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The craft beer revolution has led to some great things in the world of brewing, and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company had a lot to do with that.
Now the brand is turning their sights to another market that’s ready to explode: hard kombucha.
With Strainge Beast, Sierra Nevada are trying their hand at the tricky world of fermenting. Hoping to capture that spark that makes Sierra Nevada brews just so good, Strainge Beast could be the drink that brings hard kombucha to the mainstream.
Adorned with a series of prickly looking plant characters, you might expect Strainge Beast to be a drink with an attitude. Instead, you’ll be surprised to find a refreshing and playful kombucha, that’s easy to sip on, and easy to fall in love with.
The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a brand that knows how to capture a moment.
Their handcrafted pale ale managed to bring hops back, and helped spark the craft beer revolution. So, what are they doing with Strainge Beast?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that’s gone from sitting in abandoned fridges in health stores straight to grocery store shelves in just a few years.
Tangy and unusual, it’s a healthy take on the standard soft drink. Hard kombucha has all these fantastic properties, with an upped alcohol content thanks to a second fermentation.
Strainge Beast by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is hard kombucha with attitude.
Made using an exclusive SCOBY culture, Strainge Beast is hoping to become the new drink of choice for craft beer enthusiasts looking for a healthy alternative.
What Exactly Is An Exclusive SCOBY Culture?
If you haven’t immersed yourself in the world of kombucha, then an exclusive SCOBY culture probably sounds like something you expect to find in a Petri dish.
But a SCOBY — Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast — is the ingredient that kick-starts the fermentation process of kombucha. And Strainge Beast has its very own.
Basically, Strainge Beast uses their own unique culture to ferment their tea into kombucha. Does it make any difference to the flavor?
It should, in the same way that different sourdough starters result in different sourdough breads. ‘Booch enthusiasts should be able to taste the unique tang the SCOBY lends the tea.
Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha is available in a variety of fruity and punchy flavors.
There are four core flavors, which are available year round and should be fairly easy for you to get your hands on. Strainge Beast have also released seasonal flavors from time to time, but they tend to be a tricky beast to find.
Kombucha is never going to be a particularly sweet drink, but the tart lemon of the Strainge Beast Ginger, Lemon, and Hibiscus might take you by surprise.
But look past the initial sharpness, and you have a zingy blend of flavors that play on the natural punch of kombucha.
The ginger provides a fiery warmth that zips through the sourness, while the floral hibiscus rounds off the flavor nicely. It’s sophisticated and layered, easy to sip if perhaps a bit too tart to chug.
The easy balance finishes clean, and leaves you feeling refreshed. At 7% ABV, it packs a kick that can come as a surprise.
Beer lovers looking to make a switch should find Strainge Beast Passion Fruit, Hops, and Blood Orange a good starter choice. The hops give it that slight ale flavoring to aid the transition, while the flavors are light, tangy, and understandable.
Blood Orange provides a bitterness that pervades the flavor, while the passion fruit comes through late to give some balance.
It’s definitely a drink that can be enjoyed in place of beer at a barbecue, or on a hot summer afternoon.
The 7% ABV is less surprising thanks to the hoppy undertone, which reminds you that this is an alcoholic drink. Beer drinkers looking to cut down their gluten intake should absolutely give this hard kombucha a go.
Slightly more savory than you might be expecting, and with a tartness that creates an interesting contrast, Blueberry, Açaí, and Sweet Basil might be a divisive option.
But for kombucha fans without a sweet tooth, this is a real winner. The açai provides the bulk of the flavoring, with the blueberry acting as a rounding off to the finish.
But it is the blueberry that lingers, along with the tartness you expect from kombucha.
Sweet basil provides a herb depth, although the basil aroma is more present than any sweetness.
Another 7% ABV, there’s definitely something intriguing about this hard kombucha. It may not grab you instantly, but the strange play of flavors grows on you throughout the can.
The core of the Strainge Beast reduced calorie range, Watermelon, Sea Salt, Lime, and Mint sounds like a classic refresher mix. The flavors are good, but they do lack some of the bite you might be expecting.
Strainge Beast pride themselves on using real ingredients, and the watermelon has perhaps a little too much of it’s initial water flavor.
Lime and mint brighten things up a bit, while the sea salt brings a fun twist to the finish. This is part of the Strainge Beast lighter range — only 100 calories per can, and 4% ABV.
It does taste like a healthier option, lacking the sweetness and lingering finish of a really good cocktail. Still, the mixture is enjoyable enough, and the lightness feels refreshing in the sunshine.
Strainge Beast is priced in a similar range to craft beers, with a can costing you around $5. Multipacks knock down the price a bit, but it still isn’t a bargain drink.
Fans of kombucha won’t find this a surprise, but if you’re looking for a replacement to your normal 6-pack, be prepared for a price jump.
Overall, the cost isn’t bad, and you’ll struggle to find a hard kombucha that’s much cheaper. The standard Strainge Beast range is 7% ABV and a 16oz can, so you’re getting a decent drink for your money.
The 100 calorie range is similarly priced for a lower ABV and a smaller can, which is a bit of a disappointment.
If you’re looking for a replacement for craft beer, or you want to feed your ‘booch habit into the evenings, Strainge Beast is good value.
The flavors are unusual, the ABV is surprisingly high, and you still get that classic kombucha tang.
How To Drink Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha
If there was one thing that was clear during testing, it’s that Strainge Beast needs to be enjoyed cold.
For a start, they need to be kept cold to avoid throwing off the fermentation. But we recommend keeping the cans well chilled, and serving with a scoop of ice.
The chill helps to soften the tang of kombucha, and really leans into the summer time feel of these fruity drinks.
You want to drink hard kombucha in the afternoon warmth, or while watching the sunset. It also pairs well with a bar atmosphere — you can easily imagine cracking open a Strainge Beast at a party.
If you fancy some experimentation, Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha can be used to make cocktails.
But before you begin pouring in your mixtures and spirits, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the kombucha itself. The flavor can take you by surprise, especially if you’ve never tried kombucha at all.
Should You Try Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha?
First things first — if you don’t like kombucha, you won’t like hard kombucha. ‘Booch can be a divisive drink, with not everyone falling for it’s strange charms.
Hard kombucha is much the same. If you’ve yet to fall for the kombucha craze, give Strainge Beast a miss.
But if you do like kombucha, Strainge Beast is a hard kombucha with much to offer. The flavors are fun, and surprisingly sophisticated.
During testing, we found the Ginger, Lemon, and Hibiscus to be the biggest crowd pleaser. There’s tang from the lemon, heat from the ginger, and the floral finish is light and sweet. Enjoy with a burger, a sunset, and a group of friends.
For those trying to make the switch from beer, Strainge Beast Passion Fruit, Hops, and Blood Orange should satisfy.
A low sugar and carb content makes it a healthier option, alongside that gut-friendly fermentation.
Blueberry, Açaí, and Sweet Basil proved to be a little more divisive, but the savory notes will make it a favorite for many. Try the Watermelon and Sea Salt if you fancy something light.
Strainge Beast perhaps has some work to do if they want to make hard kombucha as ubiquitous as hard seltzer. The flavors are still too confusing to reach a real wide market, and that kombucha tang doesn’t sit quietly alongside the other tastes.
But this is a good start, and sure to win over some who’ve yet to recognize the delights of kombucha.