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Mark my words: hard kombucha is the new hard seltzer. The number of brands making it has skyrocketed in recent years, they’re all trying to attract customers with neutral, well-designed labels and it’s the perfect beverage for getting drunk outdoors in the summertime. Regular, virgin kombucha became a popular beverage for the probiotics and other health benefits quite a few years back, and it was only a matter of time before someone decided to add booze to it. If you’ve never had it before you should definitely try it, it tastes like bubbly tea water that’s been fermented and spiked with booze. It’s delicious, and perfect for a refreshing fizzy drink in warm weather. Trust me, it might sound like something reserved for the sunny beaches of SoCal or the hippie forests of NorCal, but it’s quickly becoming a beverage that’s applicable anywhere. Now, you can drink regular kombucha tea, make your own at home with a kombucha kit and pick up a six pack of hard kombucha on the way to the summer cookout. In this piece, we’re going to cover what hard kombucha is exactly, how it’s made and some of our favorite brands you can pick up and try for yourself.
What is Hard Kombucha Made Of?
Hard kombucha is actually made of exactly the same ingredients as regular kombucha, with just slightly different proportions. Kombucha is usually made with green or black tea, sugar and an active culture of bacteria and yeast that helps kickstart the fermentation process.
The fermentation process that creates regular kombucha actually produces some alcohol as well, but not enough to get you drunk or qualify it as an alcoholic beverage underneath the US Tax and Trade Bureau.
How is Hard Kombucha Made?
Hard kombucha is simply regular kombucha that’s been left to ferment a little longer to raise the alcohol content. The proportions of the ingredients are a little different, but the ingredients themselves are the same. It also contains more sugar so there’s more for the yeast to metabolize and turn into alcohol, which causes the ABV level to rise. Once it goes beyond 0.5% ABV it’s considered an alcoholic beverage.
Is Hard Kombucha Still Healthy?
Yes and no. It doesn’t contain the same amount of probiotics as regular kombucha since they can’t survive in alcohol as well, but it still contains more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than vodka due to the yeast. It also still contains the same polyphenols and acids as regular kombucha, including lactic acid, glucuronic acid and butyric acid that help your body digest food and increase the nutritional value gained from it. However, despite all of this, it’s still alcohol, so we’d label it as a “healthy alternative” rather than straight up “healthy.” Now, here are some great brands to try out if you’re intrigued.
JuneShine has been one of the most popular hard kombucha brands for as long as the beverage has been around, and rightfully so. The brand is gluten-free, organic, has live probiotics in each can and is 6% ABV. They formulate their drinks with low sugar and no artificial sweeteners. They also make each of their flavors using real fruit and ingredients, and they’re a brand dedicated to sustainability. Their business is 100% carbon neutral and they donate 1% of all sales to 1% For The Planet, an environmental nonprofit.
This Blood Orange Mint flavor is made with real blood oranges that contain 40% more vitamin C than navel oranges, as well as a hint of mint for a tangy finish. They’ve got many delicious flavors including Midnight Painkiller with activated charcoal and acai berry.
2. Boochcraft High Alcohol Kombucha
Boochcraft is another hard kombucha brand made from organic fruit that’s sourced directly from farms and juiced in-house. All of their kombucha is certified USDA organic, contains no preservatives, extracts, purees or artificial flavors. All of their products are also 100% vegan and they’re also a dedicated sustainable brand. They compost 100% of their fruit scraps and use a water recapture loop at their manufacturing plants that saves over 1,000 gallons of water a day.
They’ve got a wide range of simple flavors that are less experimental and more widely recognizable than JuneShine’s blends. This includes a ginger lime flavor, grapefruit hibiscus, lemon maple, orange pomegranate and more. They’ve also got seasonal offerings that change regularly and an Heirloom Series that celebrates small, local farms.
Kombrewcha only contains 4.4% ABV per can, so if you’re looking for a casual summer drinking beverage that won’t get you drunk as fast, it’s a great choice. All of their flavors are certified USDA organic and gluten-free as well. They’ve got four flavors available including Berry Hibiscus, Ginger Lemon, Mango Pineapple and Blood Orange. They’re not available in every state, so check their website and make sure it’s sold in your neighborhood before you get too attached.
