Chris Montelius Of Boynton Beach’s Non-Prophet Brewing Talks Kombucha
If you’ve ever enjoyed a craft beer at a South Florida bar, you may have Chris Montelius to thank. Before his current venture, Montelius spent years criss-crossing South Florida for his job in the beer sales industry. However, after discovering another fermented beverage at a Whole Foods—one he could sip all day with no risk of a hangover—things changed. Now, you can thank Montelius as you savor another fizzy, though decidedly less guilty, pleasure: kombucha.
The drink had an irresistible appeal to Montelius. “It reminded me of sour beers before sour beers were very popular, so they were hard to come by,” he says. “Kombucha was something I could drink that was more complex and interesting than soda, and it was something that I could drink during the day while I was working and not be intoxicated, which is also nice,” he laughs.
The fermented yet nonalcoholic beverage brews beneath a mat of yeast and bacteria, called a scoby. Though it’s an ancient beverage, kombucha is having a moment, especially among the health-conscious and wellness industries.
“People [are] realizing how bad sugar is for them and trading away from things like soda, Gatorade and Red Bull, and trying to find healthier alternatives,” Montelius says. “Kombucha is perfect for that because it’s low-calorie, due to the fermentation process and getting those sugars removed, and the fact that it has all the beneficial probiotics from the bacteria as well.”
During the process, kombucha’s funky floating “pancake” may not look like an enticing catalyst for consumption. However, the symbiotic colony somehow works to produce a flavorful tea-like drink chock-full of probiotics and bubbles.
Montelius was hooked, soon learning to make his own at home, and a couple years into perfecting his recipes, Non-Prophet Brewing Co. was born in Boynton Beach.
“My wife and I travel a lot and visit breweries around the country, and we noticed that kombucha was really popular out in California and Oregon and Washington, [but] no one was paying attention to it down here,” Montelius says. “It was something that I was already brewing at home, something that I like and something that wasn’t around, so I figured there was a good opportunity.”
Since launching in 2014, Non-Prophet Brewing has experienced more than 100 percent growth year after year. Montelius quit his job in beer to focus on kombucha full-time, eventually moving into a brewing space of his own. However, it was a negative encounter with a “kombucha brewery who shall remain nameless” on one of those California excursions that really ignited his passion for producing high-quality, non-fussy brews accessible to everyone.
Upon requesting a tour of a major kombucha brand’s facility, he was denied—the company explained that they view kombucha as a living product, and they don’t allow visitors, at risk of “bad energy” coming into contact with the scobies’ happy growing environment.
“Breweries have a really great culture of sharing tips with other brewers,” Montelius says. “Their secrecy coupled with their pseudo-science just kind of pissed me off. That’s when I decided that I wanted to do kombucha, but do it not with any of the mysticism that is sometimes associated with it.”
Montelius takes a logical approach to his work, emphasizing that as amazing as the end result may be, kombucha is a product of science, not magic. “If you take sugar and you introduce yeast and bacteria, something is going to happen, but it has absolutely nothing to do with purple walls and meditative music,” he insists.
Thus, even with Non-Prophet’s rapid growth, Montelius takes a small-batch approach to brewing: rather than vats or tanks, Montelius’ scobies grow in six-gallon glass fermenters—600 of them, to be exact.
Today, Non-Prophet comes in a variety of flavors, from flagship blends like passion fruit, blueberry mint and strawberry basil, to seasonal offerings like mango ginger and apple cinnamon, all infused with real fruits and herbs. Montelius’ personal favorite? Pineapple turmeric, Non-Prophet’s newest year-round flavor.
Locally, you can find bottles of Non-Prophet kombucha at Bolay, Vegan Fine Foods in Fort Lauderdale, Celis Produce and Panther Coffee in Miami, among a slew of other locations. Non-Prophet also provides kegs to bars, restaurants and community events throughout South Florida, so there’s a good chance it’s available somewhere near you.
Montelius also supplies Non-Prophet’s side project, ginger beer, to many of the area’s best cocktail bars. As kombucha continues to trend, Montelius plans expansion with a nod to his roots: “I think that there is definitely an opportunity for an alcoholic kombucha or [alcoholic] ginger beer to come out from us, hopefully next year.”
Before your first sip, Montelius advises not to expect the taste of sweet tea. “It is going to be tart!” Montelius warns. “Because it has that bacterial fermentation, it is going to be on the acidic side. I want [first-time kombucha drinkers] to be prepared for that, because if they think it’s going to be sweet, they can be shocked.”
An analogy he uses is that in a Venn diagram of carbonated beverages, kombucha would sit where beer and soda overlap. “It really does drink like a soda, just with way less sugar,” he says.
For more palate preparation tips, swing by Non-Prophet Brewing in Boynton Beach and meet Montelius for yourself. There’s no table service or bar, but Montelius is happy to show visitors around and provide samples. Just don’t hold your breath for purple walls.
2910 NW Commerce Park Drive, Ste. 5, Boynton Beach; 786.300.8578; nonprophetbrewing.com
Photos courtesy of Ryan Blanski and Non-Prophet Brewing Co.
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