Happy Leaf Kombucha Offers Denver an Alternative to Beer

Kombucha is coming atcha!

Happy Leaf Kombucha started six years ago because Jenni Lyons was tired of all the beer her boyfriend Mike Burns was home brewing.

“I was like, ‘can we put kombucha on tap at the house’?” she laughs.

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. Similar to beer, yeast and bacteria ferment the sugars in the tea until a new product is created, but it has little to no alcohol and is not regulated as such by the federal government. Kombucha, which has been around for centuries, is a natural probiotic and health conscious Denver is catching on to its benefits. It’s why Lyons began drinking it in the first place, however, store bought kombucha wasn’t always palatable.

"I’ve been drinking it for 15 years,” she says. “When I was younger I got really sick and had to take a bunch of antibiotics. Then I started doing probiotics and found kombucha. It helped me so quick. There was only one brand on the market and it was pretty bad. I thought I have to learn how to make this, because it’s helping me so much.”

Using her holistic health and cooking background and Burns’ home brewing skills, they began creating infused kombuchas using fruit and herbs. They were so good she and Burns began taking them to farmers’ markets where they sold out consistently. The couple first began fermenting kombucha large scale in a production facility in RiNo next to Great Divide Barrel Bar. When their building was sold, they moved into a larger facility in Lakewood near Sloan’s Lake and now sell cans and kegs of kombucha around Colorado. In fact some of the company’s bigger clients are Denver’s craft breweries who offer Happy Leaf on tap for customers interested in a non-alcoholic alternative.

So what’s kombucha like?

“For (plain) kombucha balance is important,” says Lyons. “It should be tart from the bacteria, but not vinegary and funky from yeast. Lyons and Burns infuse their kombucha with sweet and fruity flavors. Tastes that Lyons says create a balance with the tart. I sampled a flight of Happy Leaf flavors on tap in the company’s Edgewater tap room.

Cranberry Lavender is the company’s most popular and it is sold in cans around town. It has an intense pink color with a light fruit and lavender scent. The taste is smooth, full of red fruit and not tart at all.

Cinnamon is the flavor that Lyons says is closest to unflavored kombucha. She says it doesn’t take much cinnamon to get a smooth, yet tart taste with a hint of apple at the finish. The beverage is a cloudy golden color and is a great way to ease into kombuchas for those unfamiliar.

Hibiscus Lemon Ginger is a subtle pink color from the hibiscus with a floral herb scent. The taste has many layers to it with the lemon up front and hibiscus at the finish while the tart ginger makes its way all the way through.

Apple Rose is another great introductory flavor with a hazy yellow color and very little scent. The taste is a meld of apple and rose. You don’t get a strong sense of either, but also very smooth with no strong tart.

Happy Leaf has Cranberry Lavender, Hibiscus Lemon Ginger, Orange Basil, and Grapefruit Citra available in cans at Front Range Natural Grocers and Lucky's Markets, while more experimental flavors can be found on tap at the tap room. Currently on tap is a Chili Grapefruit kombucha made with habaneros. The scent of the chili is strong as you put the glass to your lips, however, the taste contains all the flavor of the chili without the burn. The drink tastes bright and fruity with hints of citrus, apple, and other fruits including the chili. It turned out to be my favorite flavor of the flight. 

The best way to dive into Happy Leaf Kombucha is to visit the tap room in Edgewater and have a flight. Then pick a growler or two to take home. The tap room used to have an organic kitchen café, however, it is currently undergoing renovation and will reopen in the future. You can also enjoy Happy Leaf at local Novo Coffee locations and local breweries like Black Shirt, Colorado Plus, and Mountain Toad. The tap room even has a Happy Hour from 3 to 6 PM Monday through Friday and all day on Thursdays. Enjoy $2 off growlers.

Happy Leaf Kombucha tap room is located at 5700 W. 25th Avenue in Edgewater. 

Photos via Carrie Dow

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