At grocery stores, you can’t swing a tote bag without smacking a bottle of kombucha, the tart and fizzy tea brimming with probiotics. It’s made by fermenting tea and sugar with bacteria cultures and yeast. The fermentation process creates tangy acidity, carbonation, and a bit of alcohol, typically less than 0.5 percent. Now brewers are boosting alcohol to beerlike levels, creating a gut-friendly buzz with health benefits. “It’s not a trend, it’s a cultural shift, says Kyle Ingram, of Flying Embers, a hard-kombucha company in California.
“Consumers want better-for-you options.” Some hard kombuchas are beer-inspired and flavored with hops, while others take cues from a juice bar’s just-pressed tonics. Here are five to try (ordered and pictured from left to right).
1. Kyla Ginger Tangerine, 4.5% ABV
Oregon’s Full Sail Brewing Company expanded into hard kombucha in 2018 with KYLA (an acronym for kombucha, yeast, and the bacteria lactobacillus and acetobacter). This gingery version has just two grams of carbs.
2. GT’s Living Foods Heavenly Hops, 3% ABV
Founded in 1995, GT’s is one of America’s most popular kombuchas. Its Hard Kombucha line uses fruits to evoke wine, mojitos, and even craft beer. Peach juice and seven hops create a fruity fragrance that add a hit of pale ale–like flavor to this easy drinker.
3. Dr Hops Kombucha Beer IPK, 9% ABV
Like IPA? Try IPK. This India pale kombucha is full of tropical, citrusy Mosaic and Citra hops and is partly fermented with Belgian ale yeast to elevate the alcohol level. Think of it as a juicy double IPA on a tangy date with a tea lover.
4. Flying Embers Pineapple Chili, 6.8% ABV
This California brand focuses on organic kombuchas with ginger, turmeric, and other adaptogens, plants that may help reduce stress. Here, sweet meets heat in a 130-calorie can with pineapple and chili powder.
5. JuneShine Hard Kombucha Midnight Painkiller, 6% ABV
Last year, this San Diego company bought a beer brewery to make hard kombuchas from organic honey, green tea, and fresh fruit. Midnight Painkiller has a beachy vibe with coconut and pineapple flavors.
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