Brewing Beverages With Transparency and Mindfulness With Justin Medcraft and Josh Makler of Mate Maker Co Hard Kombucha

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Sep 21, 2023

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Brewing Beverages With Transparency and Mindfulness With Justin Medcraft and Josh Makler of Mate Maker Co Hard Kombucha

Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by nicole

Justin Medcraft
Brewing Beverages With Transparency and Mindfulness With Justin Medcraft and Josh Makler of Mate Maker Co Hard Kombucha 12

Meet Justin Medcraft, Co-Founder of Mate Maker Co Hard Kombucha, and Josh Makler, the Brewmaster. This venture was born from a group of lifelong friends who reunited with a common mission: to bring transparency and better ingredients to the world of drinks.

Josh Makler Brewmaster
Brewing Beverages With Transparency and Mindfulness With Justin Medcraft and Josh Makler of Mate Maker Co Hard Kombucha 13

Their community, a fusion of musicians, artists, brewers, and creatives, has fueled their journey. Mate Maker Hard Kombucha is their pioneering foray into beverages, and it’s more than just a drink; it’s a testament to their commitment to a positive impact on the planet and their community.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Discover the origin story of Mate Maker Co and their mission to bring transparency and better ingredients to the world of beverages
  • Learn how the team recognized the exciting opportunity of introducing hard kombucha to Australia
  • Gain insights into Josh Makler’s history and what sparked his passion for craft brewing
  • Dive into the challenges of transitioning from traditional beer brewing to the world of kombucha
  • Mate Maker Co’s perspective on mindfulness and how it aligns with their commitment to better ingredients
  • Evaluate whether the mindfulness ethos resonates with Australian consumers and see how they’ve responded to kombucha
  • Discover the meticulous process of sourcing ingredients and crafting unique blends
  • Look into the vegan and gluten-free aspects of hard kombucha
  • Explore some of Mate Maker Co’s standout releases, including Mate Maker POG Kombucha, Mango Peach Smash, and Pineapple Sundream
  • Get an insider’s look at the general brewing process of hard kombucha and the experimentation with yeast, teas, and sugar

In this episode with Justin Medcraft and Josh Makler

Justin Medcraft and Josh Makler share the origin story of Mate Maker Co, a drinks business driven by the mission to bring transparency and better ingredients to the world of beverages. Discover how they brought hard kombucha to the Australian market and the challenges they faced in transitioning from traditional beer brewing and dive into the ethos of mindfulness in drinking and the importance of quality ingredients. 

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Justin Medcraft, Founder, and Josh Makler, Brewmaster at Mate Maker Co Hard Kombucha. Explore their unique flavors, including the Mate Maker POG Kombucha, Mango Peach Smash, and Pineapple Sundream. Get an inside look into the brewing process of hard kombucha and the innovation driving Mate Maker Co’s commitment to transparent ingredients.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. On this show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Before we get started, quick sponsor message. Today’s episode, it’s sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry build stronger bonds between their customers and brands through authentic content.

Go to today to learn more. Today I’m talking with Justin Medcraft and Josh Mackler from Mate Maker Hard Kombucha. Justin’s one of the co-founders. And Josh is the brewmaster. Justin, Josh, welcome to the show.

[00:00:51] Justin Medcraft: Thanks for having us, Drew.

[00:00:52] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, thanks for being on. So, guys, I do have to say, normally I ask for samples, but I’ve actually been drinking this stuff at home, and it’s really good.

I mean, man, it was kind of funny when they set up this podcast interview, it didn’t really draw the connection between what I was drinking and the guests I was having, and then last night I was like, oh jeez, I’ve already had this. stuff. So yeah, I got to say,

[00:01:16] Josh Makler: That’s awesome.

[00:01:17] Justin Medcraft: That’s the best introduction you could ask for me. So

[00:01:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, I gotta say it. And it is noon on right before a long day weekend. So I’m, I’m going to actually have a, have a sip during the interview.

[00:01:29] Justin Medcraft: Cheers to that.

[00:01:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So Justin, let’s, kind of tell us about Mate Maker.

[00:01:37] Justin Medcraft: Yeah, I mean the Mate Maker journey and stories are a pretty interesting one that, yeah, it kind of goes back almost 20 years really, between, you know, a community and a group of friends that all grew up together, moved across the world together, and I suppose have kind of found, a new home in California.

So, yeah, we, the way that we kind of, I suppose talk about the origins of Mate Maker is, a group of lifelong friends that kind of got back together and wanted to create a drinks business that I suppose brings, you know, transparency, better ingredients to, you know, new, new kind of drink trends, new drink categories.

You know, we’ve been really kind of lucky enough to build a really great community of, you know, musicians, artists, brewers. And, you know, kind of different creative people. So, yeah, the drink that you’re drinking, they Mate Maker ha ha kombucha without kind of first, you know, array into the drink space.

But, you know, it’s definitely not our last and, you know, we’re really excited about kind of continuing to push this message of, you know, bringing high levels of transparency. Real ingredients to, you know, lots of other kind of drink categories that we think can kind of benefit from that. And at the end of the day, like, you know, giving consumers a really great choice that can kind of sit in the cooler next to some, you know, iconic kind of different beverages.

