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  • Writer's pictureRealtor Annie

People We Think Are Dope: Kate Lubing

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Kate Lubing is a passionate and experienced hospitality professional who co-founded HK Brewing Collective, Utah’s first and only kombucha brewery, taproom and bar, with her business partner Hannah Hendrickson. Kate and Hannah started their journey in the kombucha industry with Han’s Kombucha, a low-sugar, probiotic-packed, and delicious beverage that Hannah had been brewing in her college dorm closet. Han’s Kombucha is now one of the many brands that come out of HK Brewing Collective, which operates in a 5300 square foot facility in downtown Salt Lake City. Kate and Hannah are dedicated to elevating the kombucha game in Utah and beyond, and sharing their love of kombucha with their community.


Kate Lubing Co-founder of  Han's Kombucha
Kate Lubing - Han's Kombucha

OK, I'm sitting here at Han’s Kombucha with Kate Lubing, a friend of 10…11…12 years… We're not entirely sure, but forever. And she has started a wonderful little kombucha brewing spot and bar and hangout space in Salt Lake City and I'm super excited to learn about her shop with her. So, hi Kate.

Hi, Annie.

Let's get a little bit of background on you. How did you come to be where you are in the world today?


Oh, my goodness, I don't even know. I grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Both of my parents were really into cooking growing up, my dad cooked his way through college and law school, so it was kind of ingrained in us, and early on I started in the restaurant industry as a hostess, fell in love with the operations of it all and that really, kind of inspired me to stick with this industry. I've been in food and beverage now for 22 years. My background is pretty expansive, I guess. I did everything from quick service to fine dining. I went to Western Culinary Institute in Portland OR, Le Cordon Bleu accredited program. So, I kind of worked and learned the fundamentals, and then just pinged around the Northwest, the Rocky Mountain region kind of up and down the Central Coast of California, working in food and beverage, winery, and hospitality, kind of honing my craft both in front of operations and the backside and kitchens.


Is this your first venture into owning a business?


It is. I had a consulting business if you will, over like the last 10 years, but this is the first full-fledged business with business partners. I got a little tired of making everybody else's dreams come true and making them a lot of money and figured I should take a stab at it and definitely this is the first brick and mortar that I own.


OK, give us a brief overview of what is Han's Kombucha? (Pronounced with a hard A)


Totally so…..my business partner's name is Hannah Hendrickson, hence Han’s Kombucha. So, Han’s Kombucha started in late 2018. Hannah was brewing in her dorm closet while she went to the University of Utah for a public health degree. A couple of friends were like, this is delicious. Maybe you should try selling it instead of just brewing it and giving it away. And so, she did. She had a friend that was going to school for graphic design mock up a label. She sold a bottle to Creek Tea, which unfortunately went out of business due to the global pandemic, but that's how Han's Kombucha started. I met Hannah almost a year later, so mid-2019, late-2019, and just kind of was helping her consult a little bit on business operations and how to expand. She asked me to partner. I knew the direction of the kombucha industry and more specifically kind of like the craft cocktail hard kombucha industry and its growth and thought it was a great opportunity. I am unbelievably fortunate to have Hannah as a business partner. She's 26. Oh my God. She turns 27 tomorrow. And she is far beyond her years, more than anybody I've consulted for that's had numerous restaurants.


Wow, that's amazing!


Yeah.


And whose idea was to turn it into like, kind of a bar hangout instead of just having, you know, just brewing kombucha?


Sure. Collaborative, but probably led by me. Utah is rapidly growing, specifically Salt Lake City, you know, trying to kind of be on the map with what Seattle has done and Denver and things in California. Kombucha Bars, Kombucha Tap Rooms. Hard Kombucha is huge. And all of those cities that I've named, I knew that Utah wasn't quite there yet. So I knew that tying alcohol into it was going to be helpful.


Yeah, Crucial.


Not only for, you know, to have craft Kombucha cocktails, which is really niche and really cool, but to also expand people's minds about kombucha and that it's very everybody's kombucha is different. Just because you've tried it once doesn't mean you know it's the end all.


Why don't you give a brief overview of like, why? What? What is kombucha? Why should we be drinking it? Is it good for us, that kind of thing?



Yeah, yeah, definitely. So kombucha is a fermented tea. So, you start with a tea base. You know, there's regular kombucha, which is made with primarily black tea and organic cane sugar. And then there's Jun Kombucha, which is made with just green tea and honey. So, there are a couple of different varieties there. And it's basically; you sweeten that tea, concentrated tea, and then you put it with what's called the SCOBY. And a lot of people have called it this mushroom thing, like the brain on top of the tea. But it's SCOBY, an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. And so, what happens is the bacteria and yeast eats the tea and they eat the sugar and that's what ferments a liquid.


