Kombucha, a probiotic tea lauded for its benefits to the immune and digestive systems is a health-food store staple, but alcoholic versions of the drink are starting to garner attention among the craft brew crowd. The latest endorsement comes from Colicchio & Sons, Top Chef star Tom Colicchio's Manhattan restaurant and taproom that began to offer a local kombucha "ale" on tap in July.
All raw kombucha contains a bit of alcohol (usually between 1 and 3 percent), but the idea to purposefully ferment kombucha to increase its levels of alcohol sprang from a series of government regulations in 2010 that required kombucha manufacturers to apply for alcohol licenses.
While many producers shuttered or developed alcohol-free versions of their product, Spiro Theofilatos, owner and brewmaster of Astoria-based Beyond Kombucha, saw an opportunity to have a bit of fun. The result was Mava Roka, with 6.5 percent alcohol and, he claims, all of kombucha’s beneficial B Vitamins, amino acids and digestive enzymes.
Theofilatos starts with his Vanilla Rooibos kombucha and then ferments the tea a second time using maple syrup. The result is tangy, sweet and sour. Beyond Kombucha also recently released an effervescent honey-based kombucha "wine" with half the alcohol called Love Potion. It's fermented with Catuaba and Damiana—supposed aphrodisiac herbs.
BOOZY KOMBUCHA BUYING GUIDE
Among the health food stores, grocers and beer distributers carrying alcoholic kombucha, here are some highlights.
Colicchio & Sons, New York
Tom Colicchio's West Chelsea restaurant debuted Beyond Kombucha's Mava Roka on tap in the Tavern Room in July.
Murray's Cheese Bar, New York
The highly-anticipated restaurant from the team behind the popular Murray's Cheese Shop is stocked up on kegs of Mava Roka.
The Queens Kickshaw, New York
Right now this Astoria grilled cheese specialist is the only place offering Beyond Kombucha's Love Potion on tap.
Hop Cat, Grand Rapids, MI
Voted "#3 Beer Bar on Plant Earth" by Beer Advocate magazine, Hop Cat's list goes on and on, and includes lambic-inspired kombucha from Michigan-based producer Unity Vibrations.
Le Beau Market, San Francisco
Find local produce, meat, fresh baked bread and a great craft beer selection—Unity Vibration's kombucha "beer" included.