In the SaloonBox June cocktail kit, we featured Bette Jane's Club Soda. We spoke with the founder so that you can see how special his product really is.
When did Bette Jane launch and what inspired you to start it?
We made our first commercial batch of ginger beer July 8th, 2014. It all started when I was making ginger beer at home and had a friend that ran a bar in San Francisco ask me if he could use my "kitchen sink" ginger beer in his bar. After a couple weeks of tweaking and figuring out how to bottle, I was able to deliver him his first couple cases. Within three weeks of that delivery, I had eight accounts in San Francisco using my ginger beer. At the time I was working my day job and coming home 4-5 nights a week making ginger beer 'til the wee hours. It finally got to a point where I could not keep up with demand and something had to give, I either stop doing it or get it together and start a company. Well, I started the company!
What did you do before you started Bette Jane?
I have been in the alcohol business some way shape or form since I was 21. I have done everything from going to brewing school and working as a commercial brewer to selling wine, beer and spirits.
Can you tell us more about your Blood Orange Ginger Beer and your series of Hopped Tonics?What was the inspiration behind these products?
The Blood Orange Ginger Beer was something that I was doing at home before I went commercial. I always loved the way the ginger worked with the blood orange, so it was a natural first extension in our ginger beer lineup. The Blood orange makes a fantastic take on a Paloma cocktail. 2oz silver Tequila with 4oz of Blood Orange GB on the rocks a little lime and you are good to go!
The Hopped Tonic's are absolutely amazing, but don't overthink it. They are true tonic waters (I use quinine) where all I have done is replaced the "normal" bitters and botanicals with hops. The inspiration came from being an old brewer. At first I just wanted to incorporate hops into a tonic water, but the end result was 100% of the bitterness (besides the quinine) and botanical or aromatics came from hops, that's it. We use a blended hop for the bittering and the named hop for aromatics and some flavor. I use a blended hop for bitterness as I want the consistency through the series. The great thing about these is the formulas are 100% exactly the same. The only thing different is the named hop, and the dosage of those hops is exactly the same. So any flavor or aromatic difference you get is literally from the single hop being used. They are designed for gin and tonic's at the core, but people are getting very creative and making exciting cocktails with them. I have attached a sell sheet that has a bit more info as well.
What impact has your brand and products had on the beverage industry?
We are still so new and small that I do not think that we have made an impact yet. I do think that people like how "real" my products taste. My goal is to educate consumers and buyers that if you are going to spend a pretty penny on a good spirits then don't do it an injustice by mixing it with shit.
What’s one of your biggest challenges?
I think being small is a big challenge. On the production side this effects us because we do not have buying power, thus making our cost of goods higher. I have heard people for years in speaking about "local" and "handmade" products wondering why they are more expensive than the competitor who is mass produced. A lot of times this is the case due to the lack of buying power. Everything from our raw ingredients to our glass and labels costs more than a larger company would pay.
What has been one of the most exciting moments for your brand?
Honestly, just getting it off the ground. I knew that I had a good product in my ginger beer, but taking something that you are making a gallon at a time in your kitchen and scaling it up for commercial production is crazy. Not to mention finding all of the vendors that will help you make your vision come to reality.
What's next for Bette Jane?
As of now we have six flavors and I really want to concentrate and focus on building out the distribution footprint and building the brand. We recently opened up distribution in Arizona and will be looking at the northwest as our next market.
Any new trends you’ve spotted in the beverage industry lately?
For me and what we do the resurgence of gin has been great for us. While it is probably considered a trend right now I can see gin sticking and becoming part of our mainstream drinking culture. The reason for this is a lot of the new modern styles that are hitting the market are softer and more pallet friendly than say the London Dry's that we grew up on.