In the USA the traditional and craft beer markets have been on the slide for a wee while now, with sales being cannibalised by lighter, fruit-forward drinks favoured by a younger audience. This gap was filed by hard seltzer, but there's also another drink grabbing attention - hard kombucha.
So what exactly is hard kombucha? Well, essentially it is an alcoholic version of the popular fermented tea drink kombucha which is thought to have its roots in China. Now, if made correctly, traditional kombucha does have an alcohol content on about 0.5% a.b.v., however, hard kombucha is left to ferment for a couple more weeks and reaches levels of up to 9% a.b.v. Hard kombucha also comes with an added bonus up its sleeve, a gut health halo thanks to its gut- loving probiotic content.
In fact, according to the trade group Kombucha Brewers International, sales of hard kombucha grew from $1.7 million in 2017 to more than $12 million in 2019, with sale projected to grow past $5 billion by 2025.
Booch To Brews
The story goes that hard kombucha was discovered in 2010 by accident after a number of kombucha brands we found to have excessive alcohol levels whilst on the supermarket shelf. One brand, Unity Vibration, saw an opportunity to turn the accident into a new product line. Since then many of the hard kombucha brands have come from that direction, taking their established kombucha drinks and fermenting them to achieve 4-10% abv.
Brew To Booch
These pioneering kombucha brands established a market and created a buzz about hard kombucha. Since then large and small beer and cider brewing companies have got in on the act. Switching from cider, hard seltzers and beer production to hard kombucha. Unfortunately, like many of the current shelf-stable kombuchas on the market, a proportion of hard kombuchas are pasteurised, destroying the gut-friendly bacteria in the process.