It’s no secret that kombucha has taken the beverage industry by storm. With a golden reputation as a purveyor of health, the fizzy fermented tea can be found at supermarkets and on tap at cafes.
The Chinese elixir boasts benefits for digestion, metabolism, liver function and immunity by colonizing the gut with healthy bacteria.
And now, it can even get you drunk.
Flying Embers, a California-based kombucha company, is upping the ante with its organic hard kombucha—and it’s hit Arizona.
“Flying Embers, at its most basic form, stands for ‘better-for-you alcohol,’” says Vice President of Flying Embers Kyle Ingram. “Our hard kombucha features two aspects—we’ve got the absence of things and the addition of things.
“The absence is zero sugar, zero carbs, low calories and non-GMO. But we also have the addition of things like live probiotics, adaptagens and other functional ingredients.”
Brewed with botanicals, Flying Embers offers six punch-packing flavors, ranging from pineapple chili to black cherry, with a minimum of 4.5% alcohol by volume.
Although some blends ring in at 7.2% alcohol by volume, giving most beers a run for their money, the tea’s initial health properties remain, Ingram explains.
“It’s still alcohol and it’s still dangerous if it’s not consumed responsibly,” he says.
“But I will say the live probiotics have a lot of positive benefits. Here we have the science and the art coming together as one to create what we think is a delicious-tasting beverage.”
Working in partnership with distributors like Crescent Crown Distributing and Columbia Distributing, Flying Embers is expanding its reach beyond its Reyes Southern California footprint.
The hard kombucha is now sold across 37 states, including Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas, New York, Philadelphia and New England.
Traditionally, kombucha is made by brewing together sugar; black or green tea; liquid from a previous batch; and SCOBY, which short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
The “tea of immortality” contains B vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics and is believed to have come from China more than 2,000 years ago, according to an excerpt from the Wiley Online Library.
Kombucha has evolved into a $475 million industry in the United States, claims American data and measurement firm Nielsen Holdings, nearly quadrupling in the previous four years.
Because the tea is already slightly alcoholic, the decision to create a hard product was just the next step in evolution, Ingram says.
“We were looking to expand and take on something new and different,” he tells. “Kombucha naturally is a fermented beverage, and so it was a pretty natural progression.
“Typically when making regular kombucha, you have to actively try to keep the alcohol content down because it will continue to ferment in the bottle.”
Flying Embers champions a line of unique flavors with powerful ingredients that are low calorie, certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gluten-free and vegan, with zero sugar and zero carbs.
The hand-crafted drinks, developed and launched by Fermented Sciences Inc., are brewed with live cultures, live probiotics and adaptogens and sell for about $2.50 per can.
The idea behind the company’s hard products, Ingram says, is to provide thought leadership in transforming the alcohol industry with “better-for-you” products.
A story of perseverance
Fermented Sciences was born in Ojai, California, in 2016 by a team of passionate entrepreneurs driven to do just that.
With the hopes of disrupting the industry through state-of-the-art botanical brews, former CEO of KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drinks Bill Moses spearheaded the movement in his 100-year-old stone cellar turned fermentation lab.
But Mother Nature had other plans.
In December 2017, the Thomas Fire ignited in Southern California, ravaging most of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
“It was the most devastating fire in terms of the number of homes that were comprised and acreage,” Ingram says. “There was a point in time where Moses’ property, home and everything he owned were at risk.”
Moses and his team refused to abandon their dreams, Ingram continues, and banded together with community members to fight the inferno.
Three days later, Flying Embers was conceived.
“It was about as close as it gets. You could see the fire coming over the ridge,” Ingram says. “All it had to do was make its way over the hill.”
With seconds to spare, a gust of wind pushed the fire into a different direction, Ingram recounts of Moses’ story, saving the lab and property.
Grateful and appreciative of nature’s powers, Moses was inspired to rename his operation based on the life-changing experience.
“He said he remembers seeing the flying embers floating throughout the sky,” Ingram says. “In that moment, it dawned on him that he was going to call the brand Flying Embers.”
Operating out of a brewery in Ventura, California, Flying Embers is committed to not only creating functional beverages that “illuminate and celebrate the experience of life,” says the company website, but also to give back to its community.
The organization donates 1% of its revenue to firefighters and first responder-charitable organizations as a nod to the sacrifice and service of first responders, the website continues.
“It has been fantastically received,” Ingram says about the success of the company. “We’ve developed the best of the best with our base kombucha. It’s so pure and delicious.”
Flying Embers in Arizona
In Arizona, Flying Embers is distributed across the state at local venues like Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market and Total Wine & More.
Tempe’s Bottleshop 48 recently hosted a sampling. Scores of current—and future—kombucha lovers filed into the beer and wine store to learn more about 2020’s hottest beverage trends.
“It’s all about meeting people, sampling Flying Embers and getting to know the brand while we get to know our community,” Flying Embers Health and Wellness Publicist Bree Sveinsson says. “We want to let people know about this great product that is offering ‘better-for-you’ alcohol.”
Attendees lounged on cozy couches while sipping on their choice of grapefruit thyme, a mix of grapefruit’s slightly tart sweetness coupled with a hint of the aromatic herb, or lemon orchard, a citrus-forward beverage featuring subtle undertones of lavender, mint and ginger.
All while buzzing guilt-free.
“Awareness days are really important in public relations,” Sveinsson says. “National Booch Day is all about kombucha and celebrating ‘better-for-you’ alcohol.
“It’s about having a healthier alternative that doesn’t make you feel that hard hangover when you wake up in the morning,” she adds.
Looking forward, Flying Embers is already brewing plans to tackle beer, hard seltzer and even spirits.
“We believe that the ‘better-for-you’ movement is not a trend but it’s really a cultural shift,” Ingram says. “People today—and not just millennials—are more conscious about what they’re putting in their bodies.”
Adding, “It doesn’t mean they don’t want to have a good time, but just that they want to be able to show up at work in the morning or be their best selves.”
Flying Embers, flyingembers.com.