Empress Brew: Nourish your senses with refreshing kombucha brews made in Norway
By Malin Norman | Photos: Empress Brew
Inspired by the power of nature, Empress makes high-quality, sophisticated kombucha – an excellent non-alcoholic alternative.
The artisanal non-alcoholic brewery Empress is the brainchild of Anna Karenina Anda Barron and Christer Andersson. Some years ago, they became obsessed with the acidic and sweet fermented beverage first introduced to them by Vanessa (@calikombucha), a fellow kombucha brewer from Cabo, Mexico. “Kombucha has many health benefits and hits the right spot between sweetness and acidity, which gives it a mature taste,” explains Anna. “Although it’s a traditional beverage, we found a gap in the market when it comes to non-alcoholic drinks tailored for adults. We want to empower people with uplifting alternatives that shift the way we drink.”
They set up the brewery in 2019, focusing on making high-quality products with sophisticated flavours. Here, the products are mindfully handcrafted using natural botanicals, ancestorial knowledge and modern alchemy. “Our brew lab is our playground, a space to dream, experiment, respect the craft and follow our passion,” says Anna. “With the right balance of bitterness, acidity, and sweetness, kombucha is a great element to play with.”
Empress can produce up to 8,000 litres of kombucha per month. Among favourites in its line-up is an uplifting beetroot, turmeric and apple kombucha – a true immune-system booster. Another delight is kombucha with ginger, goji berry, and gotu kola, a stress-reducing herb. The result is a ginger-like beer with a herbal kick.
Tasty wine alternatives
Empress is expanding its portfolio of fermented sparkling beverages inspired by the world of wine. It creates exciting flavours by combining teas, fermented fruits, vinegar and botanicals with a kombucha base. The winealts are mildly sweet with a tangy, acidic taste and palate-cleansing properties, lovely to pair with food or enjoy just like wine.
Moonbrew Iridescent is like a pét-nat wine with a base of kombucha and fermented stone fruits, giving it a crisp and vibrant flavour with apricot, nectarine, elderflower and orange peel. It was referred to as “a fine stand-in for Champagne” in the Wall Street Journal feature Kombucha for Connoisseurs: The Best Bottles to Pair With Food by Julia Bainbridge.
Through a collaboration with Oslo Brewing Co., Empress has also crafted two mead-inspired honey wines. Ficus Zing is a modern take on honey wine with an exotic blend of fig, cacao and cardamom in symbiosis with citrusy orange peel and a gentle ginger kick. Woodland is a respectful ode to the Norwegian forest, a harmonious mix of wildcrafted ling flowers, pine, juniper berries, birch bark and blueberry. It has an elegant floral aroma with leafy pine notes and fresh minerality. All three winealts are natural and free from additives, contain less than 0.5% alcohol, and contribute to some perfect food pairings.
The founders have built a loyal community of followers through social media and continuously collaborate with local companies such as breweries and sustainable fashion and wellness brands. “We work with local farmers, foragers, tea and coffee importers, and other producers representing Norway,” confirms Anna. “Even if we are a fast-growing company, we haven’t forgotten what it’s like to start a business. Working together means growing together.”
Empress is available at cafés and restaurants, including some with Michelin stars. It can also be found in specialised shops and cocktail bars and at yoga studios, bakeries and coffee and tea houses, as well as Oda, the biggest food delivery business in Norway. The client base includes the yogi community and the fashion and design world, which hosts many events. One recent collaboration was with fashion house Holzweiler, serving non-alcoholic drinks at the launch of Vogue Scandinavia at Café Platz in Oslo. “We want to show that non-alcoholic cocktails can be both sexy and exciting,” smiles Anna.
While kombucha is a product to be enjoyed fresh, the wine alternatives are shelf stable. They have been tested on the US market with great acceptance, including the fabulous review in the Wall Street Journal. The aim is to grow organically and become a leader in the non-alcoholic field: “We want to impress the world with invigorating drinks.”
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