[00:03:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s amazing. Your origin story that was sent over says that the idea was born on a California highway. Can you talk to us about that?

[00:03:14] Justin Medcraft: Yeah, it was, actually. So I think, you know, that the kind of background to Mate Maker was during Covid. Actually, it all kind of kicked off like lots of amazing ideas.

You know, I think Covid kind of allowed people to really kind of reflect and take a second to think about, you know, what, what gaps there were in the marketplace and, you know for us, we would always on kind of Sunday, sit around the pool at, at our friend’s place when they were recording their album.

So when Rufus Du Sol were recording their album every Sunday, we’d sit by the pool and try all these new, you know, interesting kind of beverages that were, that were hitting the, the shelf around that time. You know, we were talking hard kombuchas, we were talking like, ready-to-drink cocktails, all sorts of things that were an alternative to beer.

And when we kind of got the opportunity to try hard kombucha, it really opened up our eyes to the potential that, you know, there were beverages out there that, you know, had real organic ingredients, but, you know, it could also be an alternative to beer. And some of those, like bigger RTDs, so it happened really organically, actually between our friend group and, you know, we started trying all these different flavors. And that, I suppose, really kind of sparked an idea where, you know, we, we kind of started to look at what was happening in the Australian market, and we kind of say the Australian market is a fast follower from the US.

You know, all the big trends that really kind of take shape in America eventually make their way to Australia a few years later, right? And we just saw, you know, hard kombucha is this really exciting opportunity that could make its way down to Australia because, you know, Australia have a very similar mindset.

Yeah, we like to have a drink with our mates, but we also, you know, really conscious about the ingredients. You know, we, we read the back of the labels, you know, understand what’s in our drinks. So, that kind of kicked off the kind of thought process. And then, you know, one day when we were on a road trip to Mammoth, actually, we would go skiing all the time.

And I was in the car with, you know, the Rufus guys and I’d been stewing on this idea of, you know, a bit of a new drinks company and bringing hard kombucha to Australia for a while. And I kind of thought, you know, there’s no better opportunity than a five-hour car ride on the way to the snow to really pitch it to, to these guys.

So, we got in the car, the doors were locked and we were off, you know, up the mountain and, and then that, that kind of began the process. It happened, you know, really naturally where I sort of said, “Guys, like, I think there’s an opportunity to bring hard kombucha and all these exciting new beverages that we’ve been drinking by your pool on Sundays to the Australian market.”

And, you know, they were, the light bulb went off for them and they said, we’ve been thinking about the same thing for so long. So,

[00:06:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So Josh, you’re, you’re a legend in the, in the craft beverage category.

Talk to me about your history and what got you into craft brewing.

[00:06:18] Josh Makler: That’s awesome to recall that. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of years to kind of continue to hone the craft. I don’t know. It’s kind of a, it’s kind of a funny story. I just kind of kind of like, you know, got thrown into it, which is interesting.

I think just, you know, being in San Diego and, you know, being kind of at the forefront of where this whole craft industry has been, you know, starting and then, you know, obviously this big kind of alternative wave of products has really been kind of, you know, starting off in the R and D phase.

And, you know, showcasing in the market to really get a feel of kind of how the rest of the state slash country is going to get, you know, like, I mean it was kind of, you know, like the perfect storm for me to, you know, be down here and start to find some opportunities. So, you know, I came down here to San Diego to look to kind of play some potentially get some pro baseball contracts, do that right after college.

And so I needed to have some work on the side, while I was doing that. So I started kind of working in breweries, bars, and restaurants. And starting and doing that. So, you know, Justin kind of has this background of doing, you know, a little more of the, the front-facing sales side and kind of development on that.

Well, I kind of, you know, I’ve learned so much about the backend production side of this whole kind of new industry that’s growing. So I ended up getting into, you know, started working at breweries, you know, delivery driver, busser, bartender, essentially holding like four different jobs, doing, you know, part-time work with all of them at once until I got kind of the first, you know, this is kind of my first step and foray into the alternative side of things, working with a company called Boochcraft out here.

[00:07:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah. I know –

[00:07:52] Josh Makler: They were essentially, yeah. So they were essentially, you know, I mean this was like their startup. It was the three founders of them. And then myself kind of, you know, working, you know, I was working the brewery, working long hours, doing a lot of stuff. And that’s kind of, it was kind of like a, you know, throw yourself into the fire moment where, you know, not really even, you know, the founders knew that much about what we were doing in the production side of things.

We were all just kind of learning and growing at the same time. And so I was able to, you know, obviously make mistakes, but also learn how to not make those mistakes in the future. And, you know, it just, the learning curve was. I was able to really just learn so much in such little time that it really helped me advance so far.

And it, you know, working with all these companies, I ended up working with Boochcraft. And then I was working over with the Novo Brazil team who makes Nova Kombucha as well. Another kind of big alternative maker here in Southern California. And doing all that was just. You know, awesome. How much that I actually learned and was able to grow doing that, that it kind of helped me be able to take the next step, which was work to actually kind of help start something.

