A local kombucha clan of kid-friendly home brewers are busy working their kitchen magic, conjuring another batch of fermented tea. Cloud Peak Cultures, founded by Britni Haar and Kandi Broersma, are at the forefront of the area’s burgeoning kombucha culture as Sheridan’s first commercial kombucha venture.
Their kombucha and fermented food products are available at farmers markets and on Facebook. In addition, Ridley’s Family Market and Luminous Brewhouse are pouring this effervescent drink, made by regional brewers on tap. Various bottled brand-name products are also available at Walmart, Albertsons and other local and natural foods stores.
Whether it’s nationally known KeVita or hometown Cloud Peak, the kombucha culture has come to the Cowboy State.
“We sell home-brewed kombucha,” Broersma said. “It’s really kind of a grand experiment.”
“Anyone can make it in their home. There are hundreds of flavors. Our kids love it,” said the Cloud Peak founders during a home bottling day.
“We make brewing a family-friendly event,” the owners added.
At a recent home brew in Broersma’s kitchen, mothers and kids worked pouring teas into glass bottles that boasted Cloud Peak summer flavors of blueberry pineapple, tropical fruit and a fragrant liquid sunshine of lavender lemon. The pair have confected fermented palettes of kombucha recipes featuring fruit, floral, sweet, spice, sour, hot and various other combinations. Besides the taste, kombucha is touted for its health benefits and as a good substitute for soda and other drinks.
“It tastes more yummy,” said Lucy Broersma, 8. “It’s good for you.”
Harr learned about kombucha on a trip to China in 2015. She then started brewing it, taught Broersma how to brew and the pair formed the business in 2017, followed by selling the product last summer at Sheridan Farmers Market and Landon’s Greenhouse, Nursery and Landscaping Farmers Market.
“The people who drink kombucha are people who are health-conscious, or some just drink it because they like it,” Harr said. “We probably sell to more women than men, but there is a fair share of men who purchase as well.”
For years, Ridley’s has sold nationally-brewed kombucha in bottles, but the store began offering it on tap four months ago brewed by Bare Culture Kombucha from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The store offers different flavors, such as Caribbean green, passion orange guava, strawberry blood orange, paradise ginger and others, said Samuel Burton, produce manager. Interest in the beverage is good and growing with most of the customers between 25 to 40 years old, said Burton, who drinks it daily and believes it helps him feel better.
“It’s really going good. It’s recommended you start off from one to two ounces a day,” Burton said. “The probiotic live culture cleans you out. You have to ease into it.”
Hannah Crum is the founder of Kombucha Kamp and president and co-founder of Kombucha Brewers International, a nonprofit trade association for commercial kombucha brewers that educates, lobbies and promotes industry and labeling ethics and standards worldwide. In a telephone interview from Los Angeles, Crum said kombucha is ancient fermented tea brewed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years all over the world. While some historians say it originated in China in 221, that might be mere legend. Kombucha is made by using sweet tea with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) added to the brew, which is left to ferment one or more times. With probiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins, organic acids, antioxidants and trace amounts of alcohol, it benefits digestion, increases energy and creates a clearer mind, Crum said.
Kombucha and kombucha-based products have been sold commercially in European apothecaries for at least 60 years. The first U.S. commercial brand that not only exists presently but is also the current market leader was GT Dave, established in 1995 with national and global brewers, distributors, consumers and market, Crum said.
The market’s national and global expansion and mainstreaming, despite a Whole Foods ban of kombucha in 2010, is evidenced by such acquisitions as a PepsiCo purchase of KeVita in 2016. There are now many outlets for kombucha in the traditional health food stores and supermarkets (including Whole Foods), discount warehouses, restaurants, bars, farmers markets and breweries.
Industry experts project that the U.S. kombucha market will more than double from $800 million to $2.2 billion by 2025, as well as globally increase from more than $1.2 billion to $5.25 billion in 2025. Crum said growth rates average between 30-75 percent per year depending on channel — with stronger growth in traditional grocery, convenience and big-box stores versus the natural channel where the category originated.
Despite its commercial growth, the kombucha industry is committed to honoring its home brewing, community roots heritage and integrity.
“This is the American dream,” said Crum, who authored “The Big Book of Kombucha.” “It’s a labor of love. Home brewers feel empowered to start a business and create jobs in the community… There is a feeling of giving to the community and getting paid back.”
Crum said the craft has always had a local focus, but it has also done several revolutions around the globe.
“Let’s bring it to Wyoming,” she said.
Here, Luminous Brewhouse has also been big in the local kombucha culture, serving it on tap from Lone Pine Kombucha of Rapid City, South Dakota, beginning in September 2018. Some flavors served are acai berry and concord grape. Luminous owners wanted to serve kombucha along with other beverages for nondrinkers as well as drinkers.
While it has a large 20- to 30-year-old clientele, Luminous is working to educate, promote and serve kombucha to all of Sheridan, taproom manager Kathryn Law said.
Whether brewed in the home or consumed with friends at the local brew pub, kombucha continues to make a mark on the craft culture of Sheridan, resting in the hands of young and older Sheridanites alike.