Dean’s Zesty Booch

photos by Zach Hoffman, by Jessica Lewis  |   Friday Dec. 1st, 2017

From the moment I walked in, I could see and smell the quality and feel the good vibes that were rolling out of Dean’s Zesty Booch. I was hit with the welcoming smell of incense and with a warm bell tone produced by the singing bowl Dean was playing. The first time my best friend took me to enjoy some booch I was very hesitant, as I’ve never really been a fan of kombucha. However, I was immediately converted after tasting all of their flavors and honestly, I’ve been obsessing over it since! So much that I even get text updates whenever there is a new flavor on tap.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Griff and Joe to enjoy some Cranberry Apple Cinnamon farmhouse booch (my new favorite) and talk about everything kombucha. So, what exactly is kombucha anyway? Kombucha originated in East Asia over 2,000 years ago, and is made by fermenting a special blend sweet tea with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). It is brewed with organic ingredients and infused with organic fruits, herbs, and spices. The yeast turns the sugar into alcohol and CO2, and the probiotic bacteria turn the alcohol into organic acids and enzymes. These enzymes are said to have a multitude of health effects, including aiding with digestion, increasing energy and clarity, and even easing a hangover. After a few weeks, the fermented tea is flavored and kegged. The resulting brew is slightly tart and caffeinated, flavorful, bubbly, and full of probiotics and enzymes.

Ten years ago Dean Wakerlin, the founder of the company, started brewing kombucha at his house after he was given a SCOBY by a friend at a yoga class. After some trial and error, Dean was able to create a product that appealed to a lot of people and that was in high demand. A tight, almost cult-like, following of folks formed. They would pick up bottles off of the porch out of a cooler and leave some money under the mat. That was when partner Joe Sheehan met Dean and tried some of the famous booch and quickly realized that it was some of the best he ever had. He was studying business at MSU at the time, and he saw an opportunity to work with both a person and a product that he really liked. A business plan and branding was formed; you’ll recognize Dean here since his face is literally the brand. That is where the next partner, John “Griff” Griffith came into the picture. Griff got a degree in Microbiology at Colorado State and had already had one foot into the brewing world. While in school at MSU, Griff relied on kombucha a lot for energy during studying and was spending a lot of money on it. He reached out on Facebook looking for a SCOBY and Joe sent him to Dean, which consequently brought him to the best booch he had ever had as well. Anyone seeing a pattern here? They hit it off and after lending a hand here and there, he eventually became a partner.

Dean’s Zesty Booch is local and fresh, whereas most of the bottled kombucha on the store shelves could have sat in the bottle for a long time and you don’t really know what condition it is kept in. A lot can happen in this time; it can over carbonate, over ferment and things can develop that you don’t necessarily want to drink. This is what sets Dean’s Zesty Booch apart from the competition. It’s locally brewed and it tastes so much better when it is right out of the tap. The tea is steeped 40 feet from where it ferments, to where it is stored and then served. Besides locals, many people visit from all over the world. Most of them have never heard of a kombucha bar before and Bozeman, MT is the first place they’ve walked into one. Dean’s Zesty Booch strives for a world class experience; the hard work put in, the product, and the atmosphere proves them to be absolutely right. In Joe’s own words “There’s just a bunch of kickass people here.” I think maybe he was talking about Dean, Griff and himself possibly…oh and the locals too, of course!

Dean’s Zesty Booch offers three types of kombucha and there is something for everybody and all ages. There is Zest2O, which is described as a light, refreshing, probiotic sparkling water. This is similar to what you would get in the bottle at the store. It is below .5% alcohol, which is legal non-alcoholic in the United States and is therefore for all ages. The Zesty Booch, which is Dean’s flagship recipe, is fully fermented and a boldly flavored kombucha. The alcohol content can fluctuate in this one, but right now it is at about 1.0% to 1.5% ABV. It’s non-intoxicating but is only for anyone 21 or older. Lastly, there is the Farmhouse which is a “higher-gravity exploration for adults” and is for those who are looking to catch a buzz that is lower in sugar, calories and gluten free. It is health focused but with a little fun too! The menu is pretty broad and varied, as they are constantly coming out with new flavors. Dean’s homebrew days have armed him with a recipe book that is inches thick.

Dean’s Zesty Booch gives out free samples to help make your decision on a flavor a little easier. Once you pick a flavor you can choose from four glass sizes to enjoy in house: There is a 4oz, 8oz (the most popular size), 12oz (a compostable plastic cup for the patio and only Zest2O) and a 16oz. There are also take out options: The booch is freshly bottled in either a 16oz or 32oz bottle or a 64oz growler, which is the best value. Right now Dean’s Zesty Booch’s winter hours are: Monday and Tuesday, open 12 p.m.-3 p.m. and Wednesday to Sunday, open 12 p.m.-8 p.m.

You can also find some pretty great shirts, sweatshirts and beanies, along with soap that is made from the byproducts in the shop. If you are feeling inspired, you can also purchase a kombucha starter kit for yourself. And the best part is, they will happily spread the booch love and guide you in becoming your own brew master.

There isn’t really a lot out there that gets me as excited as fermented things do, it’s my chef quirk I guess, but this kombucha is a close second. I hope by now I have either made you curious or convinced you to try Dean’s Zesty Booch, given you a reason to give kombucha another shot or maybe I just reiterated everything that you already knew about this place. Head on over to the Cannery District, follow the arrow that reads “kombucha bar” and go get yourself some booch. I promise you won’t regret it! 

About the Author(s)