Boyan Kalusevic grew up spending summers in Serbia and Croatia where he learned the family tradition and process for making apricot brandy or “rakia.” When he was able, he opened Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co. with the goal to make the best fruit distillate in the United States and great beer as well. The brewery has become an anchor for the revitalization of an entire part of San Antonio. Join us to hear his stories and learn more about his products. Their current awards include: 2018 Top 100 – Best Distillery – San Antonio Express-News
2017 Best of San Antonio – SA Current
2016 Gold Medal, Best of Category – LA International Spirits Competition – 92 pts – World’s highest rated brandy
2015, 2017 Best of the City – San Antonio Magazine
2014 Critics’ Choice Award – Best Local Spirit or Beer – San Antonio Express-News
2014 Gold Medal – Chicago’s World Spirits Championships – 90 pts; Exceptional. Highest rated American brandy of 2014.
Justin Hill: Hello, and Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here.
All right, welcome to this episode of The Alamo Hour. As promised, it’s going to be a good one. Boyan Kalusevic is with us. He is– I was going to say head distiller and brewer but I don’t think that’s true. You’re one of the distillers at Dorćol Distilling & Brewing.
Boyan Kalusevic: Correct. I’m one of the co-founders and one of the distillers.
Justin: Thank you for being here.
Boyan: Thank you for having me.
Justin: I wanted to get you on. I’ve met you a while back from one of your– I feel like it would be overstretching to say a business partner, but a business partner and a friend of ours introduced us a while back. What you all do, I think is a work of passion, and I’m a sucker for that. Also, what you all have done for the part of town that you all are involved in, has really been transformational. I wanted to get you on here to talk about a whole part of town that a lot of people probably don’t even know what’s going on. A whole project and a passion that you’re involved in that probably a lot of people don’t know about as well. To start, I do a top 10 list, so I’m going to walk you through this. I did not warn you or tell you what I’m going to ask you, but it’s all fun.
Boyan: Let’s do it.
Justin: As we’re doing this, we’re enjoying some of your fruit of your loins.
Boyan: How about that?
Justin: Your Kinsman Rakia gold medal-winning–
Boyan: Multiple gold medal winners. Just let me talk about it. [laughs]
Justin: You need to update the website because I only saw one gold medal on the website.
Boyan: That was the world’s highest-rated. We left America’s highest-rated from a year before.
Justin: Okay, all right. You all have even been in Playboy, I think, right?
Boyan: Can you believe that?
Justin: Yes, [chuckles] well–
Boyan: It’s impressive.
Justin: [chuckles] I’ve seen some of the things in Playboy, but you all is the best of the things I’ve seen in Playboy. [crosstalk] Okay, Boyan, when and why did you move to San Antonio? We’re on our top 10 list now. This is a little color commentary, and then we’ll get into some stuff you all are doing.
Boyan: Let’s do it. Mom and dad moved me down. I was in high school and dad’s job got him relocated to San Antonio.
Justin: Where’d you move from?
Justin: What year did you move down?
Justin: You’ve been here a while.
Boyan: A little bit.
Justin: We are currently in the time of COVID, the time when branching out is harder for us to do. We’re making a conscious effort to try to do a lot of takeout and try to support some of our friends. Are there any restaurants you’re currently trying to order to-go from or try to support?
Boyan: Absolutely. We’ll start with the immediate neighborhood. Il Forno does an incredible pizza.
Justin: Let’s limit this to 10. I feel like you’re going– [laughs]
Boyan: Hold on, that’s not possible. I plead the fifth then. We got to plug everybody in that’s a supportive–
Justin: Il Forno’s fantastic.
Boyan: Il Forno’s fantastic.
Justin: [unintelligible 00:03:08] restaurants are all incredible.
Boyan: Clementine up in Castle Hills is incredible. The guys at Outlaw Kitchen, Chef Paul does an incredible job and Peggy’s awesome. You’ve got Cherrity Bar, you’ve got folks over at– Who else am I–? Dakota East Side, that’s another remodeled project on, was at Hackberry, I think– [crosstalk]
Justin: One of your really good friends, Jody Newman, was talking about how Dakota East Side is one of her favorite places going right now.
Boyan: How about that?
Boyan: We have something in common.
Justin: Yes. You actually just listed a bunch of places that I have not heard listed on the show. I’ve never been to Clementine’s.
Boyan: You need to change that immediately. You’re not going to get there today but you can do to-go order. They do a Feed Me, that’s absolutely incredible.