That’s where I got into work with the JuneShine guys. So yeah, so I was a part of JuneShine from the formulation of that product, you know, making the product in a garage and then working with them for the first two years and getting that started, which has just been a rocket ship of growth kind of in this whole alternative market, which has been awesome.

And then I decided to kind of make a split from that to start doing some other things. I got back into doing a little more bar and restaurant work, and then I started doing a good amount of consulting work on the side as well. Kind of in this alternative industry, I helped some partners start some other brands, some other alternative brands, one called Kobe, which is kind of like craft fruit cocktails. Kind of a, you know, a next step up to, you know, seltzer style sugar ferment trying to, you know, advance that too. And then I’ve also, you know, been working in kind of some of the spirits industry and working on some cran cocktails doing, you know, formulations and stuff.

Yeah, so it’s been a, it’s been a wild ride of a lot of different things, but my kind of heart is still kind of always been getting back to this kind of like, you know, transparent, you know, real ingredients type of alcohol making that I think everybody is kind of pushing towards. And so that’s kind of when, you know, I was able to link up with Justin and the MateMaker crew and, you know, it kind of hit all the boxes for me.

And all the boxes of kind of, you know, they’re believing the right things. They’re looking to do innovation. You know, we’re looking to push the, push the needle on products and you know, what we can make. It’s not like, you know, we’re just going to kind of make one thing. We have a lot of opportunities to see what we can do in this market as it grows.

So it’s a super exciting time to kind of see, you know, what’s going to be next because I think, you know, the things have things changed so quickly over the last few years as soon as kind of the seltzer and the can cocktail really just shifted that, you know, the way people are drinking is changing much faster than we can keep up.

So it’s kind of, okay, what’s going to be next, and trying to be on that forefront is kind of what keeps us going.

[00:10:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s, that’s amazing. So many questions I have for you. After that, what, first of all, what, what were the challenges of shifting from like the traditional like beer brewing to kombucha?

[00:11:09] Josh Makler: There’s obviously a lot of the stuff I always say that kind of brewers are plumbers, you know, it’s all pretty similar.

You’re moving liquid around and you got to learn how to do it the best and most efficient and, you know, keep it clean. But I think the biggest thing is that it starts to kind of bring just this, maybe there’s like a little bit of this kind of like new, you know, like food and wellness mindset into the kind of game, which is like, you know, back in the, I guess, I don’t want to say that it’s like wrong for brewers, you know, there’s not as much thinking about kind of the wellness aspects of it.

But when people are getting more into this like hard kombucha or hard seltzer, a lot more focus and effort was put into, okay. Now we’re looking at calories. Now we’re looking at all these things. Which I don’t know if it has to be like the top thing, right? I think that you should make something that tastes good first.

And like, if you’re going to have a drink, like have something that you enjoy versus just counting calories. It’s never the best way to do that. You know, it’s like if you’re having a drink of alcohol, you’re having calories, right? So it’s You know, it’s kind of that, that double-edged sword, but it has really kind of changed the perception of how people are making these things because now we’re actually, you know, taking the time to it’s, that’s what you’re caring about too.

Right? You’re like, okay, people are going to have a good drink, but also we don’t want them to be drinking, you know, some one can that has 40 grams of sugar. Because you want to make it taste good like that. Right. So where’s the balance in how we can, you know, make these things and where, hey, you can enjoy a couple of these and also you’re going to enjoy your next morning and your next day as well.

[00:12:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, and that goes right into your kind of ethos of mindfulness and moderation that also ties into Rufus Du Sol. So why don’t you guys talk to me about that? Justin, talk to me about mindfulness. And I guess if you’re going to drink, you might as well drink something of quality.

[00:12:59] Justin Medcraft: Yeah, for sure. You know, and I think the question that really kind of started everything for us was, you know if you choose to drink, why not drink something that’s better? Really. Because I think it’s totally cool with, you know, the growth in people that are choosing not to drink, you know, that is a totally fine and a decision that, you know, I think is also contributing to a lot of people embracing this kind of mindful nature of, you know, of living. So we’ve, you know, always kind of thought about ourselves as a business that just gives people an option that is a better for you option if they choose to have a, you know, kind of a beverage. So mindfulness to us, I think is something that is like really deeply rooted in our individual outlook on life.

You know the Rufus Du Sol guys they, they tour so much throughout the year. And, you know, you have to be able to, I suppose, keep a certain level of focus, mindfulness, and also health, and wellness when you’re on the road for, you know, kind of 200 days a year. So, and it’s I think that that the age of, you know, the Rolling Stones kind of touring and partying like 24/7 just isn’t sustainable to a lot of people these days.

So, you know, a lot of the day musicians today have a really relentless focus on their health and their wellness and also their mindfulness, you know, you could, you know, after a show at Rufus Du Sol, there isn’t a backstage party. It’s ice baths. It’s ginger shots. It’s really kind of focusing on preparing for the next show.

So I think, you know, as an alcohol brand, embracing mindfulness and embracing moderation is actually cool today. You know, I don’t think there would have been a lot of alcohol brands back in the early 2000s that would actively preach to not drink your product, right? Or actively preach to not be kind of consuming alcohol.

