January 17, 2014

Happy Leaf: A Different Kind of Brewery

Mention the word “brewery” and almost everyone, especially us Denverites, think of a big copper kettle, a bearded brewer, and sacks of hops and malts waiting to be turned into beer. However, when talking about Denver’s newest brewery, Happy Leaf, you’d be dead wrong. Instead of beer, the folks at Happy Leaf are brewing a fermented tea known as kombucha.

For those unfamiliar, kombucha is a lightly effervescent, sweet, yet tangy tea which is often served chilled. It is made by taking a sweetened tea (any tea works), adding a specialized mixture of bacteria and yeast, and allowing it ferment. It’s really not a whole lot different than beer, except that instead of the sugars coming from malted barley, they come from a source such as cane sugar or fruit juice. As it undergoes fermentation, alcohol is produced (again, just like beer). However, a unique bacteria then transforms the majority of the alcohol into acetic acid, the same tangy compound found in vinegar (not like beer).

Along with the acetic acid, a smidge of alcohol (typically below 0.5% ABV), and tea created during the fermentation process, all sorts of other enzymes, amino acids, phenols, and other organic acids are produced. Many believe that these compounds provide a variety of health benefits, ranging from hangover prevention to helping to cure cancer. Thus far, there has been no scientific research to substantiate such claims, but people the world over have experienced enough benefits for themselves to become believers.

In fact, this is how the owners of Happy Leaf, Jenny Lyons and Mike Burns, first got their start making kombucha. After Lyons was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, she decided to eschew chemo and pursue a homeopathic path instead; one that included drinking a significant amount of kombucha. Five years later, her cancer is in full remission; a fact that’s baffled her doctors and something she credits fully to this “magical” fermented tea.

After years of home brewing the tea, the couple decided to take their hobby to the next level and began selling it at farmer’s markets across the Front Range. Often made with fresh, local fruits and unusual flavors, the kombucha was instantly popular during the hot summer months.

This success enabled them to begin looking at expanding their operation to a permanent facility. So when a spot opened up in the red hot RiNo neighborhood, they jumped at the chance. Located on Brighton Boulevard, just a few short blocks from the trendy Source Marketplace, the locale should make for an easy stopover for those doing their gourmet shopping in the neighborhood.

Happy Leaf is highly industrial, with stark walls and high exposed ceilings. A comfortable bar of beetle kill pine (made by the couple) adds warmth and a smattering of pieces from local artists makes for enjoyable viewing.

While you can enjoy their kombucha on site, feel free to order a bottle to go. Lyons and Burns plan to offer five teas at any time, though high demand already has some selling out early. Their “regulars” are Pura Vida (coconut, ginger, lime) and Longevity (lemon, hibiscus, ginger), but look for a variety of unique, seasonal offerings to be on tap as well. Thus far, flavors like strawberry-basil and even a Simcoe dry-hopped version have been available.

Whether it’s for health-related interest, or just culinary curiosity, kombucha is well worth a try. Not only are they serving up a quality product at Happy Leaf, but their use of local ingredients helps you to feel good about spending your hard-earned cash. Next time you find yourself in the RiNo neighborhood be sure to stop in and try out this funky tea.

Kombucha Brewery Happy Leaf's Owners

Mike Burns and Jenny Lyons Happy Leaf’s Owners

Happy Leaf Kombucha

Happy Leaf Kombucha

Share Button

Posted by in Uncategorized and tagged as , , , ,