A few years ago, I gave up drinking alcohol. I didn’t want to cut down – I was one of those people that found it hard to settle for one drink when there was so much more to be had – so I knew I had to stop entirely. It wasn’t easy, but neither was it all that unusual.

Recent surveys and headlines tend to highlight the fact that around 30% of the Millennial age group are now teetotal. That’s an extraordinary number, when you stop and think about it. When I was in my 20s, drinking was what we did well! Even more amazingly, YouGov data shows that the other age groups are now becoming “sober curious“, and if they’re not entirely teetotal they’re making a conscious effort to drink less. In a study for Piper PE Consumer Research, close to 40% of diners said that “drinking less alcohol” was a conscious consideration during their night out, and around 25% of them said they were actively ordering more non-alcoholic drinks. In fact, the reports point to the fact that more people would lower their alcohol consumption if they had access to a better selection of non-alcoholic drinks.

That’s the experience I certainly had when I gave up. Thinking I was making a healthy decision in terms of quitting alcohol, I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. “Full fat” soft drinks are effectively sugar water. Some brands of ginger ale are known to have as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar per bottle. Can you imagine sitting and spooning that amount of sugar into your mouth? You wouldn’t do it. The stats even point to this fact: according to the FSA, 62% of adults now check the sugar content on supermarket packaging. We’ve become incredibly conscious consumers in the UK in recent years.

So what does all this have to do with Whitchurch?

About three years ago, a friend of mine began brewing a drink called kombucha. A non-drinker himself, David Begg presented it to me as an alternative to alcohol, and he asked me if I wanted to help him. Having seen the bleak landscape of sugary soft drinks first hand, I jumped at the chance.

Kombucha is very simply a fermented drink made from tea. Before you screw up your nose at the idea, it’s worth remembering that we eat far more fermented foods than we ever stop to think about. Fermented grapes? We call that wine. Fermented milk? Could be yoghurt; could be cheese. You’re probably drinking fermenting malt when you order a beer in The White Hart or Kings Arms. Sourdough is readily available in the Co-Op. We tend to like fermented foods after all.

In the case of kombucha, we ferment really fine, loose-leaf teas rather than grapes. The drink is naturally non-alcoholic (it contains about the same amount of alcohol as a ripe banana) and extremely low in sugar and calories. It’s really that simple.

Unlike other kombuchas I had tasted, David was brewing something unflavoured that bore striking similarities to some of the drinks I used to drink on a typical night out. There was Royal Flush, a non-alcoholic alternative to Prosecco or champagne, his Dry Dragon kombucha tasted a lot like a non-alcoholic wine – specifically a Sauvignon blanc, and Smoke House tasted for all the world like a non-alcoholic scrumpy cider. The difference in flavour comes from the types of teas he fermented with in the first place. This gives it a really pure, clean taste, rather than the funky, cloying effect you’ll get with most flavoured kombuchas.

He set up a brewery and I began working alongside him as a co-founder, bringing home the ‘booch’ to Whitchurch to test it out on friends. We began selling it at the Whitchurch Folk Club, where Royal Flush (or non-alcoholic Prosecco) is a popular item on the menu.

More importantly, I introduced the drinks to Rob and Jenny at Kudos and they became one of the first crop of stockists for Real Kombucha in the UK. They still sell Dry Dragon and Royal Flush two years on, although the business has grown a little since then. We’re now stocked in around 50 Michelin-starred restaurants and hundreds of pubs, bars and hotels across the UK and Europe. Tom Kerridge stocks us. Heston Blumenthal stocks us. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is known to be a fan. Mark Hix says it’s his go-to when he’s not drinking.

Just to add to the hyper-locality of it all, Harroway Organic Farm has even been our photo-shoot location! Here’s Tom modelling the drink…

I don’t want this article to be a pure puff piece. I just thought it might be nice to share a bit of positive news on something that has local connections. And I wanted local people who may be looking for an alternative to alcohol to know that someone else has had a similar experience and done something about it. The festive season is approaching and non-alcoholic Christmas drinks have always been hard to come by. If you’re looking for a change, pop down to Kudos and give it a try.

If you want to know more about what we’re doing, feel free to drop me a line or to try us online. A mixed case is a great way to start. It might just change the way you drink.