Counter Culture kombucha
On a Smaller Footprints newsletter mission, I took a trip to a kombucha brewery called Counter Culture drinks, tucked away in the heart of Bedminster. This is their story.
Counter Culture has been in operation since January 2023, run by co-founders Tom and Harry. Harry told me how lucky he feels that they are in business at a time when both kombucha and the alcohol-free movement are growing in popularity in Bristol.
After a 4 month period free from drinking during lockdown, the pair were simply fed up with the lack of choice at bars, pubs and taprooms for those going sober. “A lot of alcohol-free beers are trying to be something they’re not”, Harry says, and for that reason, they simply won’t ever be as satisfying as beer itself. As two good friends with a keen taste for kombucha and an interest in brewing, Tom suggested they have a crack at making it themselves and subsequently, Counter Culture was born.
Yet the drinks these guys make are more than just an alternative, and if you’ve tried their popular flavours like Rhubarb and Hibiscus or Lemongrass and Ginger then I’m sure you’ll know.
Harry and Tom source organic tea and cane sugar for their kombucha. They ferment these ingredients together for about a month at 23.4 degrees celsius, with air continuously circulating through the mixture. This concoction is pumped through to a tank where flavourings and fruit concentrates are added, and although the latter is not yet organically sourced, it soon will be with their new distributor, Harry tells me. The drinks are refreshingly light, crisp and sparkling with a low acidity level.
According to the UK requirements, Counter Culture kombucha technically isn’t ‘low sugar’. However, with their drinks containing roughly 11 grams of sugar per 330ml can (2 teaspoons), this is dwarfed by the 35 grams in a 330ml can of coke. Tom wrote an article linked here highlighting various kombucha brands that appear to mistakenly claim their drinks fit the requirements for a ‘low sugar’ product, and this backs up how important transparency towards customers seems for the company. A satisfactory sobriety can be achieved without the unnecessary heaps of sugar.
Counter Culture is also 51% charity owned, with dividends being paid annually to organisations such as Alcohol Change and Billy Chip. Essentially, Harry tells me, the goal is to sell the business which will then release that money to the charities. Electricity metres are installed on their brewing equipment to help track their carbon emissions and they have also partnered with PlannetZero, an organisation that sells carbon credits to the company to fund projects fostering biodiversity.
Not only that, but Counter Culture drinks are sporting a gorgeous brand design, with stunning artwork from Bristol-based Marta Zubieta. The themes that run throughout are integral to the company, with catchy names such as “AI of the Storm” and “Against the Current”, commenting on the emergence of artificial intelligence and the global mass production and exportation of non recyclable material goods.
AI of the Storm instagram post: Is disaster around the corner or is it already here? Do we find ourselves in the calm before the storm, or are we already in an undetectable eye with all that we know being whipped up around us? Will it pass largely unnoticed, or will there be permanent change?
Counter Culture is growing at an exciting time, and Harry thinks that more and more people are turning to kombucha products like their own. Looking forward, the pair have recently bought a Tuk Tuk van. They want to jazz it up with their artwork design in vibrant pink fashion, whack a bar on the back, and set off on road trips to spread the word about Bristol’s freshest new alcohol-free alternative.