How to Get a Healthy Buzz
Kombucha with alcohol levels on par with beer are getting lots of buzz.
Kombucha may be a trendy cocktail mixer, but recently we've discovered that a few of these probiotic-packed bottles are the cocktail. As a fermented beverage, regular kombucha naturally contains alcohol, usually about 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). A new category of hard kombuchas have rages of ABV from 4.5% — which is on par with lighter beers — to 8.0%, similar to some craft beers. Might these healthy-touting bottles of bubbly help you stay true to your wellness regimes? We sipped a few to find out.
Traditionally a sweetened tea beverage that's rich in good bacteria and yeast, kombucha has become known as an ultra-healthy beverage. Those kombuchas that line the non-alcoholic beverage case in your supermarket should contain "live probiotic cultures" or they're not much more than tart sugar water. The same is true for hard kombuchas: "kombucha culture" should appear in the ingredients listing to ensure any potential benefits to gut health.
The pleasant fizz of kombucha is a by-product of natural fermentation, so it seems a rather likely step for some kombucha makers to let the fermentation process progress into a hard kombucha. If you're looking for these new bottled cocktail kombuchas, you may find them at local kombucha makers, or sometimes even microbreweries. We found several hyper-local brands across the country. But all of the following are actually distributed nationally – although not in every area of the nation.
KYLA Hard Kombucha
Hard kombucha can be difficult to perfect, with controlling both live cultures, as well as stabilizing naturally occurring alcohol. KYLA Hard Kombucha has nailed it. This crisp and refreshing beverage hits the mark with its Hibiscus Lime and Tangerine Ginger flavors, both have an ABV of 4.5%. With 100 calories, 2 grams of sugar and 2 grams of carbs per bottle, it's on the right track with calorie-conscious imbibers. Another practical benefit of KYLA is its portability. "It's currently the only hard kombucha that doesn't require refrigeration, but is non-pasteurized so it still contains live cultures," explained Cory Comstock, CEO of KYLA Hard Kombucha.
Wild Tonic Jun Kombucha
Unlike most sugar-sweetened kombucha, the live cultures in Wild Tonic Jun Kombucha are nourished by honey. That gives this golden colored drink a decidedly different, almost champagne-like fizz and a slightly floral flavor. With an ABV of 5.6% the cobalt blue bottles pour a decidedly more full-bodied beverage. We liked the Wild Tonic Blueberry Basil Jun Kombucha with semi-sweet blueberry notes, balanced by a slight savory basil presence. "Fermented with honey, never pasteurized, our Jun Kombucha contains probiotics plus prebiotics, and is lower-sugar. Some say they enjoy the buzz without the sting," says Holly Lyman, Founder & Master Brewer at Wild Tonic Jun Kombucha.
Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer
Employing more traditional spirit making techniques like aging in bourbon barrels, Unity Vibration Kombucha brews several of their pure kombuchas to 7.0 – 8.0% ABV. This higher alcohol level is something to keep in mind. But so is the fact that it is raw, unfiltered, and vegan (and especially appealing that local Michigan peaches are added to the Unity Vibration Bourbon Peach flavor). Tarek and Rachel Kanaan, founders of Unity Vibration note, "We were the first producers of hard kombucha — or what we call kombucha beer — because we were looking for a creative way to maintain our fresh kombucha tea."
One note: the labels on these new hard kombuchas can be confusing. They are a unique beverage category, however because they have ABV's similar to beer, 'beer' must be included on the label. But read the label carefully to find real kombucha, richest in probiotic 'kombucha cultures,' not just kombucha plus beer — which you can also find in your bottle of bubbly these days.