Depending on who you ask, the word kombucha can elicit dramatically different reactions. Some refer to the fermented probiotic tea as an elixir from the gods, extolling the benefits it contributes to the gut biome, while those who judge solely on taste have referred to it as everything from armpit sweat to fermented foot juice.
While it’s reasonable to assume most people wouldn’t pay for armpit sweat, Forbes says kombucha is considered the fastest-growing product in the functional beverage market, with sales estimates of $1.8 billion by 2020.
In addition to the health benefits kombucha delivers, it also offers one surprising component: alcohol. Because it’s fermented, kombucha winds up containing a mild about of booze – but often the percentage of alcohol is so insignificant (less than 0.5%) that it’s not even considered an alcoholic beverage. But the founders of Boochcraft have set out to change the game.
Typically speaking, kombucha tops out at about 2.5% alcohol, and that's a rarity, because anything more than 0.5% results in brewers needing to jump through a whole different set of hoops to sell their 'alcoholic' product. Boochcraft, however, embraces the alcoholic nature of the fermented beverage, and takes it to the next level, offering six organic flavors all topping out at 7% ABV (alcohol by volume), roughly the same as a relatively strong cider or beer.
“We make regular kombucha,” says co-founder Adam Hiner. “Then we do a secondary fermentation and add more cane sugar and a proprietary yeast that’s similar to a brewers yeast in beer, wine or champagne. That yeast eats up all the cane sugar, so we are fermenting 100% of the sugar. All that’s left is the kombucha, which is very dry. Kombucha has a very sour, almost vinegar taste. In order to balance that out, you need sugars, and that’s where the juice comes in. We add 100% cold pressed, raw juices and herbs, so the only sugar in our product comes from our juice.”
The motivation for Hiner and co-founders Andrew Clark and Todd Kent came from an interest in crafting an alcoholic beverage with integrity that people could feel good about drinking. Basically, the founders wanted to give everyone’s guts (and the rest of their bodies) a prolonged warm fuzzy.
Right now, all that warmth is contained to California, which is the only state where Boochcraft can be found. But expansion is on the horizon.
Though the company only started selling in 2016, co-founder Adam Hiner says that in just two years there’s already enough demand for the product that there’s a state-wide capacity issue.
“We brew 15,000 gallons a month right now, but are about to increase capacity by 10 times, so we can do 150,000 gallons a month,” Hiner says.
Because the high alcohol kombucha market is so new, Hiner says no one has any figures for its potential. But a handful of other companies – such as Brooklyn’s Kombrewcha (3.2%), Arizona’s Wild Tonic (5.6%) and Oregon’s Kyla Hard Kombucha (4.5%) – are ready to put their money where their bacteria is.
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If you take a look at Boochcraft’s uber millennial-targeted advertising – which features the likes of bottle-wielding skateboarders and beanie-clad bearded men at bars as well as camping couples and apathetic hipsters in the forest – an entire generation is primed for boozy kombucha.
Boochcraft is surprisingly light and refreshing, and can most easily be compared with a hard cider. The grapefruit-hibiscus-heather, for example, starts off like a grapefruit soda, then morphs into something tart and acidic on the finish, like a dry apple cider. The apple-lime-jasmine has just a whisper of jasmine on the back of the palate, and finishes like a crisp, medium-bodied cider. Other flavors include watermelon-mint-chili, grape-coriander-anise, ginger-lime-rosehips and turmeric-tangerine-ginger.
The new wave of kombucha isn’t what you’d expect; whether it will make you happier or healthier remains to be seen, but it will certainly leave you wanting more.