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Building a Craft Soda Empire

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

If you’ve gone into a bar in Columbus and ordered a ginger beer or a Moscow mule, there’s a good chance it came from The Rambling House.

The local beverage production company didn’t always have that reach. Founder John Lynch first had to get his feet wet, working at a craft beer bar and a local brewery for a couple years. Between the time that Lynch started working at the brewery and when he left, the popularity of craft beer exploded.

“When I started, there were maybe 4 or 5 craft beer companies in central Ohio. By the time I left, there were dozens and dozens,” said Lynch. It was a crowded field, which was part of the reason why Lynch started experimenting with soda. The success of his own ginger beer led to Rambling House, which would later bubble into a bar, music venue and production facility.

“There are thousands of books on how to start up a brewery, but zero on how to start up a soda pop company,” said Lynch. He took the plunge anyway.

A Ginger Brewery

In 2012, Lynch opened a small soda production facility in Old North. He started producing kegs of ginger beer and other craft sodas, visiting some farmer’s markets along the way to get the word out. Lynch reached out to ECDI in 2013 for help as the business grew.

“The first loan was super tiny, just to get us off the ground,” said Lynch. At the same time, he started looking into ways he could turn Rambling House into more than just a production facility. Within a year, the Old North space was converted into a bar and music venue, which was the perfect environment to develop new flavors and share them with the community.

“The bar was a lot of fun,” said Lynch. “But it took a lot of time to run the venue, and we lost a ton of space for the production side of things.”

John wanted to get back to focusing on producing his soda. In 2015, Rambling House moved its production into a new building that could fit more kegs, multiplying the number of bars and restaurants that the business could sell to at once. The extra space was also just big enough to fit some new equipment that the team had been looking into, but could not afford on their own. Lynch relied on ECDI for help, soon securing another loan to fund the purchase as the business advanced. To focus on the fast-growing production side of Rambling House, he sold the bar in 2019 to some regular patrons who could preserve what had become a hub for bluegrass music lovers.

Kegs, Bottles, Cans and More

Lynch and his team had mastered the art of the keg, but that wasn’t enough to survive once the pandemic hit.

“At that point we were only doing kegged products to bars and restaurants, so when those restaurants shut down for a period of time that March, we suddenly couldn’t do anything,” said Lynch.

With their keg sales on hold, the Rambling House team tried bottling their sodas, immediately running into problems. “Not only is there a packaging cost, but there’s also a shelf life on each can we make. It’s hard to break even, especially when trying to bottle at a small scale,” said Lynch.

And once again, they ran out of space. Using the equipment that fit in the facility, it took 3 people to produce 25 cases on a bad day, and 40 cases on a good one. Just as they were looking for a new building, ECDI announced their new project in South Franklinton, specifically built for food production. Lynch jumped on the opportunity and moved Rambling House into the facility.

“Now that we have 2 bottling lines, we’re able to produce 250 cases at the end of a bottling day. I’m excited to start seeing the products on more and more shelves,” said Lynch.

Moving Forward

In addition to their current bottling line, the team has ordered a new bottling line specifically for smaller bottles, and more equipment used in production. The upcoming facility is all-encompassing, to the point where The Rambling House could even bottle the sodas of other small companies also looking to expand to grocery aisles. Lynch is just excited he and his team are still going and still having fun.

“There are not very many non-alcoholic beverage companies here in the state, let alone the country,” said Lynch. “I’m proud that 8 years in, we’re still making nonalcoholic products and people really like them.”

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