The Culture Behind Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha
Scott Rowland • March 6, 2015 • Lifestyle •
The microbrewery has a new health-conscious cousin! Named after his high-energy, punk rock daughter’s poolside antics, Jamba Dunn founded Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha (RMK) in Boulder, CO amid the wake of an emerging industry. ∇
Kombucha, sometimes referred to as “booch,” is a fermented drink made from combining a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria with sugar and black or green tea. Originally from Japan, Kombucha got its name from Kombu, which is known in Japan as a type of seaweed that resembles the culture (commonly known as a “SCOBY”) which ferments in a batch of tea. So Kombucha is thought to mean “floating thing tea”.
Recently, the beverage has gained a reputation for being a practical and beneficial substitute for coffee, soda, tea and even beer. Increasing demand has turned this homemade rarity into a popular product at local markets, and hopefully soon, at most breweries.
When Dunn decided to share his appreciation for kombucha, he held little knowledge of the process, but that didn’t stop him from producing an exceptional product. He began an extensive refinement technique with Danielle Martin, an Ayurvedic herbalist, at his side. They decided to hone in on a desirable yet unique yeast culture and develop a low-sugar, low-acid recipe.
After months of iterations with recipe experimentation, equipment re-engineering and microbiology research, the beverage emerged.
The Rowdy Mermaid’s ‘booch utilizes beneficial ingredients such as organic herbs, cold-pressed fruit juice and Colorado snowmelt (naturally loaded with beneficial minerals) to enhance the complex flavor profiles. Flavorful ingredients like chaga mushrooms, sassafras and organic hyssop are incorporated into their recipes to achieve the deep, luscious flavors found in Cherry Kom Pow, Deep Forest and Living Ginger.
“We have a really active yeast culture because there are so many more minerals in our water (snowmelt)” says Dunn, “We brew in a certain way so that our kombucha isn’t full of acetic acid, so it doesn’t taste as sharp…. We also make a very dry kombucha. We try to use as little sugar as possible.”
Most bottled drinks on the market are pumped with ingredients that incur little to no physical benefits, usually just extending shelf life. Kombucha, however, has quite a different reputation. Commonly, it is noted to have a plethora of firsthand accounts revering positive effects like boosting immune system health, easing digestion and reducing stress. Unfortunately, no extensive testing has been conducted to determine the complete range of health benefits, so most claims are based on the healthy ingredients used to make the kombucha.
As a way to evoke the consumer’s herbal knowledge, you won’t find any outrageous testimonies on RMK’s label. Aware consumers will appreciate the source, while just about anyone else will feel revitalized and ready for the day.
At first visit, the Rowdy Mermaid appears like most other start-up breweries or wineries, with its limited space and close-knit team. The prominent difference: exceptional kombucha on tap and refreshing sparkling tea. The back half of their tap house is equipped with a custom-made stainless-steel tank, fermentation bins covered in bridal veil and a bottling line. Closer to the entrance is a bar with a rotating selection of five to seven flavors on tap, creating a welcoming environment for guests to enjoy their favorite flavors.
Even though the process of producing kombucha is similar to that of beer and wine, purchasing proper equipment was not an option. Dunn, unwilling to give up, took on the task of modifying standard brewing equipment for their production process.
There is nothing better than a good product backed by the positive intention that Dunn nurtures at RMK. His heart-warming attitude and unlimited compassion can be found flowing through the staff and into the product they serve. Even when the employees are busy, I find great conversation in the visiting patrons.
The Rowdy Mermaid is exactly the kind of small business you can expect from Boulder: changing the beverage culture one batch at a time. “Our kombucha is not sharp and it is not sweet: the two defining characteristics of mass market kombucha” says Dunn. “We decided to make kombucha for adults.”
Whether standing as its own entity or being served at a traditional brew house, it’s obvious: positivity spreads naturally when ‘booch is on tap. Hopefully the tenacity of this concept will be the catalyst for other microbreweries to serve kombucha on a regular basis and push RMK to its limits. ∞
The Rowdy Mermaid