But we embrace that because we think that it’s just part of the, you know, of being able to have a balance between enjoying yourself with your friends and having a good time. But also living life, and embracing this kind of outlook of looking after your body and looking after your mental health.

So, yeah, Mate Maker very much kind of believe in that. We’re not trying to drink, get people to drink more. We’re just trying to get them to drink better when they do choose to drink. And I think that was something that was really refreshing when we were kind of, you know, coming up with this brand and this business at the start, you know, it wasn’t about excess, it was about moderation.

And, you know, I think that today really kind of rings true in culture, rings true with the next generation, you know, that, you know, aren’t kind of about excess anymore. They’re about balance, about living an active life. They’re about living a fulfilling life and, you know, the role that alcohol can play in that just slightly pivots a little bit.

And I think it’s important to kind of embrace it. So, yeah, that’s what mindfulness, mindfulness means to us, which is all about, you know, still being able to have a good time, but doing it you know, through moderation and doing it through a product that really kind of embraces, you know, better ingredients rather than all the artificial, you know, kind of flavors, high sugar, things that just aren’t gonna make you feel good.

So, yeah, I think that’s, that’s kind of how we see the world.

[00:16:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s an incredible ethos. Now I was gonna ask about, the challenges of bringing a hard kombucha from Australia to the United States. But this ethos, is it resonating in Australia with the way Australians are consuming alcohol with higher-quality ingredients?

Did they, were they receptive to kombucha?

[00:16:38] Justin Medcraft: Absolutely. I mean, you know, the the similarities between the kind of coastal culture of Australia and, you know, the coastal culture of the U.S. is very, very similar. I think that’s why, you know, everyone’s got an Australian friend that lives over in California, and, you know, everyone in Australia has an American friend that lives in Australia.

Like the cultural similarities between the two are very, very close. So, you know, back in Australia, 85 percent of the population lives on the coast, so we are a coastal community. We, you know, love surfing. We love getting out there and being active. We like to feel good and we like to kind of, you know, get outdoors.

And I think that’s sort of, you know, it rings true definitely, you know, in, in the U.S. S not just in California and coastal kind of, you know, California, but going to the Pacific Northwest, you know, going to the mountains. Like people like to kind of really, you know, embrace nature and get out there and have a good time. So I think that this is definitely similar in Australia.

I think, you know, since launching in Australia, we’ve been really blown away with you know, the feedback to the product in terms of how good it tastes, but also the fact that, you know, we are one of the first organic products down there in the alcohol category. You know, the alcohol category hasn’t really kind of embraced this high level of transparency.

Hasn’t embraced organic, you know, at the same way that the U.S. has kind of four or five years in the future. So, you know, we’re kind of just continually focused on pushing that further, giving people that option that if they, you know, do want something that is organic, that is made with real fruit that is made with, you know, tea and all sorts of other great things that.

They’ve got the ability to do that. And then to Josh’s point, right, like you get to wake up and go surfing the next day, you don’t feel like you’ve had a sugar crash.

[00:18:23] Josh Makler: I think it’s kind of, it’s interesting, right? It’s like this, it’s like five years ago or, you know, five to seven years ago in the U.S.

When, you know, the seltzers were starting and the kombucha was starting and all of it and everybody’s starting to get educated and it’s, you know, kind of put on like the brand leaders to do that education, et cetera. That’s kind of the same thing that we’re doing down in Australia too, is pushing that forward because it is a first and people have to like, start to understand it and what’s better from like the knowledge to come from the people who know it and I’ve done it before and say, hey, here’s what’s going on.

And that’s when you kind of get people to turn over and that’s, you know, it’s, it takes a lot of education. I think, you know, you learn that. You know, you’re not only just like running a business, you’re becoming an educator, teaching people how to do this, how to next step and how we’re drinking and that’s, but that’s what makes it so exciting for us, right?

It’s like, hey, we get to help, you know, change people’s perspectives on these things.

[00:19:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:19:16] Justin Medcraft: And there’s so many incredible independent brands down in Australia, Drew. You know, there are, you know, amazing craft breweries. There’s a real momentum and movement that’s happening on, you know, independent brands kind of embracing innovation.

And I think that you know when you’ve got a kind of thriving independent craft community that is really pushing, you know, the industry forward. It’s a really great place to be, because, you know, it kind of right, you know, the way that we like, like to look at it is a rising tide lifts all ships..

[00:19:49] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure.

[00:19:49] Justin Medcraft: And I think that you know, within the craft community and the craft industry, that’s happening in California and has been happening for quite some time and, you know, it’s really been embraced by the Australian community down there. So you’ve got, you know, really interesting dynamics of people questioning and wanting better products.

But then you’ve also got this like really exciting industry where independent brands are starting to kind of push the potential of what the drinks industry looks like.

[00:20:12] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s fascinating. It’s been a, it’s been a few years since I’ve been in Australia, but I, very in tune with surfing, so I get a little, I feel like, I feel, I feel like I have a little bit of a pulse there.

More on the wine side than on the, the craft side.

[00:20:25] Justin Medcraft: You’d be right at home.

