In celebration of the first-ever World Kombucha Day, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has announced the upcoming release of Strainge Beast: an unpasteurized, USDA Certified Organic hard kombucha. Strainge Beast is a creation of Chico Fermentation Project, a newly formed innovation offshoot of Sierra Nevada.
The first flavor released to the wild will be Ginger, Lemon & Hibiscus: a tart, bubbling, and vivacious pink kombucha with 7.0% ABV and live cultures. Two additional flavors — Blueberry, Acai & Sweet Basil and Passion Fruit, Hops & Blood Orange — will follow shortly thereafter. Strainge Beast will debut on draft in select markets starting in March and will be released nationwide in cans in all three flavors later this year.
“I love it,” said Sierra Nevada Founder and President Ken Grossman. “I’ve been drinking kombucha for some time, and the team has done a fantastic job of coming up with really nice flavor and balance.” His thoughts on creating the company’s first non-beer beverage? “As long as the product has providence and soul, I’m good with it. Like beer, kombucha allows you to become an alchemist, morphing natural, raw ingredients into something amazing to drink.”
Ginger, Lemon & Hibiscus combines a blend of organic black and green tea with organic lemon, ginger and hibiscus.
“The tea flavor comes through, as does a nice clean acidity,” said Sean Lavery, Director of Technical Brewing and Innovation for Sierra Nevada and Chico Fermentation Project. “The lemon adds a refreshing burst of citrus, the ginger is bright with some heat, and the hibiscus lends a floral flavor and a brilliant magenta color.”
Lavery and the team worked with Oregon State University to develop a completely unique SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast) from the ground up, sourcing yeasts and ingredients from around the globe.
“We researched hundreds of cultures and brewed more than 50 batches to get the flavor just right,” explained Lavery. The challenges of creating the perfect hard kombucha even showed up in the product name. “It really was a strainge beast to brew. But in the end, the team was so excited and absolutely rose to the occasion.”
Initial Strainge Beast launch markets will include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and Santa Cruz in California; Portland, OR; Phoenix, AZ; Asheville and Raleigh in North Carolina; Knoxville, TN; and Tampa, FL. More cities will follow in May, followed by a nationwide can release in August.
Other Sierra Nevada Products and Growth
In a memo to wholesalers last month, chief commercial officer Joe Whitney wrote that Strainge Beast is not the only product the company offers outside of the Sierra Nevada brand.
“2020 will also mark the first time in our history where our portfolio will move beyond producing only Sierra Nevada craft beers and enter the mindful drinking space with our national rollout of Sufferfest Brewing Company and Chico Fermentation Project’s Strainge Beast hard kombucha brands,” he wrote.
The company made its first-ever acquisition of Sufferfest Beer Company, a fitness-focused company with functional beers, in February 2019.
Other new offerings under the Sierra Nevada brand include 40th Hoppy Anniversary Ale, which the company brewed to commemorate its fortieth year and serves as 2020’s spring seasonal; Fantastic Haze IPA, which checks in at 9% ABV and has “more tropical flavor” than the company’s Hazy Little Thing IPA; and Wild Little Thing, a “slightly sour ale.”
Also in 2020, Sierra Nevada will launch its first-ever national media campaign with ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Roku, Apple TV and Sling and paid partnerships with Outside magazine, Thrillist and extreme sports media company Teton Gravity Research.
To support the campaign, Sierra Nevada is asking wholesalers to contribute an optional $0.10 per case equivalent.
“We view this increase in distributor support essential to success in today’s hyper-competitive beer business and hope you see the importance of positioning our portfolio for growth in the future,” Whitney wrote.
In 2018, Sierra Nevada was the third-largest craft brewing company, according to trade group the Brewers Association. The company’s volume increased 2% that year, to 1,078,908 barrels.
In 2019, Sierra Nevada’s portfolio-wide dollar sales grew 4.2% in off-premise scan data, according to market research firm IRI. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale remained challenged, declining 6.2% in dollar sales to $101.4 million.
About Chico Fermentation Project
Chico Fermentation Project is an offshoot of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and is rooted in a lifelong love of fermentation — its art, its madness, its taste. Here our brewers, with their wild imaginations, chase ideas and take on beastly challenges. The thrill of creating, of taming unruly science, defines our history of craft brewing excellence. Learn more at straingebeast.com and @straingebeast.