It's funny that it looks like a Scoby though... I didn't know it was an acronym, but just thought it's what it looked like. Yeah, they're so gross and brainy.

SCOBY-  Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast


They are. They are, yeah, yeah, all the little tentacles of yeast that come down. But it's really interesting, you know, there's a lot of parallels to beer brewing. You know you're using grain and yeast, and our grain is tea. So SCOBY will form whatever size vessel you put it in.





So, what sets Han's Kombucha apart? Like, why? Why should people come here for a cocktail? Like, what do you have going on in the business?


Totally. Yeah, totally. Well, first and foremost, our kombucha. As I'd touched on, everybody's kombucha is different when you think about that parallel of beer being a fermented beverage or wine. Just because you've tried one IPA (Indian Pale Ale) or you like IPSs doesn't mean you like all of them, right? So, there's a lot of variety. Our approach is that we kind of coined the term 'gently fermented', meaning you know, if you've gone out to Whole Foods or Harmons or something locally and you've picked up a GT Synergy or another brand, Health-Ade, Boochcraft, whatever it might be. They tend to be really vinegary. You're getting that kind of vinegar punch with just that fermentation aspect, kind of apple cider vinegar. And what people don't realize is that when they pick up kombucha, they hear these things that it's good for them, and it is. There are a lot of probiotics that are unbelievably good for your gut health. Yeah, but what they don't look at, they don't look at the ingredient list because they already know they think that it's healthy. And some of those kombuchas can have 18 to 25 grams of sugar per serving.


Yeah, literally never looked at it. Totally, like, oh, this is good for my belly, my stomach.


Yeah, totally. So, in that process of being gently fermented, we use significantly less sugar. So, by doing that we don't have as vinegary of a crunch. This is a really sessionable, crushable kombucha. So, that's Han's Kombucha. Han's Kombucha is under our parent company and what the bar is called, which is HK Brewing Collective, we did that intentionally because we intend to release additional brands alcoholic and non-alcoholic and so it kind of canopies everything. What sets us apart is that as a kombucha beverage we're women-owned, founded-lead, which is really cool especially because Utah is ranked 47th in the country for women-owned business and support, and what we're doing here is incredibly unique. We're making craft cocktails in a beautiful space. We have a little bit of a Western desert flair. We want to introduce people to the fact that you can have better for you booze. I mean it's a really hot topic right now there's Zero Proof spirits stuff like that. So, we wanted to make a space where we offer non-alcoholic kombucha for those that are seeking kombucha specifically for those that aren't and are the DD or just don't drink or space is here for everybody. We support all of the brewing industry and Utah, we're kind of on this map of brewery row. So, you can really come in here and have anything and everything and that's really kind of what we are doing. We also put everything in here on casters, so we made this space really easy to manipulate. We hold events constantly. We do Breaking Bingo on Tuesdays, Wednesdays we've had live musicians. We can take all the tables out and do little markets, which we've done in the past, and something that is really neat that we just started is called Kombucha for a Cause. Which I do think you should include. Basically, what that is, every Thursday we feature a different nonprofit or an organization that we align with and we invite them to come down and table and it gives our guests an opportunity to learn about them and tell them to tell what they're doing. And then a portion of the proceeds for the entire day's sales goes directly to the nonprofits.


So, what does the day-to-day business look like here? Who's coming in, when are you open, et cetera?



booch mule which has gin, lime, ginger, mint and the ginger hibiscus kombucha
Han's kombucha -booch mule

Yeah, absolutely. So, we're open five days a week. We're open Tuesday through Saturday. We open every day at noon, and the reason that we wanted to open at noon was to kind of offer this beautiful space that we've created. Everybody's started working from home and working remotely and we figured this is a great spot for remote work. You can get a cocktail, you can get a kombucha, you can have something to eat, and then kind of shifts over to the happy hour time. And we get people coming through that are getting off work, having a quick drink, you know, we're right off 300 W. Right next to the Interstate on and off ramps and then the nightlife. We're constantly doing different events and DJ and live music and partying on. So, we've got something for everybody to dance to.


Yeah, come on down. I know it looks scary because the 300 W Corridor construction is almost over hopefully. But @hkbrewingco is our Instagram handle, hkbrewing.com is our website. As far as the hands can boost your brand, specifically, you can come in and you know get product here, you can come in and do a tasting flight. We also are in like 150 locations, probably 80% in Utah, but we're in a few spots in the Midwest and we're in like West Yellowstone, Jackson, Washington, California. Yeah. So, if you're frequenting those spots, or yeah.


Yeah, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Kate, for sitting with me and chatting, and hopefully, we can get all the people in here.


We would love that!



You can find Kate Lubing on IG at @ksundog and follow his business venture at @hkbrewingco


Han's Kombucha

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