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Half of Novo Brazil's brewing business now kombucha

Nova Easy Kombucha is surging as part of the red hot hard kombucha market

When Novo Brazil Brewing opened its Ocean Beach taproom, it was branded Nova Easy Kombucha.
When Novo Brazil Brewing opened its Ocean Beach taproom, it was branded Nova Easy Kombucha.

Last October, when Chula Vista beer-maker Novo Brazil Brewing Co. took over the Ocean Beach taproom previously operated by Culture Brewing Co., it had a branding decision to make. The company has been brewing beer since 2015, but a hard kombucha pilot program launched in 2018 had rapidly grown into a thriving spin-off brand in its own right — and was still growing. When the sign went up, it didn’t mention beer at all. Instead, it read Nova Easy Kombucha.

Place

Nova Easy Kombucha

4845 Newport Avenue, San Diego

“I was really in doubt whether to build it as a beer brand or kombucha brand,” says Novo CEO Tiago Carneiro. “But when I look at the vibe of Ocean Beach,” he adds, “it’s very colorful, it’s made of different cultures, it’s very open minded.” With nine other beer outfits operating in the beach neighborhood, a chance to stake a claim as its first hard kombucha bar tipped the scales.

And judging by customer response, it was the right call. Since opening, taproom sales “are basically 80 percent alcoholic kombucha,” reveals Carneiro, “even though we have beers on tap.”

Indeed, Novo pours its beers, both hard and soft kombuchas, and hard seltzers at the location. But the overwhelming success of its hard booch in the beach community is no anomaly. Nationwide, hard kombucha sales have grown exponentially each of the past five years, and at Novo itself, Carneiro says beverage sales are now 50/50 beer and hard kombucha. Overall, beer still holds the edge in wholesale and on-premise sales. But kombucha is surging when it comes to retail packaging (12 and 16 ounce cans), especially since placing its non-alcoholic kombucha in Whole Foods this year.

“When we look to the packaging side,” Carneiro says, “we will sell more kombucha than beer, I think, by the end of this year.” Novo sells 85-percent of its booch in California, and Carneiro says Nova Easy Kombucha now stands as the “number three hard kombucha in So Cal… according to [market measurement firm] Nielsen.”

While other craft breweries have worked to develop hard kombucha lines, Novo had a bit of a head start. Carneiro launched the business along with his father and brother, coming to San Diego from their native Brazil, where they previously owned a brewery. But the family operates KHappy Kombucha, South America’s largest traditional kombucha brand.

In addition to a core offering of 6-percent alcohol kombuchas Nova has launched an eight percent, cocktail inspired “Sexy” offshoot, so far including Sexy Piña Colada and Sexy Mojito. A new cocktail flavored kombucha will debut each summer, alongside seasonal releases including this year’s cactus fruit, agave, and jalapeño; and peach lychee).

Meanwhile, the beer side of Novo’s business isn’t slowing. Carniero anticipates Novo Brewing’s beer branded taproom at long-expected (and pandemic-delayed) National City food hall Market on 8th will finally open in September.

Novo will follow that up with an even bigger project in Imperial Beach. Carniero reveals it has purchased a more than 13,000-square-foot property from Coronado Brewing Co. A part of the city’s burgeoning Bikeway Village, the property fronts the Bayshore Bikeway, the bike path that circumnavigates San Diego Bay. Positioned at the Bay’s southern tip, the new Novo Brazil property will comprise a full restaurant with a large patio and views across the bay to Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline. Carniero expects that to open in December at the soonest.

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When Novo Brazil Brewing opened its Ocean Beach taproom, it was branded Nova Easy Kombucha.
When Novo Brazil Brewing opened its Ocean Beach taproom, it was branded Nova Easy Kombucha.

Last October, when Chula Vista beer-maker Novo Brazil Brewing Co. took over the Ocean Beach taproom previously operated by Culture Brewing Co., it had a branding decision to make. The company has been brewing beer since 2015, but a hard kombucha pilot program launched in 2018 had rapidly grown into a thriving spin-off brand in its own right — and was still growing. When the sign went up, it didn’t mention beer at all. Instead, it read Nova Easy Kombucha.

Place

Nova Easy Kombucha

4845 Newport Avenue, San Diego

“I was really in doubt whether to build it as a beer brand or kombucha brand,” says Novo CEO Tiago Carneiro. “But when I look at the vibe of Ocean Beach,” he adds, “it’s very colorful, it’s made of different cultures, it’s very open minded.” With nine other beer outfits operating in the beach neighborhood, a chance to stake a claim as its first hard kombucha bar tipped the scales.

And judging by customer response, it was the right call. Since opening, taproom sales “are basically 80 percent alcoholic kombucha,” reveals Carneiro, “even though we have beers on tap.”

Indeed, Novo pours its beers, both hard and soft kombuchas, and hard seltzers at the location. But the overwhelming success of its hard booch in the beach community is no anomaly. Nationwide, hard kombucha sales have grown exponentially each of the past five years, and at Novo itself, Carneiro says beverage sales are now 50/50 beer and hard kombucha. Overall, beer still holds the edge in wholesale and on-premise sales. But kombucha is surging when it comes to retail packaging (12 and 16 ounce cans), especially since placing its non-alcoholic kombucha in Whole Foods this year.

“When we look to the packaging side,” Carneiro says, “we will sell more kombucha than beer, I think, by the end of this year.” Novo sells 85-percent of its booch in California, and Carneiro says Nova Easy Kombucha now stands as the “number three hard kombucha in So Cal… according to [market measurement firm] Nielsen.”

While other craft breweries have worked to develop hard kombucha lines, Novo had a bit of a head start. Carneiro launched the business along with his father and brother, coming to San Diego from their native Brazil, where they previously owned a brewery. But the family operates KHappy Kombucha, South America’s largest traditional kombucha brand.

In addition to a core offering of 6-percent alcohol kombuchas Nova has launched an eight percent, cocktail inspired “Sexy” offshoot, so far including Sexy Piña Colada and Sexy Mojito. A new cocktail flavored kombucha will debut each summer, alongside seasonal releases including this year’s cactus fruit, agave, and jalapeño; and peach lychee).

Meanwhile, the beer side of Novo’s business isn’t slowing. Carniero anticipates Novo Brewing’s beer branded taproom at long-expected (and pandemic-delayed) National City food hall Market on 8th will finally open in September.

Novo will follow that up with an even bigger project in Imperial Beach. Carniero reveals it has purchased a more than 13,000-square-foot property from Coronado Brewing Co. A part of the city’s burgeoning Bikeway Village, the property fronts the Bayshore Bikeway, the bike path that circumnavigates San Diego Bay. Positioned at the Bay’s southern tip, the new Novo Brazil property will comprise a full restaurant with a large patio and views across the bay to Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline. Carniero expects that to open in December at the soonest.

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