Probiotics. These good-for-your-gut bacteria have been in the news a lot lately as scientists search for the answer to a healthy
human biome. The good news in Santa Fe is, thanks to two breweries, you can now have your probiotics for happy hour.
Leaf & Hive is all about jun, or what it calls "Honeybrew," an obscure and
distant cousin of kombucha. Basically, it's an effervescent fermented drink made of honey and green tea, whereas kombucha is made of black tea and cane sugar. Jun is purported to be a health tonic, ripe in probiotic content, that also serves up a higher buzz.
As Leaf & Hive's website puts it, "When you put something into your body, you're making a decision to
take on the energetic attributes of
whatever you're consuming. We believe that a little intention goes a long way in shifting the vibe of food and drink. So, we infuse 'Love, Compassion, Gratitude and Forgiveness' and the finest organic, sustainably sourced herbs and botanicals into Honeybrew."
I had to find out what these people were smoking. Or, perhaps, drinking.
Leaf & Hive Brew Lab (1208
Mercantile Road, Ste. A, 699-3055) sits within a very non-zen industrial park surrounded by a maze of sign
companies and auto shops. Counter to the compassionate hive-speak of the website, no one seemed interested in sharing the magic of jun with us. Despite there being only one other customer, we had to get up from our table to order at the bar. When asked how everything worked (I assumed perhaps there was a tasting flight) the guy at the bar pointed behind him and said, "That's the menu." Uh, OK. The menu, projected onto a wall, featured three Honeybrews—original, flower and
ginger—as well as 14 local beers.
Two of us ordered a drink each. The third in our party, who arrived a few minutes after we ordered, was never
acknowledged at all, so she didn't order anything. She's a stickler for service.
She didn't miss much. The ginger honeybrew ($7), billed as "a spicy and herbaceous effervescent experience," tasted like a lightly carbonated sweet tea with ginger. The flower honeybrew ($7), a "sweetly floral effervescent experience" was, indeed, sweet. My drinking buddy proclaimed it "smells like the
lotion I have at home." More prominent than with the ginger was the slightly mothball-y, for lack of a better word, taste more common to mead. We may have tried the original, but just weren't getting the feels and wanted to move on. An added kicker, when my receipt later came through email, the amount of tip had somehow gone from 20% to 35%. I had to get in touch with Leaf & Hive to correct that, and they did refund the entire tip, but … talk about crushing the vibe.
The energy at Honeymoon Brewing had a much different buzz. It was packed with people, dogs and kids. As we found seats in the gleaming white space,
we were welcomed by Julie, aka
"Buchamama," the mother of co-founder and CEO Ayla Bystrom-Williams. Holding a smiling baby, she cheerfully talked up the business, pointing out that Honeymoon's Camellia Flor had just been named one of the country's most
"buzzworthy brews" by Sunset Magazine.
Buzzworthy, for sure. Honeymoon Brewery (Solana Center, 907 W
Alameda St., 303-3139), the first producer of artisanal alcoholic kombucha in the Southwest, approaches its craft with a strong business acumen which has impressed some pretty heavy
hitters. In 2018, Honeymoon was awarded seed capital by Los Alamos National
Laboratory's Venture Acceleration Fund (which invests in early-stage companies to create jobs in Northern New Mexico) and in 2016, won $200,000 in Miller
Lite's Tap the Future Business Plan Competition.
There is little flowery marketing-speak around Honeymoon's product, just straightforward explanation of the product: "A sessionable gluten-free beverage that's tart, delicious and full of kombucha's probiotic goodness," says the website. "We want to offer something special to all of the underserved markets: gluten-sensitive drinkers, low-ABV drinkers, kombucha fans, sour beer aficionados, and anyone just looking for a refreshing twist on their night out."
Honeymoon usually boasts six kombucha brews on tap, but there were only three when we visited, as well as a
kombucha "cocktail," a selection of locally-made beers and wines by Albuquerque's Sheehan Winery. An interesting twist on getting buzzed, a shot of CBD can be added to any drink for $4. Cans and growlers are also available to go.
I ordered a tasting flight ($12) of Camellia Blanco, Camellia Flor and Cereza Negra. I am a fan of kombucha because it tends to be tart, allowing the flavors to shine through verses being overrun by sweetness. The Blanco, made with black and green teas, jasmine flowers and fresh ginger, was crisp and refreshing. The Flor, brewed with hibiscus, was ideally sour and a lovely ruby color. The Cereza Negra highlighted the rich, tart fruit without a hint of the sugar usually associated with black cherry. Overall, it was really well-brewed kombucha, the alcohol almost impossible to discern.
I'll be back to Honeymoon Brewing; this hive had just the right vibe.