27 Jun The Beer Drop: Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer
The husband-and-wife team behind Unity Vibration out of Ypsilanti, Michigan (pronounced Ip-Suh-Lan-Tee for all you non-Mitten-ers out there), first started brewing their own kombucha in 2007. Kombucha naturally produces a low ABV during its fermentation process, and once the Feds caught wind of its (very, very) slight booziness, began requiring producers to either tweak their recipes to lower the ABV or become full on breweries. Rather than compromising their craft to filter out the alcohol, Unity Vibration leaned into it – they became a microbrewery and began producing higher ABV offerings, pioneering what we enjoy today as kombucha beer.
But enough from me – I had the chance to connect with Unity Vibration co-founder Rachel Kanaan on all things kombucha, kombucha beer, and the path they took to bring a new category of beer to the masses – read on for the full Q&A!
Oh and PS – if you’re not about that gluten life and typically don’t drink beer, all of Unity Vibration’s offerings are naturally gluten-free!
Before we dive into the beer – for those hopheads reading who might not be familiar with kombucha (and even for those of us who drink it), can you explain what it is?
Kombucha is a sour tonic beverage made of sweetened tea cultured with a mother or SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Authentic Kombucha tea generally contains 1-2% alcohol, it has been brewed for thousands of years in this style. Origins are Asian and Russian. It has been called “the elixir of life.”
Why kombucha beer? How is this different from other kombucha?
Kombucha beer is an evolution of kombucha tea. We had to become a microbrewery to produce our tea (as it’s produced authentically done in a craft style producing about 1% ABV). We wanted to up the ante and go with the microbes that existed and get the ABV up with the addition of yeast. We love wild ales and lambics so this made perfect sense to us. We pioneered this style of beer in 2012.
Now it’s catching hold and we have a small footprint and name for ourselves as well as several others who are getting started with Kombucha Beer. This has now become a niche segment that is growing because of kombucha tea’s popularity.
Now that we’re all up to speed, tell us about Citra Blood Orange!
It’s made with Great Lakes grown citra hops, organic blood oranges, organic handmade kombucha tea, and champagne yeast, and is carbonated in the bottle. Sweet citrus explosion with subtle balanced bitterness. Best served in a tulip glass, tastes best between 50-55 degrees.
How about Bourbon Peach and Elder Wand?
Bourbon Peach is in the Top 25 in Draft Mag! Rich, Fruity sweet and sour. Best seller. Aged on oak, bourbon chips and fresh peaches in the secondary ferment. Label is my alter ego…
Elder Wand is slightly sweet, slightly bitter and hoppy, dark berry flavors and alcohol finish. We love Harry Potter! Omage…everyone wants to attain this magical instrument.
On Unity Vibration
How’d you first get into kombucha?
We were buying GT, Daves Kombucha and it was getting expensive so we decided to try out the SCOBY in my kitchen that I got from a friend prior.
What were you up to before? Did it have anything to do with kombucha or brewing?
I was an aromatherapist and massage therapist. You may not think this is applicable but it has helped me tremendously as I formulated and did custom blends and aromatherapy for every appointment and client. It is quite like flavor formulation!
How long has Unity Vibration been up and running?
Since 2010. It was a necessity turned hobby to cottage industry to production facility. With so many amazing things along the way…it chose us we didn’t choose it. The TTB Kombucha Crack Down propelled us to become a micro which seemed horrible at the time but really was the best thing we could have ever done! It was a struggle at times (4 kids)!
Where is the name from?
Unity – Oneness in everything. Inspiration of community and the world to bring us closer, while still each of us remains true to individual identity and talents. Vibration – We infuse each batch with positive intention and sacred sound vibration.
What’s the story behind your labels and branding?
We have several lines: Triple Goddess is a powerful feminine image – moon phases and the marriage of Fruit Hops and Kombucha. Then we have utilized our local artisans to create a character, image or archetype to resonate with our fans and type of K Beer. The Wizard, the MI. Biker Chic, Brewgyver, the knome in Silver Branch etc.
How do you come up with those names?
Historical research on ingredients and process, urban legands, Archetypes – many ways.
Tell us more about where you call home! How is Unity Vibration part of the community there?
We are in lovely Ypsilanti, MI. We are working to improve our corridor of the city and provide culture, healthy beverage and inspiration in our local neighborhood and community through our tasting room. We do several fundraisers per month for our local community. We are involved in the local First Fridays here in Ypsilanti as well. We provide kombucha education to our community – once a month class and you can always come by the brewery to get your own SCOBY.
What’s your favorite thing about the brewery?
My fav thing is innovating – the flavors and combinations of ingredients etc. and the future is so bright with our segment just getting some notice. Kombucha and Craft Beer, Gluten Free Beer as well. We want to get Unity out to the kombucha masses while still remaining true to our extreme craft nature.
How do you measure success there?
The happiness of our work culture, our fan feedback and of course success in the business $.
Hot Hop Takes
Something people might not know about Unity Vibration:
Our brewery was once in a bedroom of our Ypsi farm house…
Your wacky, coming of age brewery story:
Sort of whacky getting Top 25 in Draft Mag and not knowing what it was!!!
Biggest kombucha pet peeve:
Wow don’t get me started about kombucha tea authenticity because you’ll get an earful.
Describe the stereotypical kombucha drinker:
Yoga mom beer drinker, sour beer lover gone awry, hippies of all shapes and sizes.
Any producers you see as a measuring stick for what you’re trying to do:
We are the pioneers but have loved and been lucky enough to have Ron Jeffries of Jolly Pumpkin in our back yard. We also love GT Dave because he is the kombucha tea pioneer and segment leader and is honest enough to know the value in authentic K tea and has a classic line.
Pick a character from history to drink your kombucha beer with:
Wow – David Bowie. Does that count? Or better yet Anthony Bourdain…because they are both super sensible!! Or maybe Tesla???!
Thanks so much to Rachel for taking the time to drop some kombucha knowledge on us! Now that you’ve got the scoop on kombucha beer, order up some bottles today and let us know what you think!