The latest craft brew to come out of Minneapolis-St. Paul isn’t made from barley and hops. It’s Prohibition Kombucha
, a fermented beverage made from high-quality teas and fruit or floral flavorings.
The tasty product of a partnership between former Herkimer brewer Nathan Uri and Verdant Tea
founder David Duckler, Prohibition is the region’s first homegrown kombucha. The company’s three kombucha flavors are available at about a dozen co-ops, coffee shops and farmers markets around the Twin Cities, including Mill City Farmers’ Market, Seward Co-op, Spyhouse and Kopplin’s Coffee.
Uri has bigger aspirations, though: He’s teaming up with Minneapolis-based Tree Fort Soda to build a larger kombucha brewery at a to-be-determined location in the Twin Cities. Eventually, Uri envisions a product line available at cafes, restaurants and grocery stores throughout the country, plus satellite breweries on the East and West Coasts to supply customers in other regions.
Prohibition Kombucha’s creations are healthy -- really healthy. “Depending on the quality of tea and type of yeasts and bacteria used, there can be varying levels of amino acids like L-theanine, healthy sour acids like malic and acetic acid, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients,” says Uri. “Our kombucha is also low in sugar and calories, slowing the glycemic load of a meal when consumed with food.”
According to Uri, all Prohibition Kombucha varieties have less than one gram of sugar per ounce and no more than 56 calories per pint.
Popular with the counterculture movement in the Southwest and West Coast, kombucha is novel concept in the Twin Cities. “Currently, the main reason people drink Kombucha is for the probiotic content,” explains Uri, “which can be as simple as one bacteria or as many as 20 beneficial yeasts and bacteria.”
The microbes ferment a mixture of tea, sugar and other natural ingredients, producing carbonation, crisp flavors and a trace, non-intoxicating amount of alcohol. A multi-organism fermenting base is called a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts, or SCOBY.
Kombucha doesn’t always taste great, though. Without naming names, Uri fingers “some other brands” that have a funky, sour, “sharkbite” flavor that’s too tangy to be pleasant. Prohibition uses high-quality black and oolong teas, plus carefully selected secondary ingredients, to achieve a “crisp, cider-like acid-sugar balance,” Uri says.
The fermenting process does produce trace amounts of alcohol -- less than 0.5% by volume. Though 0.5% isn’t intoxicating, Uri and Duckler are sensitive to sober customers’ concerns.
“We completely and unequivocally respect and support” those who avoid kombucha for any reason, says Uri. “That said, others in recovery enjoy our Kombucha without issue. It's a very personal choice and we want everyone to lead healthy and happy lives, so we label our product accordingly.”
In fact, Prohibition Kombucha probably wouldn’t exist if not for Uri’s temporary decision to quit drinking. In 2012, while living in Portland, he hankered for the sensory and aesthetic experience of a fine wine, great beer or perfect cocktail.” He tried his first “small batch craft” kombucha, loved it, and began brewing kombucha at home.
Soon realizing the importance of quality tea to quality kombucha -- many other kombucha producers use low-quality teas or “the bare minimum” of a higher-grade variety, he says -- Uri moved back to the Twin Cities and contacted Duckler, an old friend. Now, Uri exclusively uses Verdant Tea’s black and oolong teas in his kombuchas.
“Since [Duckler] sources the finest, freshest and highest quality Chinese teas available in the US, it’s a natural partnership,” he says. One that could soon bring a fermented, cocktail-quality and (almost) totally non-alcoholic beverage to your local coffee shop or grocery store shelf.