Hard Kombucha – Is Good-For-You Alcohol Really a Thing?

September 24, 2021
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© @jaybirdkombucha / Instagram

Hard kombucha’s insta-worthy packages are filling up the shelves at every other liquor store and local supermarket. It’s all over your timeline, in your friends’ fridges, and has even earned itself the title of The Drink of 2020.

But what’s so special about this fermented drink that’s giving hard seltzer a run for its money?

Today, we’re deep-diving into hard kombucha, its quick rise to popularity and whether it really is the wholesome alcoholic beverage it claims to be.

So, what’s the hype all about?

Kombucha – the drink that automatically lets everyone know you care about your health. Whether you’re already a fan of the beverage for its multitude of health benefits, or you’ve heard about it from family, friends and health gurus on the path to a reformed lifestyle, everyone’s seen the fermented sweetened tea around at the moment.

Both regular and hard kombucha are the products of SCOBY – symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Sounds mouth-watering already, right? This mixture is added to tea, kickstarting fermentation. In 1-4 weeks, the SCOBY breaks down sugars and converts them to acids, alcohol, and carbon dioxide.

This bacteria is claimed to promote digestion and protect against other harmful microorganisms. It also racks up healthy-points for being low in calories and sugar. While regular kombucha has traces of alcohol – only up to 0.5% – it’s not nearly enough to be considered a hard beverage. It won’t get you tipsy no matter how many you chug.

© @crossculturalkombucha / Instagram

The hard version

But hard kombucha has a different kick to it. This version of the probiotic-rich drink has a higher alcohol content than its sober predecessor, reaching an average of 4.5-8% per drink. 

From a hipster trend to a mainstream staple, hard kombucha rose to fame on the back of regular kombucha’s glory.

After the kombucha craze broke through to the general public, brands and entrepreneurs alike were quick to try to find something to appeal to a health conscious yet alcohol-loving audience. 

JuneShine, one of the leading hard kombucha brands, says they were inspired by the lack of sustainable and transparent alcohol options available. “We grew frustrated by the lack of honest, transparent alcohol brands catering to our healthy and active lifestyles. So we decided to start our own.”

© @jaybirdkombucha / Instagram

These days, it seems like new hard kombucha brands are popping up left, right and center. A quick instagram search brings up countless new names and flavors breaking into the mainstream market.

A lot of these new brands are trying to reinvent the association people have towards hard kombucha.

Jaybird is a brand that refuses to cater to the hipster lifestyle, and instead focuses on marketing to all kinds of alcohol-drinking, life-loving individuals. 

As they put it: they’re on a journey to ‘crush the ‘kombucha drinker’ stereotype’. 

A lot of these new brands are trying to reinvent the association people have towards hard kombucha.

Fact or fad?

So now that we know what hard kombucha is all about, it’s time to figure out the pros and cons of choosing it as an alcohol alternative.

Pro: It’s full of vitamins and antioxidants…

Because it’s brewed from all natural components, your bevvy is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that come from fresh, and often organic, ingredients.

Healthy acids are also aplenty, and it’s usually gluten-free, enhancing digestion in ways a can of beer can never compete with. 

Cons: … But probably none of the probiotics

That’s right. Kombucha’s number one selling point might just be nonexistent in the boozy edition.

Here’s the thing: most bacteria that targets the colon can’t survive in highly alcoholic environments. Basically, alcohol tends to kill the bacteria that’s actually responsible for taking care of your gut health.

Pro: unlimited(ish) flavors

Hard kombucha’s upper hand in an already crowded liquor market is partly due to the range of flavor options it offers.

Unlike beer, wine, or even cider, the process of fermenting kombucha allows its makers to play freely with its ingredients. Switch around a few fruits, veggies and spices and voila, you’ve got yourself a completely new drink!

You can make it taste like anything – and trust us, people have tried.

© @Juneshineco / Instagram

Cons: an acquired taste

While the availability of constantly new and exciting flavors is thrilling, not everyone can get their taste buds around the drink’s usually sharp relish.

Many have described it as tasting too vinegary, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, brands are coming up with new mixtures and ingredients to try and counteract the tart flavor.

© @sidewaysfarmandbewery / Instagram

Pro: eco-conscious

Emerging from a movement that is already wellbeing and sustainability conscious, hard kombucha brands tend to take better environmental precautions than their competitors.

Big brands like Boochcraft are known to donate percentages of their profits to projects that create a more sustainable global community.

Many of the emerging independent kombucha creators such as Jaybird also brew the beverage out of their own, organic farms, which means less pollution than other mass-produced alcohol.

Con: ultimately, it’s still alcohol

At the end of the day, hard kombucha is still alcohol.

It could give you a hangover and might make you feel sick after a couple of bottles. Just because it’s marketed as a health-conscious option, doesn’t mean it doesn’t also bring alcohol’s downsides.

Alcohol is actually known to be harmful to the gut and the production of digestive enzymes, which sort of defeats the whole concept of kombucha.

The fact of the matter is that it depends what your idea of a healthy consumable is.

If your goal is to cut down on sugar, calories and carbs, you can definitely substitute sugary cocktails for a can of alcoholic ‘booch’. But if you’re looking to get the gut-cleansing benefits of kombucha, you probably won’t find it here.

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