Why does a brewed soft drink decide to licence?

Nothing has changed with our drink at all - it is the same as always.  The law in Victoria has made it hard to keep making our kefir naturally, without a license. This is the situation for all Kombucha,  Kefir, Kvass, Real Ginger Beer and other naturally fermented drinks. The choice was to change the way we make it - or get licensed. 

We’ve been brewing our gorgeous Water Kefir for a long time now.  First for a small group of friends and through word of mouth, and then out into the world for the last 5 years. You are probably aware that brewed drinks like Water kefir and Kombucha are acutally ‘Pét-Nat – Pétillant Naturel – meaning naturally fizzy – an amazing, magic and gorgeous aspect of the drink.

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We have always brewed our Water Kefir with the aim to have a beautiful natural fizz whilst keeping the residual and naturally occurring alcohol below the guidelines set out by FSANZ. (Food Safety Australia New Zealand, which states that any drinks under 1.15% remain under the threshold of ‘Soft drink’). This is our health authority. 

In Victoria (and Queensland) - the VCGLR (Victorian Commission for Gambling and Alcohol Regulation) – requires that all drinks above 0.5% but be labelled as such and therefore sold as an alcohol.  Making a delicious, probiotic rich drink under those guidlelines,  without changing the way the drink is made is impossible.  Processing it isn't evil  - but it won't be the same drink it says it is, nor what you'd expect it to be. 

Kombucha and Kefir ‘soda’ sold in stores like whole foods or organic shops and supermarkets in Vic./QLD process their drinks in a variety of ways. ( some by adding the flavour and sweetener (stevia and xylitol are common) or pasteurise the drink, (heating – not so good for the living bacteria etc.), some choose to just rely on manufactured probiotic powders - there are a number of other ways to alter it. Processes don't need to go on labels, just ingredients. As the natural carbonation (and with it the various probiotics) don’t occur when the ferment is altered this way – there is no natural fizz -( the magical and gorgeous of the drink). In place of natural fizz (Pét-Nat) the manufacturers then need to force carbonate the drink – similar to a large Soda stream. If you are unsure to how your current favourite brewer achieves such low alcohol  - ask them how they do it - and if they add carbonation. 

Organic doesn’t always mean natural, or uprocessed right? When we first had a consultant out to sell equipment and teach us how to get the alcohol down, the song that came to my head was “Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma”.   Dramatic, but whatever. We started this journey with gut health, learnt more about the food system and don't want to take something beautiful and change it to upscale. Several brewers in Victoria have closed shop due to regulations - Dr. Chan’s Feeling Good Tibicos,  Geneva from Kombuch-Aid, and also Audrey from “Extra Mile Kombucha”. We are left standing - and before money we have decided to stand by this beautiful and wonderful part of fermentation. Every industry has it's processing differences, and mostly the processes are added to be able to make give a product a longer shelf life, more stable, more of it - and cheaper and faster. It's not just the brewed soda industry that has problems. 

We have too many people loving and relying on our Kefir for how it makes them feel - we don't want to stop,  so instead we have become licensed. We think we are probably the first and only brewers in Australia to be licensed for Water Kefir - so we may need your help in spreading the word - it's a bit new to buy a licensed drink for health reasons, right? (Actually - no - it's how we have made water safe and made medicine out of herbs but more on that later). 

What does this mean for our stores?

If a store is licensed already – then not much – just a different fridge in a different area of the store perhaps. We will be changing the bottle to comply with naturally carbonated wine guidelines, adding the correct information on the label and that is it.  The flavour options might also become more exciting.

There is no Wine Equalization Tax – or tax at all on Water Kefir yet. 

If you are a store or love a store that isn't licensed why not apply to sell only brewed drinks like kombucha and kefir – easier to get than your normal alcohol license.  Please contact us directly to find a stockist near you or to buy through us directly -  contact roger@thefermentary.com.au