4. Jiant Hard Kombucha
Jiant makes their hard kombuchas from high-quality green tea, sustainably-sourced honey from the Himalayas, real fruit and botanicals that are freshly brewed for their concoctions. Their blends don’t contain any GMOs, preservatives, pesticides, steva, “natural flavors” or other junk. Their beverages are 100% jun kombucha and taste clean, crisp and refreshing. I’ve personally tried a few of their flavors and love this brand. The Original is my favorite, with passion fruit and elderflower. They’ve also got a Gingerly flavor with ginger and lemongrass, as well as Hicamaya with grapefruit, Guavamente with guava and mint, and a few other specialty ones.
5. Wild Tonic Hard Kombucha
Wild Tonic is a woman-owned kombucha brand that makes regular jun kombucha as well as the hard stuff, and it’s all delicious. They make all of their blends with a mix of honey for amino acids and antioxidants, organic, ethically-sourced teas, USDA-certified organic fruit, herbs and spices and botanicals for floral notes. The honey is what sets this brand apart, as it serves as the base for all their flavors for a signature taste. They make a bunch of different flavors, but this Wild Love one caught my eye. It’s got a strong blackberry taste as well as a hint of coconut and lavender for a smooth floral finish.
6. Luna Bay Booch Co.
Luna Bay Booch Co. is another great kombucha brand made with Yerba Mate tea and all-natural herbs, fruits and flavors. All of their flavors are all-natural and low in sugar, gluten-free and non-GMO, and naturally fermented to contain 6% ABV. They’ve got a variety of delicious classic flavors including Palo Santo Blueberry, Ginger Lemon and Hibiscus Lavender.
7. Walker Brothers Hard Kombucha
This hard kombucha brand was founded by two brothers who loved the taste of craft beer but didn’t love how it made them feel. They used a SCOBY (yeast) passed down from their aunt and went to work in their garage creating this delicious brand that contains nothing artificial and only organic ingredients. They’ve got three different flavors including Citra Hops, Watermelon Lime and High Gravity Ginger to choose from. They’ve also got a few seasonal flavors: Raspberry Rosé and Margarita. Yum.
8. Flying Embers Hard Kombucha
Flying Embers makes hard kombucha as well as hard seltzer and some other refreshing beverages for summer. They’ve also got a bunch of different flavors and two different styles of kombucha — one that’s higher in alcohol content and one that’s lighter and lower in ABV. Their harder flavors include Ginger, Pineapple Chili, Black Cherry and Prickly Pear Agave, while the lighter flavors include Grapefruit Thyme, Lemon, Berry and Lemon Cayenne. Their name, Flying Embers, pays homage to the brand’s homeland of Ojai, California that was threatened during a massive wildfire a few years back. Thankfully they survived, and so did their delicious brand.
9. Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha
Strainge Beast acknowledges what the fermentation process with SCOBYs is — little yeast monsters devouring sugar, fruit, spices and other flavors and turning all of it into alcohol. Each of the “beasts” in their line has a different bold, bright flavor for you to enjoy. Each can is 100 calories and made with only the finest teas. The flavors include Ginger, Lemon & Hibiscus, Grapefruit, Pomegranate and Cucumber, Blueberry, Acai and Sweet Basil, Passion Fruit, Hops and Blood Orange, Raspberry, Golden Kiwi & Elderflower, and Watermelon, Sea Salt, Lime & Mint.
10. Nova Easy Kombucha
HIGHEST NUMBER OF FLAVORS
Nova hard kombucha makes nine different flavors of hard kombucha that all sound delicious. They’re all about making kombucha that’s healthy for you and fun to drink, and being the brand where health and fun meet. They use high-quality natural ingredients in their blends, zero preservatives and don’t pasteurize their kombuchas either. All of their blends are gluten-free, vegan, naturally fermented, contain probiotics and 6.0% ABV.