Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Lubing. They and their team shared their story with us below:
HK Brewing Collective was founded in January 2020 by both myself, Kate Lubing, and my business partner, Hannah Hendrickson. Prior to creating the Collective, we owned and operated Han’s Kombucha. Han’s will always be our first-born brand and now is one of many brands to come out of HK Brewing. Han’s is a gently fermented, low sugar, probiotic-packed, “Darn Good” kombucha. Hannah had been brewing kombucha as a passion project, in her college room closet, while majoring at the University of Utah in Public Health. While I was a restaurant consultant who had taken on a project up Emigration Canyon, Emigration Brewing Co.
That is where Hannah and I met, where I fell in love with Han’s Kombucha, and where we decided to partner up and create the HK Brewing Collective and see where we could take Utah’s kombucha game. HK Brewing Collective is located in the Ballpark District where we have built out a 5300 square foot brewery with warehouse space, commercial cold storage, our Brewhouse operations, and packaging and we are also brand new recipients of the scarce Utah Bar Licenses. That being said, HK Brewing Collective is Utah’s first and only Kombucha Brewery, Taproom & Bar. We are thrilled to be a part of this amazing community and to elevate the kombucha industry near and far.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A smooth road? What is that? Just kidding…
I’m sure that any small business owner can relate that there are GREAT days, good days but sometimes not-so-good days. Some of our major struggles yet most exciting times have been the scaling and growth process. Neither Hannah nor myself, have ever been commercial brewers, never worked in any beverage packaging facility or brewery operations which naturally presented us with some major challenges when we began to design our facility.
The task of designing a commercial production facility based on large-scale brewing equipment without having any sort of first-hand knowledge or experience with said equipment was definitely a trying time. However, we leaned into the incredibly welcoming Brewing community in Salt Lake City and honestly could not have done it without them. Brewery owners & Head Brewers alike made themselves completely available for repeated questions on everything from high-volume water filtration systems to indirect flame kettles to our fermentation tanks and packaging line.
We couldn’t be more grateful for everyone letting us constantly pick their brains.
I also would say that funding has always been challenging. Hannah and I are both quite young and with the business being a start-up with no large investor or financial backer, Hannah and I had to get incredibly creative when seeking funding to not only get HK Brewing started but to sustain our business while we continued to double year over year. It may seem odd but we wouldn’t trade those early stages and struggles, for anything. It was part of our journey and made us better business owners because of it.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’ve been in the Hospitality Industry for over half of my life, primarily in Food & Beverage. I’ve done it all, both sides of operations, front & back of the house. I attended Le Cordon Bleu’s, Western Culinary Institute, in Portland, Oregon 15 years ago and have been a life ever since. For the past 8-10 years I primarily managed restaurant operations while also doing a lot of restaurant consulting in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, California, and the Pacific North West. I’m so grateful for my career allowing me to move around and not only experience different places geographically but the different cultures when it came to food & beverage.
What am I most proud of? Oh wow, there are a few projects over the years that I’m quite proud of but I am most proud of where I am at today. Hannah and I have worked incredibly hard and persisted through some significant challenges, including starting a business during a global pandemic but now we own and operate a self-supporting Kombucha Brewery & Bar in the state of Utah. Well, shoot….who wouldn’t be proud of that.
What would you say has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
There are quite literally millions of lessons that have been learned over my 20+ year career but speaking more specifically to HK Brewing & Hannah and I’s a journey, I’d say we have learned that it is very unlikely that things will go to plan and also, things take twice as long as you think they will.
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career is to spend money in the right places. It is really easy to get caught up in how things look but it’s more important that they function first, and look pretty later.