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SF brewery startup bubbles to the top


HoneyMoon Brewery\’s bottled \’kombucha beer\’ won 20,000 at the Miller Lite Tap the Future regional competition in Houston in July. Courtesy of HoneyMoon Brewery.

SANTA FE, N.M. — HoneyMoon Brewery, a Santa Fe startup that developed a new ‘kombucha beer,’ got a huge boost last month, when it won $20,000 at the Miller Lite Tap the Future regional competition in Houston.

The company, which graduated in April from the ABQid business accelerator’s Santa Fe program, will now go on to Miller Lite’s national in Chicago on Sept. 22, where it will pitch its product and company against five other competitors. The annual competition, now in its fourth year, looks for new companies that can have a big impact on the brewing industry.

HoneyMoon Brewery, launched in 2014 by CEO Ayla Bystrom-Williams and co-founder James Hill, developed a process with help from Los Alamos National Laboratory that combines kombucha and beer fermentation to create a tasty new beer with potential health benefits.

The company competed against 15,000 entrants in this year’s Miller Lite event, making the semifinal cut with just 30 competitors nationwide who went onto six regionals with five companies each. HoneyMoon took the Southwest regional, where Daymond John of ABC’s popular Shark Tank program was one of the judges.

“We’re so proud of them for making such a huge splash on a national stage like that,” said ABQid executive director Lori Upham. “That they’re going on to finals in Chicago shows we’re doing some good things here in New Mexico. It’s a huge win for them and for us.”

The $20,000 award and the potential $200,000 grand prize come with no strings attached, Bystrom-Williams said.

“It comes without any equity or ownership of the company given up,” she said. “And there were amazing networking opportunities there. We were approached by a few NFL players and interested investors in the Houston area.”

The networking could prove as important as the winnings as HoneyMoon Brewery seeks capital to set up a brewing facility.

“The Miller Lite event opened up some serious national funding possibilities,” Bystrom-Williams said. “I believe we’ve gained enough traction now to successfully fund raise to get us to where we’re generating revenue.”

That will take at least nine months or more, since the company must obtain a license with U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance. And that process can’t begin until the company has a fully-equipped facility in place.

HoneyMoon’s brew will face close FDA scrutiny because of the kombucha, a fermented tea made with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that provide potential health benefits with antioxidants, probiotics, organic acids, minerals and enzymes.

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