SABOR: How Dyckman Beer Co. Founder Juan Camilo Found Success at NYC's Only Latino-Owned Brewery
"SABOR" is a food & wine and lifestyle series that savors Latinos' zest for life and passion for home and family.
Dyckman Beer Co. founder Juan Camilo took a chance and never looked back when he decided to leave the corporate finance world to launch New York City's only Latino-owned beer brewing company.
"I quit my job and said 'let's do this thing!" Camilo excitedly recalled during an exclusive interview with Latin Post.
It was not exactly that simple, however. Camilo, who was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and raised in the Bronx and Washington Heights, is a beer enthusiast-turned-entrepreneur who knows what 'sabor' is all about. His palette and love of his uptown neighborhood was a perfect marriage of good taste, craft beer and culture.
Raised by a single mother, the brewer's interest in beer was inspired by a beer brewing kit, which then evolved into a business strategy before becoming the actual business.
"I just started it as a hobby," he said. "I started brewing at home and it became pretty popular in the last ten years, but it grew into something a little bit more serious. As time went on, I started experimenting with different recipes and fruits that are often used in beers, like passion fruits and cherries. It was pretty exciting."
Camilo started Dyckman Beer Co. in 2012 and created recipes that "reflect the taste and spirit of Uptown, subtly infused with Dominican flavors."
The three brews currently on tap are The Dyckman Brew, a Pilsner/Munich Lager aged for six weeks; the Belgian Wheat Highbridge Summer Ale; and ÉPOCA, a unique ale fermented in wine barrels.
"The actual business of the Dyckman Beer Company was born when I noticed that upper Manhattan (Washington Heights) is the only neighborhood that didn't have its own craft beer," he said. "There are so many that are opening in New York that I thought it was a great way to get started at that time. ... "It's an area where there is a lot of commerce, night life and it has a little restaurant row. It's a little downtown and uptown."
"It's mostly a Dominican and Hispanic neighborhood, but being New York, it's pretty diverse," he explained.
Now with 140 accounts, four employees, distribution at Whole Foods, and a location in Connecticut for the fermenting process, Camilo has seemed to find the right formula in a thriving foodie industry.
"We're definitely chugging along" he said. (No pun intended!) "And we're getting ready to release our seasonal and I am pretty excited! ... Every season I will be launching two new beers."
Right now, he's gearing up for the launch of his Café con Leche Milk Stout, which will be available on draft around the city.
"The Café con Leche is a coffee milk stout for the winter to keep you nice and warm," he explained. "This one has coffee, which is popular with dark stout beers. So what I did was I added lactose to give it a different texture; it gives it a nice, creamy texture. So that's why I am calling it the Café con Leche Milk Stout."
Latinos are serious about their coffee, so what did he use?
Camilo used 40 pounds of Café Bustelo, which is available in a lot of local bodegas and stores within the New York City area. He worked with a distributor to get the coffee at a wholesale price, but hopes to do some branding with them in the near future.
"It's a very Hispanic-American coffee brand, and it just made sense," he said.
Startup Brewery Competition:
As a Massachusetts native, this writer knows firsthand that Bostonians are serious about their beer -- especially since it's home to Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) -- so, needless to say, it was impressive to hear that Camilo won the Startup Brewery Competition at Brewbound Boston.
Startup Brewery Competition is "a competition that grants new craft brewery owners an opportunity to show off their business plans, new beers and receive immediate feedback from an expert judging panel."
"It was in September, and I actually won the competition. It was really interesting, it was more about the business overall ... I had to explain the brand."
Brewing Up Business:
Camilo, who was initially working at Credit Suisse, said the transition from corporate America to the beer brewing business has been difficult and exciting at the same time.
The driven entrepreneur used his own money to back the company and also took out a small business loan when he first started the business "to forward some capital."
While he had to learn more about becoming brand, having a financial background helped him as well.
"You know what a good business looks like just from a finance point of view," Camilo explained. "Getting organized and knowing what a good margin is so that you can actually keep the business going and all of the stuff."
Bringing It Back to Beer Basics:
Personal motivators also helped assist in launching the Dyckman Beer Co.
"I think one of the biggest motivators behind this project was just having something that I was very familiar growing up with and drinking," he said. "For me it was a no-brainer."
Does Camilo recall when he tasted his first beer? How old was he, and which beer did he drink?
"It was really at college at age 21 -- for the record!" he said, admitting that his first college beer was Keystone Light. "No really, I didn't really get into beer until I moved back to New York, went away to college, and started exploring the city."
As the only Latino-owned brewery in New York City, does Camilo foresee this changing in the future?
"I hope so, I can't be the only one!" he laughed. "I actually know a few other Dominican home brewers who are quite good and who knows if they do well they might get into production."
If he could give any advice to other aspiring Latino brewers, he suggests: "Plan carefully and have a strategy. Plan everything well, do it right!"
Dyckman Beer Co. will be participating in the New York City Beer Week Opening Bash on Feb. 21. NYC Beer Week runs from Feb. 20-March 1.