Regular readers may recall me waxing poetic about Happy Belly Kombucha, a Chestermere-owned business that was one of the first entrants into the Kombucha market in Alberta, producing a healthy and natural ever so slightly fermented beverage.
The history of Kombucha goes back more than two thousand years, where it was consumed in China in the days of the Tsin dynasty, and was much prized for its detoxifying and energizing properties.
Eventually, Kombucha spread along the trade routes throughout Asia and Europe, reaching pretty much the entire world by the 1950s.
Kombucha is produced by fermenting a sugared tea with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), resulting in a probiotic beverage with various purported benefits to gut flora.
The flavour profile starts with an effervescent freshness on the nose, with a tart and delicate acidity on the palate, followed by a burst of whatever fruits and spices are blended with the tea base.
Superfoods with energizing properties like ginger, turmeric, and mint are popular ingredients in Kombucha, owing to its historical usage as a detoxifying agent for the digestive system. Citrus or tropical fruit juices are typically added, which masks the slightly acetic flavour from the probiotic bacteria, resulting in a slightly fizzy beverage with a mildly tart and refreshing flavour.
As a fermented beverage, Kombucha is most frequently made by adding cane sugar to a base of black or green tea, followed by the introduction of the SCOBY to start fermenting the sugar. Juices, herbs, and spices are adding during the fermentation process, and aged for up to two weeks at room temperature. Trace amounts of caffeine from the tea leaves remain in the finished product, but typically less than half as much caffeine as an equivalent serving of tea.
While Kombucha is a fermented beverage, it normally contains less than 0.5% ABV, allowing it to be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage. No need to worry about driving under the influence of Kombucha, as trace amounts of alcohol will be found in pretty much any fruit juice containing natural sugars, including that freshly squeezed orange juice in your fridge that will naturally ferment up to around 0.5% ABV as well.
Kombucha is particularly popular with the yoga-loving crowd, which might be why I see a steady stream of sweaty patrons from the neighbouring Peak Fitness studio popping into the taproom at Chestermere’s own Township 24 Brewing for a midday post-workout Kombucha.
I like to mix my Kombucha half-and-half with the Township 24 Blonde Ale, a trick I learned from the post-workout crowd, and it seems that boozy Kombucha is starting to catch on.
While adventurous boozers have been using Kombucha as a cocktail mixer for quite some time, we are starting to see premixed cans of boozy Kombucha on the shelves of local booze merchants.
New to the Alberta market is the excellently named Kombrewcha, available in berry, ginger, and lime options, and weighs in at 4.4% ABV, making it about the same strength as a beer.
Kombrewcha comes from Brooklyn, and is funded by Anheuser-Busch, so will be able to take advantage of the existing worldwide distribution channels already in place.
Regular readers will recognize that I prefer to drink locally produced tipples, so getting my Kombucha from the same megabrewer that produces Bud Lite will be a nonstarter for me, despite their market dominance.
Fortunately, we have a craftier option made closer to home, thanks to a collaboration between Chestermere-owned Happy Belly Kombucha and the artisanal Burwood Distillery in Calgary.
The collaboration is known as the Fruit N’ Funk Kombucha Cocktail, made by blending Happy Belly Pineapple Hops Kombucha with the crafty gin from the Burwood Distillery, packaged up in cans that weigh in at 4% ABV.
Should Pineapple not be your thing, Ginger Donkey is the mash-up of Happy Belly Purple Ginger Kombucha with the artisanal vodka from Burwood Distillery. This one is my personal favourite, as I have been using the Purple Ginger Kombucha as a cocktail mixer at home for a few years now, so was delighted to see it available in ready-to-drink packaging.
If you happen to use spud.ca for grocery delivery, they will even deliver Happy Belly Kombucha directly to your door, in both the non-alcoholic and boozy varieties.
Take your boozing to the next level by mixing up a Kombucha cocktail, or look for a premixed option in the can at your local bottle shop.