Lenny Boy Brewing’s Townes Mozer discusses the synergies of brewing kombucha and beer, adding a kitchen at his South End taproom, and his role motivating staff.
By Michael J. Solender
Photograph by Nathan Villaume
Townes Mozer brewed his first batch of kombucha in his college apartment building’s laundry room after a friend got him hooked on the slightly sour, fermented beverage.
Mozer, now 31, quickly saw business potential with “booch” as health-conscious consumers began shifting away from sugary beverages to better-for-you alternatives. In 2011, Mozer launched Lenny Boy Brewing Co. in Charlotte, selling the probiotic-rich kombucha that, at the time, was popular only among health-food enthusiasts. Today, it’s an $800 billion industry.
Early on, he worked crazy-long hours and wore many hats, including product development, sales, marketing, distribution and operations. Now, he’s reaping big returns as the 25-employee business brews beer and wild ales — beverages brewed with wild yeast or bacteria — in addition to nonalcoholic kombucha, and enjoys one of the liveliest taprooms in the Queen City.
Comments were edited for brevity.
What distinguishes Lenny Boy’s kombucha?
We are certified organic and make kombucha the traditional way, using filtered water, kombucha cultures and natural ingredients. It’s low in sugars, naturally gluten free, [contains] no flavor concentrates, and we use raw juice we squeeze in-house. Our flagship flavors available year-round are Good Ol’ Ginger, Lavenderade, Elite Beet, Wake-Up Call and Strawberry. We also make seasonal kombuchas such as Sweet Potato Pie, Merry Cranberry and Fresh Basil. Our kombucha takes 30 days to make.
Where are your products sold?
Our beer is in North and South Carolina. On the kombucha front, it’s from New England to Florida. At retail we are in Stop & Shops in New England, Whole Foods throughout the Southeast and Earth Fare nationwide. Lenny Boy Kombucha is in Publix and Harris Teeter in the Charlotte market, and we just went into 100 Food Lion stores.
How has Lenny Boy evolved since 2011?
Beer and kombucha symbiotically work together for us. Revenue generated from kombucha sales allowed expansion into beer production. Once the beer took off, our taproom became busier because of the social hub beer brings. Our retail presence gained income, and we parlayed that into more kombucha supplies. It goes back and forth. Last year was the year of kombucha, so we focused on getting a lot more chains going, getting more volume and a new bottling line. That got more revenue that paid for our new kitchen, which goes back to retail.
Tell us about your new food service.
We saw there was a need . . . especially in the South End market, and wanted to provide rustic, tasty food to enjoy along with our beers and kombucha. Also, we work with many amazing local purveyors like [Concord-based] Cackleberry Farms — their cattle eat Lenny Boy’s spent grain — that provide us with cheese, for example, and we want to showcase their products. In April, we launched a menu with charcuterie boards of cured meats and regional cheeses, sandwiches, and Bavarian-style pretzels.
What have you learned about yourself as an entrepreneur?
The number one thing I’ve learned is my role now, 70% of the time, is psychology and human resources. I focus on getting my team motivated, doing what we need to do, and keeping people happy and feeling like they’re rewarded and growing. I have a great team, and working with them is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job.
Lenny Boy Brewing Co., 3000 S. Tryon Street, (980) 585-1728