[00:20:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. No, I got to get back over there. I want to talk about the ingredients. Cause there is one thing about this, like it was immediately apparent to me is you can really taste the guava in this. I mean, you can taste the juice that sometimes gets muddled in some of the other kombuchas.

Josh, can you talk to me about how you went about sourcing the ingredients and coming up with a blend?

[00:20:48] Josh Makler: Yeah, so the kind of first thing that we’re looking to do with kind of, you know, like, just like the flavor profile that we’re putting forward is we’re trying to, you know, showcase the fruit a little bit more, not necessarily that we want it just to be like, you know, like overly sweet.

[00:21:03] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, it’s not that.

[00:21:05] Josh Makler: Yeah, not taste like. You know, not a hard kombucha, et cetera, but I, you know, there has been, there’s always going to be this notion that’s, you know, sticks around for people and the kombucha being this like hippie vinegar drink. And so it’s kind of, that’s part of this education is getting people, you know, to understand, hey, like, I think there’s, there’s a way, and I actually, I put like a really big divider line almost between kombucha and hard kombucha because of the way that people are, you know, kind of supposed to be drinking it versus like, should be drinking it.

You know, this hard kombucha, you know, beverage has really, you know, fallen more into almost like a canned cocktail, you know, kind of category where it is like a blend of things. It’s alcohol, right? You’re, you’re drinking it to enjoy a good time, to enjoy a good drink, to release. Versus the kombucha was more of that health tonic.

And so, you know, it is, it is interesting, right? There are a different kind of set of consumers drinking these different things. And the people in this kombucha have gotten, you know, to know this health tonic that has all this kind of vinegar to it. You know, is healthy. And that’s and that’s great, right?

That’s a great moment for that drink. But it’s kind of getting onto the cusp of, okay, what’s happening in hard kombucha? How are people drinking this? And the way that we need to kind of cater, you know, a little more of the flavor profile is what people are, you know, enjoying when they’re drinking alcohol.

So when we were making our, you know, flavors, we wanted to be a little bit more mellow on the actual kind of like funk that we were producing the beverage, right? We wanted to create a little bit more of like a, a cleaner brew to give people something that they can enjoy a little more. We don’t want that notion of people still say, “Oh, I drink a bunch of hard kombucha and my stomach hurts.” or stuff like that.

And it, you know, I don’t even know if that’s happening because of the hard kombucha or it’s just becoming, you know, happening because perception, right? It’s one of those. Oh, they think it’s gonna make their stomach hurt. And then it does, right? Because your body can react to how your mind thinks. So it’s really just, you know, trying to create a little bit more of like kind of like a softer touch on the kombucha part of it to give people some, you know, something that can be enjoyed, can be enjoyed over and over.

People can make it their daily beverage. Wanna have, you know, two or three of them, they’re gonna be okay, etcetera. And so that was really the focus. And then on the exact ingredients side, you know, I just, we’ve been really just always looking for the best, you know, ingredients that we can find, and trying to, you know, make sure they’re using those right.

We, you know, try to use, you know, as, as much real kind of pure raise as much as possible, focusing on, you know, finding some of the best spices, either dried spices, awesome kind of cold press citrus oils that we’re able to use, you know, kind of as, as flavorings for the products too. So we’re just, we’re, we’re taking the effort to spend a little bit more time on finding quality and, you know, like even cost of ingredients to make our products versus just saying, okay, what’s the cheapest way to get to our end goal here.

[00:23:56] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s great. And the, the cans are, what was it say’s vegan and gluten-free. Is that by just a fact that it’s hard kombucha or did effort have to be made to ensure that?

[00:24:07] Josh Makler: No, yeah, it’s just being a hard kombucha. It should be vegan and gluten-free. The only thing that would make hard kombucha not vegan is if you’re making a junk kombucha with honey.

But I guess there, there’s a lot of kind of debate in honey, you know, like organic honey is super, super, like, awesome for bees and there’s a lot of debate on that. But, you know, I think the honey vegans, there’s kind of like an up and down on what people think about that, so.

[00:24:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s very, that’s very good.

So talk to me about these ingredients. So you’ve got, you’ve got the, the POG blend that I’ve got right now. What are the other different releases that you have?

[00:24:43] Josh Makler: So yeah, right now we have a Mango Peach Smash that is a mango peach and lemon variety. Kind of gives it, you know, a nice little stone fruit, stone fruit and tropical mix, which, you know, we found that a ton of people love.

And then we also have a pineapple tepache, which is our Pineapple Sundream on our first release. And that’s going to be actually made off kind of, you know, a Mexican-inspired beverage. We actually did this product that Justin can touch a little bit more on about a festival we did with Rufus called Sundream down in Mexico.

So that’s what kind of these flavors.

[00:25:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:25:17] Josh Makler: Yeah, and so we did it’s a pineapple cinnamon and brown sugar which is an awesome blend. You know, it’s super light and refreshing. These are these are products that you know people kind of make in Mexico on the streets. You’ll see people doing, you know, tepache ferments and serving them for people, which is super amazing.

You know, things like the other ones would be like, you know, Jamaica beverages, et cetera. A lot of those kinds of agua fresca-inspired beverages. And so we want to kind of honor that when we did this release. And honestly, people loved it so much. So we decided to roll it out as a kind of core variety for us starting in the U.S.

