Starting Out: Boochy Call Kombucha, Sharpsburg, Maryland
This is the first of a new series of Booch News posts telling the stories behind new commercial kombucha brands. The inspiration for ‘Starting Out’ was NPR’s ‘How I Built This‘. Every kombucha company launched their brand in a unique way, and their story has lessons for us all.
Eric Kelchlin started Boochy Call Kombucha eight short months ago. Despite being a new kid on the block, his Full Monty blend of cold-pressed beets, candied lemon, and spicy chili (with a hint of horseradish!) won a Bronze Award at the recent Kombucha Brewers International KKON conference.
Eric started as a homebrewer of beer. After struggling with alcoholism, he stopped brewing beer and switched to kombucha, which he discovered was an acceptable alternative to beer.
He started home brewing ‘booch with repurposed his beer brewing equipment. The name ‘Boochy Call’ came to him in a flash of inspiration. He immediately bought the domain and secured a license for home brewing.
He found an abandoned farmhouse and goat cheese facility in western Maryland and took a lease on a barn built in 1735.
After checking the county zoning requirements and securing liability insurance (which took three months), he started fixing up the space. It took 14 months to gain approval as a food production facility. The county inspectors did not know what kombucha was, so he had to educate them on the process and equipment he would use.
The inspectors paid regular visits, some lasting five hours. Production started as soon as the license came through in August 2021.
Production and distribution
He initially planned to distribute at local farmers’ markets, but started selling — almost by accident — at local stores, coffee houses, and resorts.
Despite owning 160 5-gallon kegs, most coffee shops did not have kegerators. He checks online for used kegerators and provides them to new customers. However, many stores requested bottles. He now spends more than half his time manually bottling and labeling. These are sold at $10 for a 32 oz bottle and $18 for 64 ozs. In-person tastings boost sales.
He produces eight different flavors, some with ingredients from his kitchen garden.
He still has a day job as a wildlife biologist and lives simply. This allowed him to bootstrap his launch with the $120,000 in savings needed to build the brewery and purchase equipment.
In addition to taking home an Award at KKON, he learned from other ‘brewers in process’ and those with more experience. First up: implementing investment ideas from the creative funding panel.
To hear Eric tell the story of how he started out, listen to the podcast.