Lenny Boy Kombucha—Brewer Q&A
Based in: Charlotte, NC
Founded: 2011 (As Lenny Boy Tea)
Distribution: AL, FL, GA, IN, OH NC, SC, TN, VA
Let’s start with the name. The Lenny in Lenny Boy Kombucha is short for Lennox, the beloved rescue dog of Townes Mozer, the brewery’s founder. That would also explain the label, in which man and dog are depicted side-by-side. That image really makes us happy, because, hey—dogs are awesome!
Formerly known as Lenny Boy Tea, this Charlotte, NC-based brand bottled its first kombucha in late 2011, and a year later opened its dog-friendly tap room in the South End of Charlotte. They now produce organic beers and ales in addition to booch (their micro-brewery is North Carolina’s only certified organic one), recently relocated to a newer, larger space, just a few doors down from their original one. Lenny Boy can be best described as a beer-lover's kombucha. It's low on sweetness, high on fizz, and has a robustness to it that makes it very pub-friendly.
The kombucha is excellent, obsessively crafted, and more on the tart side. Good Ol' Ginger is green tea-based, and has this slight lemon-y note that we found really lovely (even though there’s no lemon in the ingredients). This is a robust brew, the kind you sip on slowly, paired with, perhaps, a nice grilled veggie sammy.
Lost Rose meanwhile, is a more masculine twist on the flavor. The rose note is present, for sure, but it's balanced by lemongrass, nettle leaf and lemon verbena. So it's a citrusy and mildly floral brew.
We chatted with founder Townes Mozer about what it was like founding, then building and running a kombucha/beer brewery and tap room!
Kombucha Hunter: When you first started brewing kombucha, did you ever envision having a brewery/tap room? Or were you thinking more wholesale initially?
Townes Mozer: Initially, we were focused on wholesale kombucha. After a few months getting out into our community, people would ask if we had a tap room. We gave the people what they wanted and opened our kombucha tap room October 2012, becoming one of the first dedicated kombucha tap rooms on the East Coast. We love having our tap room where people can come in and experience our beverages, take a closer look into our brand/production facility, and try some special small batch kombuchas you can only find at our taproom.
KH: How has the transition been to the new space? Does the tap room still have the same kind of “living room” feel as the previous one, even though it’s a lot bigger?
Townes: That was one of our biggest goals and challenges: to maintaining our brand and the feelings one would get at our facility. Yes, when we expanded we somehow maintained that “home feeling” up from just the “living room.” Our loyal customers can not stop talking about the transition and the same feeling they get at the new space. When you walk into our facility, you can feel the positive energy from the local wood tables, to the old wagon wheel chandeliers, to the friendly staff. We have 29 drafts and you can get flights, pints, and growlers to go.
KH: How does the kombucha brewing room and the beer brewing room coexist? Does each have its own separate staff; how do you manage them together under one roof?
Townes: They are completely separate rooms. We have different kegs, gaskets, tanks, bottling lines, and yes staff. We want to keep the gluten and beer out of our kombucha and the wild yeast and bacteria out of our traditional beers. It is really two division of our company under one roof, but separate rooms, including HVAC units.
KH: Do you feel like people in the community know you as more of a kombucha company or a beer company, or both? Can someone under 21 hang out in the tap room, or are you strictly 21 and over?
Townes: I’d say we are known as a beverage company. We started as kombucha and have a very very strong passion for making a high quality product, but we are also making a huge splash in the beer scene winning 8 national awards for our beers. Including winning best Organic Sour Beer in the country in 2015. Yes, anyone can come into our taproom—from a baby in a stroller (happens more than you would think) to older folks too. We have a very family friendly atmosphere and we believe we have a beverage for everyone.
KH: Can you tell us a bit about how you developed your flavors? Which of your current ones date back to when you first started the company?
Townes: We are inspired by the seasons and also unique flavor profiles we don’t see on the market. Our timeline of flavors in bottles goes as follows 1) Lost Rose 2) Good Ol’ Ginger 3) Strawberry 4) Elite Beet 5) Sweet Potato Pie (seasonal) 6) Mint Condition 7) Wake Up Call 8) Lavenderade. Now, keep in mind, we have a new kombucha most every week and have made over 150 different flavors of kombucha commercially.
KH: How involved are you in the brewing process? Do you still get to experiment yourself on a small batch level, test out new flavor ideas?
Townes: I am production coordinator and still work with our now head kombucha brewer on most every small batch formula. I now have to manage the overall brand and all that comes with that so brewing is now my therapy/escape from my normal tasks. I am also the sourcing person for all our ingredients.
KH: What advice would you give to a kombucha home-brewer who is contemplating going commercial? What do you wish you had known when you started bottling your booch six years ago?
Townes: It’s only going to grow if you have patience, passion, and persistence. No days off once you go commercial for the first few years; weekends off you can kiss good-bye if you really want to make a splash in your market. I don’t wish I had known how much work it would have been because it might have been a deterrent. That’s the thing: in our society, entrepreneurs are glamorized and the truth is owning your own business and making a product and selling it is a lot. It is really three companies in one: Product development / retail, wholesale, and distribution. Work hard and work smart.