Profile: Marin Kombucha, Novato, California
Founder Brian Igersheim has used his food science background to brew kombucha since 2000.
After years of his friends and family enjoying his unique and palatable fermented tea, he finally decided to give it a try (with a push from his younger brother) on a broader scale. What started in 2015 in a small commercial kitchen in San Rafael has migrated to a fully built, state-of-the-art 11,000-square-foot brewing facility in an industrial park on the outskirts of Novato, distributed from coast to coast and internationally.
Marin Kombucha is named after Marin County, California, listed among the 10 wealthiest in the US.
Interestingly, the very first Booch News Instagram post pictured the “Innovative dispenser for Marin Kombucha at Copperfield Books in San Rafael. A credit card swipe switched on the pumps, which dispenses the ‘booch and increments the charge — just like any petrol pump.”
We then profiled the company in 2019 when BevNet interviewed Brian, who shared his brewing philosophy, focus on draft kombucha, and marketing strategy. Back then he noted an interest in the sports world that continues to this day.
Brian has a rule of thumb that a gallon of authentic kombucha can be produced from two square feet of a facility. Their current facility can therefore produce up to 5,500 gallons.
Marin kombucha is not alone in rebranding. Unlike many others, the new design was developed in-house. This display, from my local Safeway in late February, shows the more recent labels with a modern font alongside the original look with the picture of the iconic Mt. Tamalpais, a Marin county landmark. The transition signifies a move from traditional kombucha look to an “active culture probiotic tea” that promotes a healthy microbiome with healing properties (probiotics, antioxidants, detoxifying acids) while functionally supporting active lifestyles.
All flavors are based on the same mix of black and green teas.
They brew a blend of one-third Dragonwell (Lung Ching or Longjing in local parlance) Chinese green tea that tastes sweet, mellow and rounded, and two-thirds black Keemun Chinese black tea with a fruity, lightly smoky, flavor and lingering floral aftertaste. They infuse twice, initially at a lower temperature, then at a higher temperature. This minimizes the caffeine content.
Flavors are Original Oak Aged, Pinot Sage, Apple Juniper, Ginger Lemongrass, Apple Juniper, Melon Rose, Cactus Agave, Raspberry Cacao, and Blood Orange Cardamom.
Certain flavors work well as cocktail mixers: the Melon Rose goes well with rum, the Pinto Sage in a red wine spritzer.
The oak aging comes from added oak tannin that ties together the sweet and sour flavors since kombucha cannot be in an oak barrel like wine and bourbon can. They add organic herb and fruit flavor extracts to minimize sugar content for an ABV of 0.2-0.3%.
Find Marin Kombucha in all Safeway, Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, and Nugget Markets, as well as over 100 other independent locations throughout Northern California and parts of Nevada.
Marin Kombucha 5-gallon kegs are available nationwide and served as a healthy non-alcoholic beverage in restaurants, hotels, cafes, offices, gyms, and universities. They offer national distribution to corporate offices.
They will supply free kegs to bars and restaurants and pay the difference if the tap does not pay for itself. In their experience, the bar owners find offering a non-alcoholic alternative pays. They can replace a beer tap and generally find kombucha quickly becomes one of the more profitable taps.
However, even at stores like Whole Foods, many shoppers don’t appreciate the tart taste of traditional kombucha. They are marketing to the 90% of the population who have not tasted kombucha, as with sports teams.
Marin Kombucha sponsors the CPSDA (The Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association) and is served in over 30 pro and college facilities nationwide. Their distribution in collegiate and professional sports organizations is negotiated and evaluated by the Team’s Sports Nutritionists, and the beverage is served to players in their athletic facilities.
They recently became the first kombucha brand to earn GMP registration from NSF that verifies a manufacturing facility has the proper methods, equipment, facilities, and controls in place to produce products that meet the requirements for professional and collegiate sports organizations including WADA, MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL standards.
This has allowed them to be added to facilities such as MLB clubhouses which require this certification. The list includes professional Football, Basketball, Hockey, Baseball, and College (SEC, ACC) Teams.
During a tour of the brewery, Brian explained their methods in detail and shared his vision for the company and the reason they rebranded.
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