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In recent years the alcoholic beverage industry has exploded with innovations across a variety of categories. The rise of craft beer and the mainstream appeal of natural wine contributed to a more mindful approach of drinking. We’ve seen RTD cocktails skyrocket in popularity and hard seltzer has cemented itself as one of the leading alternatives to your standard can of beer. One alcoholic beverage steadily gaining momentum is hard kombucha.
You may have noticed cans of alcoholic kombucha pop up in your local bottle shop or bar. Just like the regular kombucha you can buy at the grocery store, hard kombucha starts life as a fermented tea. Filled with microorganisms beneficial to gut health, kombucha has maintained a place of honor as a healthy, flavorful beverage. And, as you likely know, the fermentation process results in trace amounts of alcohol. Enterprising brewers can then re-ferment kombucha with an alcohol-producing yeast and some extra sugar resulting in a boozy and naturally gluten-free alternative to beer, wine, and cider.
Hard kombucha is slowly picking up steam across the country. And for good reason. If you enjoy standard kombucha, you’ll find the same slightly tart, fruit-forward flavors in a hard kombucha. Plus, for those with gluten sensitivities, it can be an excellent alternative and still offer a bit of a buzz, similar to most light beers.
After having sampled my fair share of hard kombuchas, I can confidently say that Jiant stands head and shoulders above most. And yet there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it. The Los Angeles kombucha brand has been pushing the hard kombucha lifestyle for the past few years, expanding distribution throughout the country. Much like early craft breweries, the brand has had to educate its consumers on a relatively novel product. But Jiant’s focus on clean branding and a delicious, organic product means it’s poised to be a household name in the very near future.
Meet Jiant Hard Kombucha, a Modern Alcohol Brand
Jiant launched in Southern California in the summer of 2019. Founded by longtime friends Aaron Telch and Larry Haertel Jr., Jiant aimed to offer consumers a better-for-you alcoholic beverage that wasn’t just an alternative to beer or wine, but a distinct, quality drink all its own.
“When we started, we didn't see it as this alternative niche play,” Telch says. “[Hard kombucha] can really stand up and be a beverage of choice.”
Like many of the best craft brewery owners, Telch began homebrewing kombucha in 2017. While early results weren’t perfectly dialed in, he began to see the potential of a purposefully alcoholic version of kombucha. The tangy, zesty, fruit-forward flavors of kombucha are great on their own and in a social setting would make for a refreshing, unique alcoholic beverage.
“We always believed, from the beginning, that it's gotta be delicious and it's gotta deliver a unique experience,” shares Telch.
Moreover, Telch realized that, at the time, there weren’t many better-for-you beverages in the alcohol space, especially those that captured the creativity and excitement around the rising trend of craft beer. As it so happened, his friend of 20 years Haertel Jr., who was a fan of craft beer, discovered that he was allergic to gluten. So, Telch and Haertel Jr. pursued hard kombucha and ultimately launched Jiant with a focus on quality ingredients and a sense of genuine fun.
How Do You Make Hard Kombucha? Start with Quality Ingredients
Telch touts Jiant’s standards for high quality ingredients as one of the key elements of the brand’s success. You don’t need a perfect palate to tell that all-natural, organic fruits add a completely different flavor to a beverage. As the brand has evolved over the last few years, novelty flavors and unique creations have come and gone but the focus on sourcing the best possible fruits and tea for the brand’s kombucha has been a constant.
“The most important part about making a great hard kombucha, is making a great kombucha,” says Telch with a laugh.
But, it’s true. Jiant’s base kombucha is in fact a Jun Kombucha, a green tea rather than a black tea.
“Jun kombucha really provides that clean, crisp kind of tropical, floral, sessionable experience that we were going for,” explains Telch. “Hence the ‘J’ in Jiant.”
From this well-made base of kombucha, comes the addition of an alcohol-producing yeast and organic fruit to craft complex, delicious, alcoholic beverages that taste true to their fruit flavors.
Is This the Future of Alcohol?
Since launching in 2019, Jiant has expanded beyond its core lineup of hard kombuchas. The brand has experimented with limited edition and seasonal flavors like this summer’s Summer Snowcone, a nostalgic throwback to summertime sweet treats.
More recently, Jiant has created riffs on classic cocktails using hard kombucha as the canvas, most recently with the Mai Tai Hard Kombucha, brewed with coconut water, pineapple juice, orange juice, dark cherry juice, and cardamom.
The biggest change to Jiant has been the introduction of a second line of alcoholic beverages: Hard Teas. Sparkling, vibrant, and extremely refreshing, the recent lineup of hard teas features the same care and consideration that Jiant gives to its Hard Kombucha.
For Telch and Haertel Jr., the future looks bright. There’s plenty of room to grow in the category and folks have welcomed their experimentations. But there’s still work to be done introducing new drinkers to the concept of hard kombucha.
“It's still a long way to go,” Haertel Jr. says. “There's still not a ton of awareness around hard kombucha – or kombucha in general and what it is and why you might want to drink it. So the way we approached it is by sampling and trying to get as many people to try the product as possible.”
And, as far as Telch and Haertel Jr. are concerned, the growing movement towards health consciousness and general consumer consciousness is a positive. The more folks take an active interest in the quality of their products, the more they’ll seek out brands like Jiant who make that a priority.
5 More Reasons to Love Jiant Hard Kombucha
- The latest flavor development for Jiant has been crafting cocktail-inspired drinks and expanding its line of hard teas. Follow along on social media to stay up to date on the latest offerings.
- Interested in trying Jiant’s hard kombuchas and teas? You can find them in your area by checking here.
- Jiant’s most recent one-off flavor was Planet Pomegranate, a collaborative release with Vizer which released earlier in September for World Hunger Awareness month.
- While you can find Jiant in some of your favorite grocery stores, you might soon be able to get it right from the source. Founders Larry and Aaron haven’t ruled out the possibility of opening a brick and mortar Jiant taproom in the future.
- All of Jiant’s products are naturally gluten-free, have low sugar, and are made from organic, non-GMO ingredients.