Sitting on a rattan daybed covered in indigo-dyed pillows, we sip brightly colored (and one black) kombucha fresh from the tap and brewed on-site. Except it’s hard kombucha and getting buzzed on a traditionally thought of health drink feels experimental and cutting edge. JuneShine, the world’s first hard kombucha bar nestled in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, is on a mission to mitigate hangovers and deliver a cleaner, simplified drink to get your buzz on with. Helmed by Greg Serrao and Forrest Dein, this breezy bohemian bar is everything you would expect a kombucha-only establishment to be. Geometric tiling, hanging plants and an open-air concept all fit right in to coastal San Diego and its health conscious inhabitants.
Aiming to be a gathering space for the diverse North Park community and beyond, the team, along with Solstice Interiors, carefully considered every detail of the design, brand and flavors such as blood orange mint and mango habanero. Officially open to the public as of June 1st, no less, we checked out the space, sampled the flavors and caught up with the Greg and Forrest about opening the first hard kombucha bar.
Tell us a little about both of yourselves.
Forrest Dein, Creative Director: "I’m a co-founder at JuneShine, I’m from Maui, Hawaii and my background is in filmmaking. I graduated from USD in 2014 with Greg – we always had a dream of starting a business together and were huge fans of craft beer and kombucha so when we found out about hard kombucha and that we could actually raise the ABV, it was perfect for us. About a year ago, I started becoming more conscious about the food I was eating and it led me to question why we know so much about the food we eat and so little about the alcohol that we drink. That was the beginning of this whole idea of an honest and transparent beverage that we feel good about putting in our bodies."
Greg Serrao, CEO/CFO: "I graduated along with Forrest from USD. Prior to this, I worked for a venture backed startup as an early employee for a healthcare services business. We knew that if we wanted to start a business together, one of us had to learn how to run a business so I went on a more corporate route for the last few years. When this idea started to take form, we found our skill sets to be very different but complementary and the more we looked into it, the more we saw that we were onto something. The first way we looked at it was, ‘does this solve a problem for us?’ and it did: we knew this was a beverage that actually matched our lifestyle as it's a clean, organic and natural product. The second question was, ‘are there other people like us?’ When we dug into it, we learned that there are. So after that, there wasn’t too much more thought. I quit my job, moved across the country, Forrest flew out from Maui and then shortly after we started, we brought Josh on as our first full time employee to run all the brewing operations."
How did you find this space and what was the vision for it?
Forrest: "We were looking all over when we were starting and the biggest criteria for us was to put our capital into building a brand and a team rather than into stainless steel. This space is very unique - our landlord actually owns all the brewing material and we lease it from them. This allows us spend our money on branding. We got really lucky with this space and we’re very inspired by North Park and all the small businesses here."
Greg: "We’re proud to be a North Park business, it’s a place that harbors diversity and creativity which we like because if you want to introduce a product that’s really different, you need to be in a community that accepts people of all walks of life. To be here everyday and live that is so inspiring."
Forrest: "For the space and the design, we’ve been to so many breweries and so many of them are industrial, cold and dark so we wanted to flip that. Our product is organic and natural so we wanted to create a space that was organic and natural feeling. We wanted a lot of natural light – that was important to us – so our garage door opens to let a lot of airflow in. We also wanted to bring in the coastal bohemian style and to create a space where we could go with friends that's not a bar. It's more of a comfortable living room."
Greg: "We brought on Solstice Interiors’ Katie Gebhardt, she's one of our good friends but it was a collaborative effort. We guided a lot of the visual direction."
Will the space be rentable for events?
Forrest: "Yes, 100%. Eventually, we’ll be renting the space out for private events of 50-75 people. It’s not only 21+ either, people can bring their kids - we have green tea or water for them."
What’s your ultimate goal for JuneShine?
Greg: "I think there’s tremendous demand for our product so what I always say is ‘we want to grow as quickly as we can without sacrificing the quality of our product and the quality of our culture.'"
Forrest: "Our goal is to get the product into as many hands as possible around the country. There aren't too many organic hard kombuchas out there and I think people are going to love this idea. We’ll do whatever it takes to get this out there so people have the chance to try it and have a healthier option."
Where did the name come from?
Forrest: "Jun kombucha is the type of culture we’re using – normal kombucha is black tea and sugar – the jun culture is made with green tea and honey. That led us to ‘June’ since its a summery drink and then we felt that we had this moonshine feel to the company so we came up with JuneShine. Plus, it feels like sunshine in a can."
How do you even make hard kombucha?
Josh, Brewmaster: "We make tea, we add honey, and once it cools down, we transfer it over into our kombucha tank which holds our scoby and our culture. From there, we make a kombucha and once we get the nice sourness, we move it back into this mixing tank where add cane sugar. Then, we move it over to the big, closed brewing fermenter and add a brewers yeast that kicks it up to high alcohol. Once we’ve fermented away all the sugar, we remove the yeast, make it cold, add our juices and spices, carbonate it, and it’s ready to be served."
How drunk can you get without getting hungover?
Forrest: "We love to hear customers say it for us. We’ve had some decent parties and people text us the next morning and say “I wasn't sure about it but I loved it and I feel great today.”"
Greg: "We would love to put our capital and invest behind the science of the nutrient content one day soon. I think as we grow, we’ll have more time to scientifically answer that question. For now, we try to let users speak for the product."
What is your 1% for the planet program?
Forrest & Greg: "Patagonia started 1% for the planet so 1% of our sales annually will go towards charitable organizations. We’re still fine tuning which organizations but we’re looking at sustainable beekeeping and coastline preservation. We’re so lucky to be able to do the things we love out in the environment and that’s not going to be there if we don’t take care of it so we want to focus the funds we donate to preserving natural areas of California. Then, honey, we use the most honey by weight – it’s the biggest ingredient we use – so sustainable beekeeping make sense for us. We want there to be some collaboration with whichever organization we choose to really make a difference."
Anything else we need to know?
Forrest: "We always want say thank you and pay our respects to the San Diego brewing community that came before us. We know this is one of the best brewing cities in America – there are over 160 craft breweries here – and we really feel lucky to be a part of it."
Greg: "We’re definitely very aggressive and ambitious but we’re very grateful for all the people that came before us and what they had to do to build a culture here and opened people’s minds to experimental alcohol."
Visit JuneShine for information on their location and where to buy →