Flying Embers Raises $20 Million As Its Hard Kombucha, Hard Seltzer Goes National

Pat Maio
Pat Maio has held various reporting and editorial management positions over the past 25 years, having specialized in business and government reporting. He has held reporting jobs with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, Dow Jones News and other newspapers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
​Every flavor of Flying Embers hard seltzer in a can.
Courtesy of Flying Embers

One of the world’s largest producers of alcoholic beverages has led a $20 million funding round for Flying Embers, a Ventura-based brewery that is capitalizing on the growing popularity of hard kombucha and hard seltzer.

Chicago-based Beam Suntory, a division of Japanese brewing giant Suntory, spearheaded the Series C raise and was joined by Hermosa Beach-based PowerPlant Partners and Beverly Hills-based Monogram Capital Partners, as well as East Coast venture firms Beechwood Capital and Quadrant Capital.

Flying Embers founder and CEO Bill Moses said in a statement that the funding will be used to continue scaling the brewery’s brand nationally. In addition to marketing its drinks—which have names like Wild Berry, Grapefruit Thyme, Lemon Orchard and Pineapple Chili—to consumers through ecommerce channels, Flying Embers currently operates brick-and-mortar taprooms in Los Angeles’ Arts District, Santa Barbara and Boston, with more taprooms potentially on the way.

The company has struck on a rapidly growing market for both hard kombucha and hard seltzer, which generally have lower alcohol content than most beers and cocktails but are marketed as having healthier properties and tastier flavors. Hard kombucha and hard seltzer sales volumes in the U.S. grew by 177% and 130%, respectively, in 2020, according to data from beverage industry research firm IWSR Drinks Market Analysis—with Flying Embers ranked among the top-five brands in the hard kombucha category nationally.

The Ventura brewery has piggybacked on that growth by introducing more than 28 new products in 2021 and expanding its national footprint to 42 states and Canada. Its drinks can be found in major supermarket chains including Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods.

A glass of Flying Embers hard kombucha.A glass of Flying Embers' hard kombucha.Courtesy of Flying Embers

Moses launched Flying Embers during 2017’s devastating Thomas Fire, when flames threatened to destroy his home and innovation lab near Ojai as the company was preparing to go to market. The brand’s name is derived from those wildfires, which burned nearly 282,000 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Flying Embers previously raised around $35 million through a Series B round that also involved PowerPlant and Monogram, as well investment vehicles of the Santo Domingo family—the wealthy Colombian family known for its stake in Belgian beverage conglomerate AB InBev.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.