[00:25:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s cool. I got to try that. Yeah. Justin, talk to me about this, the release in Mexico with this Rufus Du Sol.

[00:25:58] Justin Medcraft: The Rufus Du Sol guys, they run an annual festival down in Cabo called Sundream. And you know, it’s like the perfect kind of opportunity to, I suppose, like seed out products to a really engaged audience.

So, you know, we love the idea of kind of testing and kind of pivoting if we need to or making adjustments once we’ve been able to get some feedback from, from consumers. So, yeah, when we went down to Mexico, I think it was like a bit of a challenge, really. Because, you know, we wanted to create something that I felt honored Mexico. That was, you know, kind of connecting to the roots of where the festival is and the community that has kind of allowed us to kind of be down there and, you know, throw an event. And we, but we didn’t know really where to start.

So. You know, when we, when we went down to Mexico a few times to go surfing or to kind of go visit, saw people on the side of the road drinking these kinds of like, almost like dark kind of brown, you know, like fermented pineapple drink. And we were like, what is that? It was like, really interesting.

I’ve never seen it before. Never heard of tepache before. And then, you know, we, we picked up one on from a drinks cart on the side of the road. And it was, you know, this I suppose, beverage that was like really sweet and fruity, but then also had these like interesting balances of spices to kind of round it out at the end.

And, you know, we had no idea of the cultural heritage and the significance that tepache had to the Mexican culture, right? Like, I think the thing that really struck us was tepache is something that’s being shared between family, friends. You know, passed down for generations, you know, every kind of family has their own tepache recipe, you know, which is just like such a cool story, especially for a brand like Mate Maker, which is all about kind of sharing beverages between mates.

So we thought that there was like a really nice connection there to our origin is a brand, which is all about creating a beverage that we can share with our friends in our community. So. Yeah. So Josh kind of, you know, grabbed that and ran with the idea of, you know, bringing a departure-inspired hard kombucha to the festival for the first time.

And, you know, you can also look in California and in terms of just the fact that departure is starting to, you know, kind of have a lot of moment with with the, you know, that’s kind of bubbled up from the Hispanic community in California and is now starting to kind of show up on the shelves at whole foods and sprouts and like all of these, you know, kind of mainstream, great retail partners.

So, yeah, we kind of got excited by that and started tweaking and brewing kind of small batches of our own version of tepache. And, you know, what I think Josh kind of created was like nothing short of, you know, exceptional. It was really, really delicious. It was a fruity kind of, you know, pineapple drink, but then I had all these interesting spices. And you know, we brought it down to Sundream for the first time and kind of, you know, allowed us to, you know, share it with kind of 4, 000 people and, you know, sold out like people were loving it.

It really landed well and what was originally just going to be kind of a, an exclusive that we offered at the festival to give that community something special to try and to drink while they’re watching Rufus and all of the other, you know, awesome kind of bands and DJs that were playing there, ended up being something that we brought to market, you know.

So you’ve got kind of two flavors that are, I suppose you could say, relatively known. You know, mango, peach, like they’re two massive flavors in beverage that I think a lot of people understand what it’s going to taste like. Then you’ve got, you know, POG, traditional kind of, you know, Hawaiian, you know, kind of flavor, but we’ve brought, you know, something special to it through the introduction of blood orange.

So it gives it a little bit more of a kind of interesting profile. I think with Sundream, we wanted to do something that was a little bit more crafted, a little bit more interesting and nuanced, and just kind of rounded out the portfolio a little bit more. So, you know, we’re, yeah. I’ve got three, I think, flavors that speak to very different kind of flavor profiles, but have all been really well received because, you know, I think at the end of the day, to kind of Josh’s point, when he was talking about the ingredients and the importance of ingredients I think, you know, if the flavor is real or if it’s artificial, you know. And I think for us, you know, we kind of see ourselves at like, so we make hard kombucha, but it’s really about the fruit.

I think it’s really about the fresh ingredients and the fresh flavors that we’re able to bring. And, you know, you can kind of, you can really taste that. I think when, when you, when you drink a, you know, I may make a hard kombucha, the fact that it’s got 100 percent real fruit in it, not all these artificial sweeteners and flavors and stuff.

[00:30:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely.

[00:30:40] Josh Makler: Yeah. And we, and we talk a lot about the fruit too, and just, I don’t want to like, let it kind of get over the fact that we’re still trying to make, you know, our beverages kind of sit in line with how people are drinking based on the, you know, I’m not over here counting calories and counting sugar, but we are saying, hey, can we make something that has, you know, I, you know, can we make a beverage that has these values that are in range with people being okay with, you know, kind of the acceptance on those.

So, you know, like our products are still, you know, we’re not necessarily trying to make 100 calorie products, 4 percent et cetera, kind of like a white cloud, but we’re sitting in the range where we’re not, you know, just, you know, giving people huge gut bones of calories and sugar that they, you know, it’s just gonna, you know, ruin you the next day or just be just an unpleasant experience.