Justin: I haven’t been to Outlaw either.
Boyan: Oh, my God.
Justin: I know. I consider myself like a– [crosstalk]
Boyan: It’s literally down the street from here. The chef used to teach at The Culinary Institute. He does a great job.
Justin: Is it over off the strip?
Boyan: No, it’s on the–
Justin: It’s by the theater.
Boyan: North forest. Yes, right up from the theater.
Justin: They had something going the other day and I wanted to go but I didn’t.
Boyan: Get there real quick, man.
Boyan: Great food.
Justin: We did Soluna yesterday, we’re doing SoHill tonight.
Justin: We keep trying to help out.
Boyan: Don’t forget to order the HighWheel that comes along with it.
Justin: Will they deliver that?
Boyan: Of course, they will.
Justin: Did you deliver any tonight with your interview?
Boyan: I didn’t. I heard that it was already here. [crosstalk]
Justin: We have Kinsman here, which I purchased retail to support local.
Boyan: Excellent. Thank you. [crosstalk]
Justin: We support our local friends. Hidden gems in San Antonio. This is the off-the-wall places you tell people that are visiting San Antonio, “You got to go do this. This is not going to be in your guidebook.”
Boyan: I agree.
Justin: What are some of your hidden gems?
Justin: Second Saturday, for sure.
Boyan: It has to be.
Justin: Even people that live here I think– [crosstalk]
Boyan: I don’t know how they don’t know about it.
Justin: A lot of people don’t know about it.
Boyan: It happens every Second Saturday of every month.
Boyan: It’s an awesome little art walk. It involves a couple of square blocks on South Flores and Lone Star. There’s a set of double tracks. There are probably a dozen and a half, maybe more studios, some live in spaces. There are great galleries, all artist-owned and operated, so– [crosstalk]
Justin: I’m not going to say hit or miss but it’s kind of a different mix of people every single time. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
Boyan: Indeed, yes. It depends on the opening. I think it depends on the month in the year kind of thing. Christmas is always a little bit slower, but Contemporary Art Month is every March and that’s always a time to schedule a Second Saturday in the neighborhood. You got your Ruby City right up the street, out Camp Street and Flores. There’s a ton of really nice stuff that’s happening.
Justin: We haven’t covered this. You all are on South Flores at the tracks, probably down from South Alamo, about half a mile?
Boyan: Maybe even less, yes.
Justin: That whole area has this big Second Saturday celebration. It’s a party. Dorćol is the anchor to this party every single time. There’s a bunch of artists that open up their shops and open up their galleries for people.
Boyan: It’s a lot of fun.
Justin: That’s your hidden gem.
Boyan: That’s our hidden gem. We’ll take it.
Justin: All right. You were very kind to open up your distillery to my law firm, one Fiesta. We shut down our office one afternoon, every Fiesta and we try to just go enjoy. We Fiesta, we eat and drink, and get to know each other.
Boyan: That’s right.
Justin: You opened it up and you really showed us how it all works, and the passion about it, and how you got into it, and how it works. I consider myself kind of well read and I didn’t know a lot of these things. What is the hardest part of distilling? Because I know brewing, people talk about getting in and getting all the old spent grains out and how big of a pain that is. What about distilling?
Boyan: That’s a tough question.
Justin: Don’t blow up.
Boyan: 10% of your job is the distilling, the 90% is attempting to run the business and clean. I think ultimately, peddling a very nichey product. We’ve got an ODV of a brandy of fruit distillate on the Southside of San Antonio. We obviously didn’t look at demographics or attempt to figure out, does San Antonio need a $60 bottle of a fruit distillate? It turns out, like you said, in 2016, we won a double gold in LA. It was the world’s highest-rated brandy. Playboy wrote about it. These are things that, how do you spread the word and get the support from the home crowd? That’s probably the hardest part.
Justin: I love how I feel like we’re talking on different worlds. I meant literally what’s the hardest part of distilling and you talked about owning a distillery?
Justin: No, it’s a fine answer. I asked a bad question. I should be a better lawyer.
Justin: What is the moment that you knew that you all were really onto something with this Kinsman? I’m not a liquor drinker.
Boyan: I’m still trying to discover that, man. I’m still trying to discover that.
Justin: I mean, there had to be– Was it the gold medal? Was it the Playboy? What was the moment where you’re like, “Shit, man, we’re onto something here.”?
