CHICAGO — There is an emerging and rapidly increasing category of adult-centric refreshments in the United States dubbed “new college alcohol,” mentioned Brent Coons, director of all-natural insights, Spins, Chicago. These are single-serve, transportable and typically “better-for-you” alcoholic beverages that go beyond craft beer and artisan wine. Quite a few make such label claims as significantly less sugar, gluten-totally free and decrease calories. Really hard kombucha is one particular such new college alcohol.

This new notion in microbrew is primarily based on kombucha, a fermented tea drink. In the previous couple of years, kombucha has gone mainstream, with numerous retailers typically stocking numerous brands of the perishable beverage. It is produced with a microbial cocktail referred to as S.C.O.B.Y., an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, and supplies a healthier dose of probiotics. It is slightly effervescent and naturally has a trace of alcohol, which is significantly less than .five% alcohol by volume (A.B.V.). This is the reduce-off line for the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration’s distinction in between alcohol and non-alcohol.

To make the “hard” higher-alcohol version, brewers modify the manufacturing method to include things like an additional fermentation step. This incorporates an extra strain of yeast and additional sugar for the fermentation, which typically is extended by a week or two. Some microbrewers are blending kombucha with craft beers to add a twist of healthfulness.

Andrew Clark, brewmaster and one particular of the 3 founders of Boochcraft, Chula Vista, Calif., boosts the alcohol content material with brewing yeast. He then flavors the fermentations with cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, along with herbs and even chili peppers.

Wild Tonic kombuchaIt is not as simple as it sounds, as there are numerous microorganisms competing to ferment the sugar substrates. The final beverage need to have the correct quantity of sweetness — and sugar content material, if carbohydrate concentration is a label claim — and hit the target alcohol content material through each micro-brew cycle.

When there are a restricted quantity of processors in this sector, it is increasing, mentioned Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, Boulder, Colo., who addressed the evolving craft beer category when speaking to independent retailers at the annual meeting of the National Grocers Association, Arlington, Va., held Feb. 24-26 in San Diego. When Mr. Gatza mentioned numerous of the goods are “too vinegary” for his liking, he believes the greater-for-you halo they possess may well appeal to today’s increasing overall health- and wellness-searching for adult beverage customer.

The people at Wild Tonic, Cottonwood, Ariz., are calling tough kombucha the “it” beverage of the year. They will be showcasing their namesake beverage at All-natural Merchandise Expo West this week in Anaheim, Calif.

The business refers to its tough kombucha as jun. It is produced by fermenting tea and honey with a specific S.C.O.B.Y. made to feed on honey and yield the greater alcohol content material. The outcome is a lighter and smoother taste void of vinegar notes, according to the business. Wild Tonic comes in two alcohol concentrations: five.six% and 7.six% A.B.V.

The North Park neighborhood of San Diego is dwelling to JuneShine, the world’s 1st tough kombucha “jun” bar. It opened in June 2018 and is a two,000-square-foot brewery and 500-square-foot tasting area with a production capacity of two,000 barrels. When up to a dozen flavors (six% A.B.V.) are on draft in the tasting area, the business at present distributes 4 flavors — blood orange mint, cucumber mojito, honey ginger lemon and Midnight Painkiller — in 16-oz cans all through San Diego and choose accounts in Orange county and Los Angeles.

JuneShine kombucha pour

The business is expanding. In early February it simultaneously closed a seed round of financing and acquisition of all brewing assets of a facility in nearby Scripps Ranch. After the new brewery opens, the North Park place will continue to run as a tasting area and study and improvement facility.

The business plans to open Scripps Ranch — a 24,000-square-foot facility with a 100,000-barrel production capacity — for production and to the public in summer season 2019. This will be paralleled by distribution expansion inside and outdoors of California.

“As JuneShine seeks to boost production in terrific volume, and also turn out to be a greatest-in-class leader for our solution category, it became clear that this was a timely chance,” mentioned Greg Serrao, co-founder and chief executive officer. “In numerous techniques, we are just obtaining began. The 1st factor we will do with extra solution, prior to going anyplace, is double down on our dwelling marketplace.”