The fermentation process of kombucha is never easy. It is a job that requires well-developed techniques, as well as a great deal of enthusiasm. Today I have the opportunity to speak to Bryan Deane Bertsch, founder of Deane’s Kombucha. A person, who believes in authenticity and brewing the traditional way.
We faced numerous difficulties when we first launched commercially in 2010. Beyond all the common start-up issues, we happened to get licensed just before the alcohol recall in the summer of 2010. That forced us to reexamine our values and mission. And the mission was clear; supply authentic kombucha to our customers.
We initially decided to apply for an alcohol license so we would not have to alter our recipe in any way. That worked for a couple years, but other challenges forced us to shut down for a while. When we re-started, we had a chance to find a way to produce kombucha in an authentic way while still staying non-alcoholic, without compromising our product. Since then, we have enjoyed success and look forward to a bright future.
The biggest improvement was the switch from using fruit juices for flavoring to whole fruit. The end product is much better, we have a ton more flexibility in our seasonal flavors and people really dig the taste and experience.
We are not looking to become the next, big national brand. Our vision has honed in on a local product that supports the people in our proximity. We still brew in small batches, using 30 gallon oak barrels and basically have the same process I began with home brewing 10 years ago.
Our culture is our brand. I mail ordered my first culture in 2004 and started making 2.5 gallon batches. That same original culture is with us today, happy, healthy and tasty as ever! So yes, I would consider culture a very valuable asset to our brand.
We are a local company supporting our local customer base, so it makes sense to source as much as we can from local companies. We have always been focused on a small environmental footprint, and believe that most of today’s food economy is going to be local. It just makes sense. So given this vision, it also makes sense to practice what we preach in looking to our suppliers. We may pay a bit more, but ultimately we have found the best quality and service right in our backyard.
A few years ago we did a video segment with Andrew Zimmern, and during the bit he was in charge of flavoring our newest creation. Watching him walk in the produce section and seemingly randomly pick out ingredients was very inspiring. After practicing this for a couple years, it actually comes pretty easy now. It is an artistic experience and fun to play with different combinations. The combo that Zimmern came up with, incidentally, was a peach, ginger, cilantro, hot pepper. It was brilliant! This experience gave me permission to explore my creativity and intuition, and so far, so good.
We run up to 16 different flavors any given season. What’s most popular? What’s my favorite? Well, I love them all and it really depends on my mood. We are also lucky to have many customers that feel the same way. It is rare that any of our accounts insist on a certain flavor. Typically, they ask what we have, we tell them, and they choose. Even the customers are behind this. They may not know what is available at any given store, at any given time, but they trust the Deane’s brand and it allows them to try something different. Win/win.
I think we will be in a similar place, but maybe 4-5 times larger. We have several very good accounts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and over time I believe more people will be drinking kombucha, and therefore we will be invited into new accounts. I am excited for that, and excited to share our beverage with more and more people!
Actually I just met a group of local coffee roasters in Minneapolis and we are now offering cold press nitro coffee kegs to our customers. Another great, local and organic product to offer our accounts. It’s a great fit. Up next for us is doing a coffee based kombucha line – but that may have to wait a bit.
For more information please visit Deanes’ Kombucha website.