[00:31:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, you make, you make every calorie count. It’s gotta, it’s gotta, it’s gotta pay its own weight or tow its own weight. I don’t know, whatever that phrase is. So, Josh, can you, for our listeners, because I think a lot of people are confused about how hard kombucha is made, can you outline just the general kind of brewing process of it?

[00:31:43] Josh Makler: Yeah. So, yeah, it’s kind of, it’s a pretty simple process, right? So essentially what we’re doing when we’re making hard kombucha is we have two different fermentations that are occurring. You have an alcoholic fermentation, that’s occurring and that’s done with sugarcane.

Most hard kombuchas, I believe, which classifies us as severe. Some people might be able to do it, you know, with fruit products, which you’d classify as a wine, but most commonly it’s done with a sugarcane fermentation, similar to what you find with any seltzer beverage to make that alcohol. And then there’s also on the side, you also have your bacteria fermentation, which is going to be like the kombucha part of it.

So that’s the SCOBY, which, you know, people believe is this kind of big gelatinous thing, but no SCOBY is a, is an actual term just for a culture of liquid and, you know, stuff that happens. So symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast together. So, using that culture and then using the alcohol fermentation, you get this blend, which is, you know, you’re able to kind of make this hard kombucha product from there, right?

And so, you know, it gets a little bit of tartness from the bacteria, you get a little bit of those kind of vinegar notes, you get a little bit of those, nice lactic notes from all that. And then, you know, you’re obviously you’re, which are alcoholic yeast strain that we’ve selected.

And I’ve done a lot of work on to kind of find the best one that produced kind of the cleanest ferment that we’re looking for, because there is a lot of manipulation you could do with flavor based on your, you know, just any yeast you’re choosing in any France, wine, et cetera. So, you know, that one, you know, produces that nice, clean, we think it gives us really nice, neutral, clean, kind of like fruity presence.

And then once we do that, we have this kind of base hard food to blend, and from there, we’re able to use our different fruits and spices to make our different flavor combinations. So it makes it actually pretty awesome and easy on us that we’re able to do that where we can kind of, you know, brew up a large tank of this stuff and actually split it into different batches and do different kind of, you know, fun plans.

So we’re actually, we’re looking forward to in the future to be able to kind of, you know, we’d love to get ourselves a taproom kind of like R and D place where we can actually, you know, start having kind of this stuff and really do some like fun, craft, small batch stuff with a little more, you know, maybe even some like farmers market fruits or visit local farms.

So that’ll be, that’ll be a next step for the future.

[00:34:03] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That was very helpful because I know I’ve kind of explained it to a lot of people and they think you’re fermenting the tea and it’s not really what’s happening there.

[00:34:10] Josh Makler: Yeah, it’s for your fermenting the sugar.

The tea is there to provide, you know, the tea is there obviously to provide kind of the base of the liquid, right? So instead of a seltzer, which we wouldn’t have the tea added in there, the tea is providing some micronutrients.

[00:34:22] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:34:22] Josh Makler: To the producers are providing some micronutrients. Obviously, you know, it’s…

You’re using a tea versus water. It’s obviously that can remove your aspect. And so I think it maybe kind of helps a little bit of the health on the fermentation with some of those nutrients that are provided. So maybe that’s why we can produce, you know, maybe a little more of like a neutral fruity profile than some of the, you know, seltzers.

You get it, they can get a little rough sometimes, but that’s also just due to the process of, you know, a lot of people and how they produce those where, you know, they’re doing a little bit of a different process and then carbon filtering seltzers. So

[00:34:53] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now, so you have like a house blend is your base that you then have the fruits to is there?

[00:34:59] Josh Makler: Yes, exactly.

[00:35:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Is there a possibility? Like, I see, like, I’m going to use a beer reference now where you’ve got the different hops. Can you like create experiment with different yeast and maybe have like a boulder house blend and a lighter? Or is that, is that even a thing?

[00:35:14] Josh Makler: Definitely. I mean, yeah, you could, you could essentially be experimenting with different teas.

Different teas are going to react to bacterial culture, you know, differently. Right? You could even make. You know, we’re using a green tea for our kombucha, but if we were using a black tea, sometimes that produces, you know, maybe like a little bit more of like a vinegar note in the kombucha side of things.

Yeah, I mean, you can manipulate anything, right? You can manipulate, we can manipulate different yeasts where, you know, who wanted to produce varieties that, it gets a little bit tricky with how we’re, you know, we’re doing a lot of kind of like co-manufacturing production right now.

So we have to be, you know, pretty sleek and say, here’s what we’re going to make. And, you know, the size of our batches. But yeah, exactly. Once we, once we potentially have, you know, maybe like, you know, a smaller R and D facility, we’re able to really, you know, switch up, okay, let’s make some with these teas, let’s make some with these different yeasts and trial them out.

And yeah, it’s really going to change the profile on the, the back end of everything.

[00:36:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s super exciting. Like it’s really mind-boggling to think about the possibilities.

[00:36:12] Josh Makler: Yeah, same thing. We could, we could maybe change up the sugar too, right? You could use, you know, try it from any brown sugar, see what else you’re going to get, et cetera.

So there’s so many different possibilities and kind of ways you can push the needle. You know, obviously, our focus is kind of getting ourselves started and getting our products out the door right now. But eventually, you know, we’d really, you know, our plan is probably to really push the innovation and see what we can do.

