It takes love and commitment to brew an amazing kombucha at Bootlegger Brewing.
Jake shares his stories about Bootlegger Brewing, as he prepares an order for curbside pickup.
How did your company get started?
In late 2015, I decided that my 15 years in the defense and aerospace industry was demanding more and more of my time- leaving less and less time for my family. I had been brewing kombucha for around 5 years, using a culture that has been in our family for almost 50 years now. A friend of mine suggested that we should look at brewing it on a larger scale. I had never really considered that, but once I started looking at it as a viable business, I never looked back- It has always been my true passion to start my own business doing something I love, and this fit the bill perfectly. My family helped create the branding (which I love by the way), and local co-ops brought our product almost immediately. It has been a long hard road, but I’m still loving it.
Can you tell us a bit more about your product?
As I mentioned- the culture that we use has been in the family for almost 50 years now, originating from the hippy-biker side of the family up in Alaska. I always wondered why ours tasted so much different than other kombuchas that I had tried, so in 2017 we participated in a genetic sequencing study with 100 other brews across the country. As a result, we were able to see that the culture of organisms in our SCOBY really was significantly different than other brews out there. The result of all that? I think we have a uniquely different, smoother and more flavorful kombucha than others that you may have tried.
How has COVID-19 impacted your company?
While we do have a decent presence in regional co-ops and grocery chains, about 60% of our business was in all the businesses that have had to shut down. We are in a growing number of breweries as an N/A tap option, coffee shops, restaurants, and office buildings, as well as being on tap for the Vikings players and staff at the new training facility. With the closure of all that, we have been in survival mode for the last few months. We have been able to change with the changing environment, though. Increasing curbside pick-ups and delivery options- and we were fortunate enough to connect with Neiibor Crate! We are very excited to be part of this service- and think it’s a great way to get some of our local food and beverages out to local customers.
As a local brand, what are some of the greatest challenges you face?
There is a LOT involved in getting any food or beverage off the ground. It’s even more challenging as a small local or regional brand. One of the biggest challenges would be getting your product in front of customers. There are so many brands out there- and on the retail side, you have to contend with huge competitors who are able to take small margins in order to buy up shelf space and keep their products on sale. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, if people can’t find it, it’s hard to keep going. Luckily we have a great, growing number of fans that have been instrumental in getting us into new markets, new breweries and coffee shops, restaurants, and the like.
What do you hope to achieve for your company?
We love being a local, organic, fresh kombucha brewery. I would love to be able to stay small enough, but big enough if that makes sense. Small enough to keep great tasting kombucha flowing to all our favorite people and places, and big enough to keep the lights on.
What are some of your favorite local brands?
I LOVE our local varieties of small coffee roasters and cold brew- Tiny Footprint Roastery, Big Watt (especially love their caffeinated waters), Folly Roastery, Terra Firma Roastery, and Philtera cold brew. Of course, I love our growing number of local breweries and distilleries- there are so many great places that are popping up all over the state, as well as some of our standards, and although I don’t make it out to all of them (other than during deliveries), it doesn’t hurt to have goals. Summer is my favorite time to pick up all the fresh veggies from our local farms- and that takes up most of my diet, especially in the spring and summer. As a fellow fermenter, I’m a big fan of Fierce Ferments kimchi and kraut, as well as the Craft & Vine pickles.
Where can your product be found and where can I learn more?
Of course- here with Neiibor Crate, with most of our local Kowalskis, Lunds & Byerly’s, Hy Vee, Whole Foods, and many of our local Co-Ops (hopefully coming back to tap soon with our Co-Op partners). We’re on tap at Inbound, Minneapolis Cider Co, Imminent Brewing, Lakeville Brewing, Inver Grove Brewing, First Draft, and Chapel Brewing, in bottles at Fulton, Wicked Wort, Bald Man, Bad Weather, Little Thistle, Forager, Kinney Creek, and Thesis Brewing…You know rather than rattling all these off- you can always find a pretty comprehensive list on our website as well- BootleggerKombucha.com.