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Holly Lyman, founder & master brewer of Wild Tonic

Holly Lyman, founder & master brewer of Wild Tonic

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and what is your background?

Holly Lyman, I am an artist, brewer, and dreamer who grew up in Alaska traveled the world and received a degree from RISD.

Your current job:

Founder, Master Brewer

In which city:

Cottonwood & Sedona, Arizona

Where does your interest in Kombucha come from?

A profound interest in bee conservation and this mysterious and exotic ferment called “Jun.”

What prompted you to start your company?

WILD TONIC® began as a challenge from my husband. He wanted to create an energy drink and I suggested: “why not make something that is healthy?” He countered with “why don’t you create it?” And I took him up on it!

What makes your product unique?

WILD TONIC® is a proprietary ferment of an ancient heirloom culture that is relatively unknown, called Jun. A rare cousin of Kombucha, Jun is thought to have originated in Tibet and was considered the “Elixir of Immortality.” The culture itself (that we use) weighs over 200 pounds and is a living organism that feeds off of a diet of honey and organic teas, including green, white and black teas.

WILD TONIC® 7.6% ABV Hard Jun Reserve is unique in that there are only a few brands of Hard Kombucha on the market. In the beverage world, it is one of 2019’s most exciting new trends! Since there are no books on how to make Hard Kombucha, it is still very much an art. The science of making Hard Jun is an alchemy that is just now being developed and we are creating history here at WILD TONIC® every day that we brew.

WILD TONIC® contains no sulfites, chemicals or preservatives and is made with organic herbs, fruits, and botanicals. Our Jun has not only beneficial bacteria, but it also contains beneficial acids that are said to help aid in detoxification. While I cannot make any health claims, I have heard from a number of our fans that they can drink WILD TONIC® Hard Jun and still feel great the next day. The science of understanding this magical ferment is still too new to draw any solid conclusions from, so we simply rely on the feedback from our WILD Fans which has been overwhelmingly positive!

Finally, in creating our unique ferments, we partner with our sister company, Eagle Mountain Orchards in Sedona who grow some of the organic ingredients, such as the Zinfandel grapes in our Dancing Naked® 7.6% ABV Hard Jun. Also, the tea leaves from the brewing process are composted and used as fertilizer for the grapes, apples, and herbs that are being grown for use in the Kombucha formulations at WILD TONIC®. We also have bee hives that are tended by the Northern Arizona Organic Beekeepers Association (NAOBA), who we partner with to help the bees.

What do you want to convey through your brand image?

That we are a fun, passionate, bee-centric brand.

Design: how was it designed? By who?

I designed the bottles after the turn of the century beer bottles and the labels were designed by Greg Scot Hunt, a talented Seattle-based designer

What are the main challenges in your company?

Finding enough talented people to successfully launch the brand on a nationwide basis within one year!

What tools are essential for your work (app, software)?

I am not tech savvy and don’t know many artists who are, so I rely on the people I work with for those skill sets!

A word to define what type of worker you are:


What does your office space look like?

A dang mess!

Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work? 

Setting my top five priorities each day and tackling them one by one, along with a philosophy that work is 24/7 and that I will do whatever it takes to win!

What tips would you give to improve productivity?

Get enough sleep!

What is the best advice you have been given?

Be ruthless with your time.

Can you give us a tour of your local Kombucha scene?

Aside from WILD TONIC®, there is another great local company called Olinka, made by a husband and wife team who make a fantastic traditional Kombucha!

How do you control the growth of your company?

We don’t control it, it controls us!

What is your strategy for making your beer known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?

We do as many tastings as we can at retail stores, festivals, etc. because once people try WILD TONIC® they fall in love with our ferment!

What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?

I wake up and have two cups of coffee and a superfood power smoothie for breakfast. Then, at the end of the day, I have a glass of WILD TONIC® 5.6% to relax. Later, I listen to music or meditation before falling asleep.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a Kombucha company?

Although it costs a lot more money than you could ever imagine and it will take over your life entirely, the experience is incredibly rewarding!

Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?

I am not a gadget person and prefer a simple life without a bunch of technology.

Upcoming products or projects?

On April 4, we released Apple, Prickly Pear & Vanilla Jun, and Hard Jun. Created in concert with Chef Franck Desplechin, this exclusive ferment is available only at L’Auberge de Sedona. In addition, I am waiting for the 2000+ organic heirloom apple trees that I just planted to mature so I can begin fermenting hard ciders! | | |