Edmonton’s first kombucha brewers bring some ‘culture’ to Edmonton
Brian MacLean, Byron Hradoway, and Jenn Darling have been friends for awhile. As roommates, they’ve also been home-brewing their own kombucha for awhile. Last May, the three Edmontonians decided to bring their Boocha to the people and go commercial.
“A lot of it was just based on old techniques we learned making beer at home,” Hradoway says. “Beer and kombucha are actually really similar in terms of the process, the only difference is it’s not grain, it’s teas.”
With contacts in Edmonton’s music community, they teamed up with The Starlite Room and began brewing in the kitchen of the beloved live music venue. It’s not the most expected of places to brew, but it’s actually been a great way to spread the word about their Boocha.
“A bunch of bands, when they come through, they hear about what we’re doing and they come down and want to try it. They get really excited about it,” MacLean says. “We’re all heavily into the music scene and we’ve already had some of our favourite bands come through and try it and that’s something you could never pay for.”
A thousands-of-years-old cultured tea beverage, kombucha boasts similar good-for-your-gut probiotics to yoghurt in a fizzy, low-sugar format. It’s made with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast—‘SCOBY’ for short—which metabolizes sugar and caffeine to give an end result, in the Boocha team’s case, of 8 grams of sugar and 25 milligrams of caffeine (about equal to a cup of tea) in one 207 milliliter bottle of Boocha. They currently have four flavours: peach, snozzberry, cherry, and lavender, but also periodically offer seasonal flavours throughout the year.
The Boocha team also does all of their own branding and marketing with Hradoway and Darling bringing a background in graphic and web design. MacLean brings a background in bartending and management, which is how they set up a cocktail shindig they’re planning with Yellowhead Brewery on March 23.
At the end of January, the Boocha team launched an Alberta-wide crowdfunding campaign through the “ATB BoostR” platform to raise their goal of $10,000; with increasingly high demand, the Boocha brewers need to expand their brewing capacity and modernize bottling techniques. Since they started brewing and boasting Boocha, they’ve been hand-mixing, hand-capping and hand-labelling each bottle made, which adds up to noodle arms.
“We really liked the idea of building a community and keeping everything local, ” Hradoway says. “The way we see it is why would someone outside of Edmonton really support our crowdfunding if they can’t really get our product?”
The campaign, which works the same as Indigogo or GoFundMe, has some great perks for backers willing to punch in anywhere from $10 (Boocha bottle opener) to $2,500 (Boocha for life). If you don’t just want a bottle opener, but you don’t have the assets to get Boocha for life, they offer four-packs, cases, and growlers of Boocha at various monetary increments. You can find the link to the campaign, which ends March 14, on their website: boocha.ca.
“Ultimately, the goal is to have it on tap around the city everywhere from cafés to bars,” Hradoway says.
You can also find the Boocha brewers at City Market Downtown, where they sell their Boocha by the bottle ($5.50) and in taster packs of four ($20) and a few cafés around the city, including Under the High Wheel on Whyte Avenue.
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