With the debut of hard kombucha producer JuneShine a little over a year ago, co-founders Greg Serrao and Forrest Dein didn’t just launch a product, they brought an emerging category into the national spotlight. Now six flavors deep and with distribution growing outside of their San Diego base, Juneshine is gaining momentum for many reasons. First, there’s the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) which lends these drinks all of kombucha’s wellness benefits. And then there’s the session-able deliciousness of JuneShine’s recipes. Together, it’s a winning combination with growth potential.
“For us, it was all about, ‘Why do we know so much about the food we eat and so little about the alcohol that we drink?'” Dein says to us. “I grew up surfing. I was the captain of the surf team in college. We drank our fair share of beer, but at the same time started eating healthier and making food decisions based on organic and sustainable products. When thinking about these values we began to think, ‘Why can’t we brew something better for us—and for the environment?'”
At first, they attempted it themselves—an experience that informed the brand’s appreciation for and acquisition of talented employees. “From day one, Greg and I started brewing in a garage,” Dein says. “We had no idea what we were doing. We had never brewed before. We quickly realized that we needed to bring in the best brewers we could find—so we hired from the best. We have people from Saint Archer, Lost Abbey, Ballast Point—some of the best breweries in California, as well as wineries and cideries. We built up a super-team of brewers and gave them the keys and said, ‘Have fun.’ Everything has to be 100% organic and as sustainable and as local as possible. Those are the only rules.”
Their recipes are just as important to their commitment to quality ingredients. “The honey and green tea, that was our secret,” Dein continues. “Jun kombucha is from honey and green tea whereas traditional kombucha is black tea and sugar—and that makes it a bit smoother. Our spin on it was that if we could make a great jun kombucha we thought it would be a bit more approachable.” With that as a transparent base, they began to develop an ingredient list that consumers could easily pronounce and understand. They wanted to build trust. From juices to spices, they’ve achieved this—all with a pleasant, sweet effervescence.
Dein and his brother designed the original packaging—a first for both. “We knew what we liked and what we didn’t like,” he says. “I’m from Hawaii so the artist who does the illustration is also from Hawaii. We wanted a mix of coastal bohemian art with modern packaging. We wanted to keep it all clean.” For their forthcoming activated-charcoal kombucha—called Midnight Painkiller—half of the can design is upside-down, a move to reference the fact that they’ve turned a classic tiki cocktail on its head.
“In San Diego we built this community that loves the brand,” Dein says about their market, which they’re slowly expanding. “It’s all about building communities everywhere we go. We’d rather have tight-knit communities in 10 markets than be in 50 states but have no brand family.” Whole Foods is their national partner and they’ll progress beyond San Diego—and LA, SF, Portland, Seattle, and New York—in time. Right now, a store locator offers direction and includes information on flavors and package sizes.
The JuneShine team is educating people on the product category “almost every day,” Dein says. “Kombucha is a global thing but many people think hard kombucha is spiked. They don’t know what the alcohol is from. They think, ‘Kombucha has alcohol so what’s different between hard kombucha and one that’s already half-a-percent.’ That’s our biggest challenge.” Fans of kombucha should be quick to try JuneShine, but there’s definitely something here for people who have never tried the fermented beverage before.
Images by Vivian Kim