Kosmic Kombucha, founded by husband-and-wife team Omar and Mina Rios in Austin, Texas, launched their business through connections in the city's yoga community.
Chris McCoy, owner and brewer at Kombucha Town in Bellingham, Wash., designed his company around the idea of a local craft product. “I want it to stay local,” says McCoy, whose brewery and taproom are housed in the iconic building of the Bellingham Herald newspaper. “If my brand becomes popular enough, I’d like to be the New Belgium of kombucha — one of the biggest and most successful microbreweries. They’re a national brand but still have an ideology and a model that is good for the local community.”

If You Go

Lenny Boy
2224 Hawkins St.
Charlotte, N.C. 28203

Kombucha Town
1155 N. State St.
Suite 603
Bellingham, WA 98225

Kosmic Kombucha
(no tap room location)

Mozer just recently gained the necessary permits to create an alcoholic version of his product in his brewery, making it, he says, “the first brewery in the South licensed to make alcoholic kombucha.” Larger brands have faced roadblocks without the permits Mozer just gained. Millennium Products (the makers of GT’s Kombucha) and Honest Tea were forced to pull bottles from shelves after they were found to have increased above the 0.5-percent cap. Now, many large-scale commercial kombucha brewers pasteurize their brews, which stops the fermentation. But purists like Mozer insist the drink remain unpasteurized to keep its probiotics — adding one more reason drinkers are looking local. Ultimately though, the choice of microbreweries versus big-name producers may come down to how important local products are to the customers buying the brews.

Mina Rios is co-owner of Kosmic Kombucha in Austin, Texas, along with her husband, Omar Rios, and they launched their business through connections in the city’s yoga community. She is a practitioner and her husband is an instructor. “People in Austin love to support local,” says Rios, whose kombucha comes in 14 flavors with names like Purple Haze and Groovy Green. “The yoga community has been especially open-minded and supportive. We liked the idea of a more artisan kombucha, and we’re in the perfect place for it.”

Rios’ teas include inventive flavor mixtures like lavender, cinnamon and clove in its Purple Haze. For a brewer like Mozer, though, the ingredients are one more way to keep his business centered on the community. “We get fruit and vegetables that are in-season and support local farms,” says Mozer, whose brews come in versions containing peaches, strawberries and even sweet potatoes and beets. “Anything in Lenny Boy you can grow in your backyard here in North Carolina.”

It’s the local focus that the three brewers believe drives their businesses. For Mozer, it’s been a key component ingraining him in the local craft-beer scene. Lenny Boy can be found on tap in Charlotte brewery taprooms and numerous bottle shops. “We’ve really been embraced by the craft-beer scene,” says Mozer. “It makes sense. Like them, our main goal is to provide a great, locally made drink and, ultimately, enhance our community.”

Sarah Crosland is a Charlotte-based food and travel writer. Her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, DC magazine and Forbes Travel Guide. Covering kombucha gave her a chance to chat with brewers around the country — and the perfect excuse to sample their offerings.