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Thursday, June 5,2014

Straightedge

The Rowdy Mermaid is craft-brew for teetotalers

By Josh Gross

When I announced plans to review The Rowdy Mermaid, Boulder’s new kombucha taproom, a co-worker swiftly warned me reading on the Internet that kombucha, a sparkling fermented tea drink with live yeast and bacteria cultures, can cause “fatal diarrhea,” to which another coworker immediately shouted out, “band name!” Having once tried kombucha in a botched dating attempt and living to tell the tale, I suspected that prognosis was from the Jenny McCarthy school of medicine, in which googling something once at 3 a.m. takes the place of a Ph.D. program. But the experience had left a fairly literal bitter taste in my mouth.

Not good.

Between that and an email from the owner asking how we could “work together,” (a phrase which does great insult to the principles we critics like to bluster about at parties in order to sound important to people who later feed us full of bitter kombucha), I was approaching the review out of sense of journalistic duty (which I could later bluster about at parties) more than enthusiasm.

How pleasant a surprise for The Rowdy Mermaid to be the polar opposite of my early experiments with kombucha at parties. More than bearable, it was downright pleasant.

The Rowdy Mermaid’s taproom is a bright, highceilinged space in a warehouse a few doors down from the J. Wells Brewery on 49th. Easily accessible by bike and with a friendly, welcoming feel, despite what the location seems like on the outside, it’s just the sort of place to take a break on a warm summer afternoon, and its wares, five varieties of kombucha and a small selection of sparkling teas, are a light, fruity delight, especially for the same sort of summer day.

The tap room offers 12-ounce pours for $4, or four-ounce samplers for $1.50. Flights are $6, and growlers and growler refills are sold in 32 and 64 ounce sizes.

The flagship brew, Living Ginger, has a pleasant spice to it and a hint of lemon — imagine a cold, sparkling and less sweet hot toddy.

The Deep Forest, brewed with vanilla bean and sarsaparilla, has a surprising root beer tang, but with a lighter, more flowery feel.

The Cherry Kom Pow went another direction: the mint and pennyroyal give it the same breathy heatbeating lightness as a mint julep, but with a hint of cherry.

And then there’s Morning Dew, a honeydew melon-based brew that fulfills the reputation as the money melon.

There are trace elements of alcohol (a fraction of a percent) and most of the brews are lightly caffeinated, but neither are present enough for any sort of buzz. Nor is it loaded down with sugar or whatever labmade frankensugar is hot this week. The overall result is a drink that’s as refreshing as a beer or a soda, but without the associated ill effects. Though, in their place, are a whole different set of issues, mostly centered around the somewhat nebulous effects of living bacteria on children, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women, people with immune deficiencies or other fragile health conditions, who are all advised to avoid kombucha outright, or sample one of the non-fermented tea blends. But those same live cultures are also alleged to have probiotic health benefits, scientifically unproven of course.

But putting the perceived risks or benefits aside, from a pure consumption standpoint, if you’re looking for a new summer haunt that won’t get you daydrunk, The Rowdy Mermaid may be just what Dr. McCarthy ordered.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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