Kvass Is the Low-Sugar Fermented Beverage You’ve Been Looking For

Ryan Johnston (Courtesy of Biotic Ferments)

The shelves of Whole Foods and Mollie Stone’s are stocked with lots of wild and wonderful kombucha brands that require fermentation to make. Fermentation is what helped our ancestors survive, keeping their gut microbiomes in tip-top shape. But according to some experts, kombucha also has one ingredient that can mess with our gut and blood glucose: refined sugar.

“There’s a moment in the process where you brew this big batch of tea and then you’re pouring in heaping cupfuls of refined sugar,” says Ryan Johnston, co-founder and CEO of Biotic Ferments. “And so my brother was like, ‘what other fermented beverages exist? It can’t just be kombucha, right?’ And he found kvass.”

Kvass is a fermented drink dating back centuries and traditionally was made from beets or bread. But here’s the kicker: there is not a single granule of added sugar.

This discovery came to light when West Sonoma natives Ryan and his brother Adam were in the beginning stages of launching Biotic Ferments. While each was pursuing environmental studies in college, the two brothers started experimenting with making various fermented beverages, including kvass, for family and friends. After selling their concoctions at local farmers markets to a growing loyal customer base, the brothers knew they had something special.

Biotic Ferments has one beet-based kvass, but twisting on the traditional, most of the fermented drinks are made from organic carrots. Unlike the sweet, vinegar-forward flavor of kombucha, kvass has a light, crisp, clean taste and is full of all three biotics: pre- (fuels beneficial bacteria), pro- (live bacteria), and post- (beneficial metabolites). All the good stuff, none of the bad.

The mascot of the Biotic Ferments brand is the California brown pelican. This bird nearly went extinct due to the toxins in its food supply: pelicans consumed a lot of DDT that humans sprayed to kill mosquitoes. After use of that lethal substance was discontinued, the birds are now thriving — it’s a comeback story for the ages.

“I think that’s a really inspiring story about life … humans, cells, they want to be healthy. They want to thrive,” Ryan says.

With a strong sustainability focus, Biotic Ferments uses 100 percent renewable energy at the “fermentory” and water that is carbon neutral. Eighty-five percent of the ingredients are grown in California and “they’re either from farms that are practicing regenerative agriculture or from upcycled sources that reduce food waste. We’re different from the root up,” Ryan says about their business, which is now a certified B Corporation.

“It’s basically a multidisciplinary download on the biggest challenges facing the planet. If we don’t solve those, forget about your health,” Ryan says. “If we’re undermining the stability of the climate all bets are off, right?”