Sen. Wyden introduces Kombucha Act

Photo credit: Jason Kaplan
Humm Kombucha's facility in Bend.

When he’s not pressing for an investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump Administration, Sen. Ron Wyden finds time to introduce legislation updating federal alcohol taxes for kombucha companies.

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The bill, known as the Kombucha Act, would eliminate unintended tax by increasing the applicable alcohol-by-volume limit for kombucha from 0.5% to 1.25%.

Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting tea with bacteria and yeast. Companies like Bend-based Humm Kombucha, featured in our February issue, are part of a rapidly growing Oregon industry.

“The growth of kombucha production in our state and throughout the country creates jobs and a tasty beverage,” Wyden said in a press release. “This legislation would update taxes and regulations so these small businesses can continue to build on their achievements creating good jobs and good flavor for kombucha’s many fans.”

Wyden himself is a fan after visiting the facility last October.

Humm CEO Jamie Danek says they have spent the last year working with Wyden and other kombucha companies to change the law.

“The industry is expanding, and there’s this really silly thing that could get in our way,” Danek says. “We want to get ahead of it.”

The Kombucha Act is effectively an exception — the same exemption granted to beverages like orange juice, which naturally contain more than 0.5% of alcohol.

“Most kombucha is below that limit, but the problem with kombucha is when it goes to distributors or people put it in the car, it continues to ferment,” Danek says. “We can’t control that limit if someone leaves it on their kitchen counter.”

Wyden’s office estimated the economic impact of the kombucha industry nationwide at $600 million. The industry employs about 5,000 workers.