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Luna Bay Booch's San Diego origin story

Woman owned hard kombucha brand brewed elsewhere, now sold locally

The cans say "Born in Chicago," but the idea for Luna Bay Booch was born in the waves of San Diego.
The cans say "Born in Chicago," but the idea for Luna Bay Booch was born in the waves of San Diego.

Bridget Connelly lives and surfs in Encinitas, and it was in local waters that she decided to start a hard kombucha company in summer 2018. “Surfing is a lot of the times I feel the most peace and clarity in my life,” she says, “Where the vision for Luna Bay became clear was out in the ocean.”

The marketing professional and yoga enthusiast had recently moved back to the area after work had taken her to Chicago, Australia, and Africa, including a stint as social media strategist for active apparel brand Lululemon. She saw opportunity in the emergence of hard kombucha, as the beverage has skyrocketed in appeal among those with active lifestyles, like herself. “I’ve always been very health conscious,” she points out, “but also come from a big Irish family, and like to have fun.”

She reached out to a childhood friend, Claire Ridge, a yoga instructor and kombucha homebrewer in Chicago, and the two founded Luna Bay Booch Co.. However, Connelly knew starting in San Diego would be tough, due to the presence of Boochcraft — which established the hard kombucha market here in 2016 — and a then starting out Juneshine.

“I didn’t want to launch in such a competitive market space,” she says. However, while Boochcraft was spreading rapidly up the West Coast, the Midwest was another story. “California sets the trends,” she thought, “Let me take this to Chicago… hard kombucha hadn’t made it there yet.”

So Luna Bay became the first hard booch brand to launch in Chicago, brewed in a contracted facility there beginning last October. They consulted with a sour beer brewer and brewery microbiologist to refine and can Ridge’s booch, which, rather than tea, is made from a yerba mate base. Connelly notes a yerba-based kombucha takes longer to brew, but “We’re willing to take longer in the tanks, because it is a flavor that we love”

Within six months, the brand had already outgrown its Chicago brewing capacity, and had entered into another similar arrangement with Denver, Colorado’s Crazy Mountain Brewery, where production is led by Luna Bay’s female head brewer, Joanna Denne.

Brewing in Colorado makes it easier to ship west, and so, in March, the brand reached an agreement with Scout distribution to take on an increasingly crowded San Diego market; not as an upstart, but as an established and growing brand. Though, to better meet San Diegans' expectations, the brand embraced 16-ounce cans for the first time.

Of course, we all know what else happened in March. “We launched in the most competitive market in the middle of a pandemic,” Connelly says with a laugh, “literally the day the stay shelter in place started.” However, despite the added challenge, Luna Bay’s sales team, including Connelly herself, has managed to place the brand’s aluminum cans in virtually all the region’s kombucha-friendly markets, including Whole Foods, Barons, and Jimbo’s supermarkets, pushing flavors of ginger lemon, hibiscus lavender, and the newly launched huckleberry basil. “We’ve been able to build relationships through our masks,” says Connelly.

Beyond its social media and sales teams, she adds that one reason the brand has been able to move so quickly was the decision not to invest time and resources in building and licensing a brewery. “For us,” she says, “it makes more sense to contract and not own or lease our own space.”

With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, this could be the case for some time, s Luna Bay now distributes to seven states and counting, acquiring its own brewery could eventually prove a wise move, and she hasn’t ruled out making Luna Bays permanent home in San Diego, most likely if a turnkey brewery opportunity arises. “It would probably make our lives a lot easier.”

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The cans say "Born in Chicago," but the idea for Luna Bay Booch was born in the waves of San Diego.
The cans say "Born in Chicago," but the idea for Luna Bay Booch was born in the waves of San Diego.

Bridget Connelly lives and surfs in Encinitas, and it was in local waters that she decided to start a hard kombucha company in summer 2018. “Surfing is a lot of the times I feel the most peace and clarity in my life,” she says, “Where the vision for Luna Bay became clear was out in the ocean.”

The marketing professional and yoga enthusiast had recently moved back to the area after work had taken her to Chicago, Australia, and Africa, including a stint as social media strategist for active apparel brand Lululemon. She saw opportunity in the emergence of hard kombucha, as the beverage has skyrocketed in appeal among those with active lifestyles, like herself. “I’ve always been very health conscious,” she points out, “but also come from a big Irish family, and like to have fun.”

She reached out to a childhood friend, Claire Ridge, a yoga instructor and kombucha homebrewer in Chicago, and the two founded Luna Bay Booch Co.. However, Connelly knew starting in San Diego would be tough, due to the presence of Boochcraft — which established the hard kombucha market here in 2016 — and a then starting out Juneshine.

“I didn’t want to launch in such a competitive market space,” she says. However, while Boochcraft was spreading rapidly up the West Coast, the Midwest was another story. “California sets the trends,” she thought, “Let me take this to Chicago… hard kombucha hadn’t made it there yet.”

So Luna Bay became the first hard booch brand to launch in Chicago, brewed in a contracted facility there beginning last October. They consulted with a sour beer brewer and brewery microbiologist to refine and can Ridge’s booch, which, rather than tea, is made from a yerba mate base. Connelly notes a yerba-based kombucha takes longer to brew, but “We’re willing to take longer in the tanks, because it is a flavor that we love”

Within six months, the brand had already outgrown its Chicago brewing capacity, and had entered into another similar arrangement with Denver, Colorado’s Crazy Mountain Brewery, where production is led by Luna Bay’s female head brewer, Joanna Denne.

Brewing in Colorado makes it easier to ship west, and so, in March, the brand reached an agreement with Scout distribution to take on an increasingly crowded San Diego market; not as an upstart, but as an established and growing brand. Though, to better meet San Diegans' expectations, the brand embraced 16-ounce cans for the first time.

Of course, we all know what else happened in March. “We launched in the most competitive market in the middle of a pandemic,” Connelly says with a laugh, “literally the day the stay shelter in place started.” However, despite the added challenge, Luna Bay’s sales team, including Connelly herself, has managed to place the brand’s aluminum cans in virtually all the region’s kombucha-friendly markets, including Whole Foods, Barons, and Jimbo’s supermarkets, pushing flavors of ginger lemon, hibiscus lavender, and the newly launched huckleberry basil. “We’ve been able to build relationships through our masks,” says Connelly.

Beyond its social media and sales teams, she adds that one reason the brand has been able to move so quickly was the decision not to invest time and resources in building and licensing a brewery. “For us,” she says, “it makes more sense to contract and not own or lease our own space.”

With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, this could be the case for some time, s Luna Bay now distributes to seven states and counting, acquiring its own brewery could eventually prove a wise move, and she hasn’t ruled out making Luna Bays permanent home in San Diego, most likely if a turnkey brewery opportunity arises. “It would probably make our lives a lot easier.”

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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