And you know, who knows, you know, you never, that’s once you’re doing that stuff. That’s kind of when you figure out that you might just stumble on the next, you know, next greatest thing.

[00:36:41] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, yeah. That’s amazing. Justin, I gotta ask you. So, San Diego, very competitive market. What’s it like bringing a product into this marketplace?

[00:36:51] Justin Medcraft: Totally. I think it’s a, it’s a really good point. You know, the way that I think we like kind of look at it is San Diego is the best market to kind of incubate a new brand. Probably, you know, there’s, you know, in the country, really, I think you think about like how many amazing brands have started in San Diego.

And to kind of really be able to build like captive audience straight out of the gate, you know? There’s a huge amount of craft beverage culture that’s, you know, been happening in San Diego for a long, long time. So we actually kind of saw the opportunity to go into a market like San Diego that is, you know hard kombucha heartland, really.

You know, you got kind of, you know, two of majority of the, you know, kind of category leaders all starting in San Diego. We saw that as an opportunity really to kind of earn our stripes with a drinker that is really educated and it really knows what they want rather than, I suppose, necessarily trying to break into a new market as like a first mover.

So. Yeah, the fact that, you know, there’s some incredible brands that have done, you know, and kind of elevated the hunk of each category there is a, you know, if we can kind of stand up next to some of those with a great product and a great liquid that the consumer is resonating with, I think that that sort of speaks quite highly of our brand and the product that, you know, Josh has been able to kind of brew.

So, yeah, I think it’s kind of, you know, the focus for us has been let’s go into you. You know, let’s go into the market where the, I suppose competition is high where the products are great, and where the consumer, you know, at the end of the day is the ultimate decision maker. Right. They’re, they’re the ones that are going to be able to tell you if it’s good or not.

And I think we’ve been really happy with how it’s been received, you know, in kind of short of, you know, probably three months really since we launched. So,

[00:38:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, it’s been an incredible growth. I’m, I’m definitely seeing it in the stores and in the tap rooms as well.

[00:38:47] Justin Medcraft: Yeah. Thanks for that. I think, you know, we’ve like really looked at on premises like a way to launch our brand. You know, focusing on like those really good accounts that, you know, consumers are kind of looking for something different, you know?

So, you know, you know, drafting has been like a big focus for us trying to roll out into craft lead accounts as well as really good independent accounts that have an incredible offering. Like, I am so blown away with just if you look at the fridge, the opportunity that beyond beer and kind of this fourth category of better for you alcohol represents in San Diego. Like, you know, we’re in a we’re in a store the other day. There was almost as much fridge space to hard kombucha, canned cocktails, all of these amazing beverages as it was with craft beer. And I think that says a lot about what the consumers buy. You know, at the end of the day, San Diego is a, a market that people are really open to trying something new, you know? And they’re looking for those kind of alternative beverages and I think that foundation, this is really good for incubating a new business like Mate Maker.

[00:39:53] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, fantastic. Now guys, as we’re wrapping down, anything we haven’t talked about that you want to bring up, you know, latest news or

[00:40:00] Justin Medcraft: I think, look, at the end of the day, you know, we, we want to just be really focused on, you know, pushing, I suppose, the potential of what these new innovation products could look like. You know? And really focusing on giving people at the end of the day a great drink experience that’s made with, you know, real transparent ingredients.

So yeah, you know, hard kombucha is a really great launch point for us. But, you know, Josh has got some pretty exciting things up his sleeve in terms of where we want to enter into some new categories, you know, in the future. So, yeah, I think the way that you know, the kind of if you go to a like a house party, you know, you’re looking to someone’s esky.

There’s all sorts of beverages in there. You know, gone are the days where it’s just like you go into a party and there’s only beer available. If I look in the cooler today, I’m seeing all these incredible types of, you know, new products. And I think that’s what we’re trying to, you know, really kind of stand up against is focusing on, you know, being part of that next wave of innovation and really kind of, you know, doing things that is exciting and interesting to us that hopefully, you know, the consumer will be just as excited about as well.

[00:41:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Where can people find out more about Mate Maker and you guys?

[00:41:11] Justin Medcraft: So you can go to and, you know, that’s where our store finder is located. That’s where, you know, you can kind of keep up to date with events. You know, we’re really being active in terms of, you know, activating the on-premise, and showing up at some other big music festivals and stuff over the summer.

So, hopefully, yeah, you’ll be able to kind of find us, you know, in San Diego through going to your favorite bar or, you know, going to some music festivals. But if you can’t find us in those kinds of places, then yeah, just go onto our website and you’ll be able to use the store finder to find the local store that’s carrying Mate Maker.

And yeah, stay tuned because we’ve got some really exciting new flavors coming up and some really exciting new beverages that are going to be hitting the market soon as well.

[00:41:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, that’s awesome. We’re going to have to have you back in a few months and check your growth. Hear the latest.

Well, thank you.

[00:42:03] Justin Medcraft: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having us, Drew. And yeah, we appreciate the time to have a discussion.

[00:42:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Cheers. Thank you.