Poughkeepsie brewer redirects expertise from beer to healing kombucha
When life gave Adam Benziger lemons, he made kombucha.
The Hudson Valley native had spent years learning to brew craft beer, but then gluten sensitivity prevented him from sampling his own products—an important step in quality control. So he used his expertise in fermentation to produce a beverage that promotes health and healing by supporting the body’s microbiome.
Even as a hospitality management major in college, Benziger had particularly loved his cooking labs, which combined hands-on work, science and creativity. He began brewing his own beer after graduation and then took a job in the beer industry, furthering his education with fermentation science courses at the Siebel Institute of Technology, in Chicago, and internships at craft breweries in Israel, New York and New Jersey.
But serious stomach issues put Benziger’s life and career on a different track. “After many tests and doctors, a functional medicine physician determined that I had a gluten sensitivity, and that my stomach issues, eczema, attention deficit and anxiety were all interrelated,” he says. “I couldn’t continue with beer as a career choice, because beer contains gluten.”
In addition to using diet, yoga, supplements and other natural means to heal, Benziger began brewing and drinking kombucha, a lightly sweetened, effervescent, fermented tea that Asians and Eastern Europeans have used for centuries to aid digestion. Kombucha contains antioxidants, B vitamins and organic acids, and the fermentation process produces probiotics that support gut health.
Hoping to stay in the craft beverage industry, Benziger turned this personal health interest into a new business: Laughing Gut Kombucha.
“With my parents as business partners, I started Laughing Gut so that I could be hands-on, be my own boss and get involved in all aspects of brewing and selling kombucha—a product I truly believe in,” he says.
Kombucha Goes Local
Laughing Gut Kombucha officially started in January 2018, with its first big product launch at the Ahisma Yoga Festival at Hunter Mountain. The company has been expanding steadily ever since.
“We sold a lot of product and got great feedback,” Benziger says. “Yoga and kombucha are a good match and one good market for us, along with small coffee shops, cafés and specialty health food stores.
While kombucha is increasingly popular in the Hudson Valley, there are few local producers.
“Most of the kombucha sold in our supermarket chains is from the West Coast,” Benziger says. “Our product has been well-received—customers who don’t care for kombucha tell us they like Laughing Gut’s flavor, and those who love kombucha tell us ours is the best they’ve tasted.”
Laughing Gut uses all natural ingredients, with no added sugars or fruit juices. The major focus is on the tea.
“We only use organic, whole-leaf teas as opposed to tea bags, which sometimes contain lesser-quality teas. And we purchase herbs and spices locally whenever we can,” Benziger says.
There are four flavors of Laughing Gut—Lavender with White Peony Tea, Star Anise and Orange Zest with Wild Thai Black Tea, Chamomile and Mint with Jade Cloud Tea, and Green Tea with Kukicha Green Tea—and new flavors on the horizon. Laughing Gut Kombucha comes in slim 12-ounce, BPA-free cans. Benziger says he chose cans over bottles because they are more portable and considered more environmentally friendly than glass bottles.
“Laughing Gut is one of the first kombucha breweries in the Hudson Valley to package it in cans, and it has been very popular with customers and retailers,” he says.
Currently Benziger brews his kombucha at a commercial kitchen in the renovated Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory, but he is looking for a larger Poughkeepsie location to expand his brewing capacity and cold storage, with future plans for a tasting room with kombucha on tap.
Laughing Gut is sold at shops and farmers markets throughout Poughkeepsie and the Hudson Valley (see sidebar), and at local festivals and events, including the upcoming Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest, in Rhinebeck (September 7-8), and the 20th annual Arlington Street Fair, adjacent to Vassar College (September 21).
For more info, contact Adam Benziger at 845.863.5239 or LaughingGut1@gmail.com, or follow LaughingGutKombucha on Instagram and Facebook.
Where to Find Laughing Gut Kombucha
- The Poughkeepsie Grind
- Café 40
- Chakra Bowls Café
- Hudson River Housing Coffee House and Café
- Taste NY (Lagrangeville)
- Local Artisan Bakery (Kingston)
- 2 Alices Coffee Lounge (Newburgh and Cornwall)
- Nature’s Pantry (New Windsor)
- West Point