getting thicker. Kombucha has become more popular in recent years due to its gut-healthy probiotics and immune-boosting benefits. According to Bridget Connelly, CEO and co-founder of Luna Bay, hard kombucha is brewed like kombucha, but it has been fermented longer to give it a boozy bite. As for what it tastes like, if you haven’t had regular kombucha either, it’s got a sweet and tart flavor and is lightly carbonated. Hard kombucha is similar, but with more punch. It’s reminiscent of drinking sparkling cider, only more sour with the floral, herbal, or fruity notes its been flavored with.
Technically regular kombucha has a very low level of alcohol, but Connelly says “it has such a small amount that it is not even classified as alcohol nor are its effects felt when drinking it.” Hard kombuchas are brewed to around 6% ABV (alcohol by volume), while the average beer is about 4.5% ABV. Bonus, hard kombuchas are also gluten-free and vegan, making them a great alcoholic option for anyone with allergies or dietary restrictions.
How is hard kombucha brewed?
Hard kombucha is made by brewing tea with live active cultures, sugar, and yeast for the fermentation process. Connelly notes this is also where fruits and herbs go in to add flavors such as ginger, lemon, blueberry, and hibiscus. Traditional kombucha is made with black or green tea, but Luna Bay opted for yerba mate (a type of tea made from a leafy shrub related to the holly plant) to change up the flavor profile.
Are there any health benefits to drinking hard kombucha?
Unfortunately, the probiotics found in kombucha don’t like alcohol, so those are lost in the longer fermentation process for hard kombucha. However, Connelly says the ingredients included in each can do come with their own benefits. Unlike some canned drinks, you should be able to recognize each ingredient listed on the label.
If you decide to give hard kombucha a shot, you can also check your local store (or your favorite e-grocery or alcohol delivery service). Since they’re pretty new to the alcohol world, where they’re located might vary from store to store. Check the refrigerated beer and wine section first (though some brands are shelf-stable) and you’ll probably see them displayed somewhere close to the hard seltzers that are still super popular. Some other brands making their way into shops are Juneshine, Flying Embers, and Boochcraft. Abstaining from alcohol? Give homemade kombucha a shot to reap some of the health benefits or go for a classy mocktail.