Boyan: It’s funny. We opened Friday the 13th, December of 2013.
Justin: Okay, ominous.
Boyan: That was entirely coincidental.
Justin: Did you say December 13th?
Boyan: Yes. Friday, December 13th.
Justin: My sister’s birthday.
Boyan: Aww. Make sure you bring her down for her next birthday. Hopefully, we’ll be back and open.
Justin: I’ll tell Natalie the party is for her.
Boyan: Entirely. It won’t be our 7th anniversary. It’ll be her birthday party.
Justin: 42, I don’t know. I don’t know how old my sister is– [crosstalk]
Boyan: You don’t ask a lady how old she is. [laughs]
Justin: I’d say. The moment you knew you all were on to something.
Boyan: The moment we knew. We opened on that Friday and a couple of days behind the bar were actually Don Marsh who’s the barman and the proprietor at 1919 and Nick Kenna, who was formerly of 1919 currently over at the Blue Box group. He ended up being our first employee. We opened on that day to a great reception and a ton of folks. We looked at it and said, “Oh, my God, people are here.”
When folks asked, “Is this a soft opening?” Or “When was your soft opening?” We’ll say, “Well, this is it.” We’re 250 deep and we’ve got two professionals behind the bar. The next day was Second Saturday. The idea that folks actually showed up to this thing we put together was a testament, I think, to their willingness to try something new and different and us going, “Wow, people responded.”
Justin: The whole time I’ve lived in San Antonio, which is only 12 years, at this point, I have consistently heard, “Yes, but not in San Antonio,” and then it succeeds. That, “Nobody will buy that,” and then it succeeds. “No one will live there,” and then it succeeds. It’s been this weird– It’s a city that has a hard time moving forward but when it’s in, it’s in.
Boyan: We’re an underrated community. It doesn’t help– I’ve got a cellphone that’s a 512 number from my college days. People always ask, “You’re in San Antonio, why? It’s like, “Because it’s hometown,” right? “Why not?” I think there’s a ton of transformation, citywide that’s led to this San Antonio today.
Justin: Yes, and you all are a part of it, revitalizing a part of town. We’re going to talk about that some more. The next question, number six question. One thing you all do, which I think is fantastic, and I’m sure so many people appreciate it that you all don’t even know, but you all have like a rotating gallery of artists that you highlight within your tasting room and your brewery every 30– You corrected me, in a very terse way earlier, about how it rotates every 30 days. Who picks the art and what’s the idea behind that?
Boyan: A ton of focus on local. I think we’ve had one, maybe one or two artists over the last seven years that are out of the San Antonio city limits. Curated by Nina Hassel. She’s the director at the Contemporary Art Month. CAM is a big part of what we do, not just around the month of March, but which is the contemporary art month, but instead, she does an awesome job of highlighting local talent in all kinds of mediums, and we get to just kind of give up our walls and let them showcase their art.
Justin: That’s great. Some of the art in our office comes from an artist that I got in contact with who was at your place.
Boyan: Awesome. [crosstalk]
Justin: I was looking at the art and found him on Facebook. I didn’t go through the right channels, I’m sure and then it dawns the walls now.
Boyan: That’s exciting, man. We’ve never made a dime off of an exhibit. We’ve processed everything for the artist and in the name of the artist that we’re–
Justin: Very cool.
Boyan: We appreciate their participation.
Justin: Again, it just makes you so much better than our mutual friend, that’s also one of the business partners of you. What–
Boyan: [laughs] We was friend loosely apparently.
Justin: [laughs] Well, he knows we love him.
Boyan: He knows. [laughs]
Justin: You’re a small business owner which comes with its own set of complications. You opened a distillery at a time when that was difficult to do, it was not as accepted as it is now, and you opened in a underserved part of town. You have a unique perspective, so what do you think is maybe one of the biggest challenges facing San Antonio as we grow and we are pulled forward?
Boyan: Maybe focus is one of those things. We got to make sure we retain, if it’s in a certain area of town, or a certain neighborhood, or certain projects, there’s a ton of competing interests. Attention span for folks is sometimes short. Obviously, the earning potential, the employment component right now is an interesting time just because of the pandemic, but long term, if we were to focus on the infill projects that getting that downtown redeveloped, getting a little bit of that footprint, widening it out both sides of the river. You’ve got the projects on the–
Justin: Salado Creek helps a lot.
Boyan: The creek, right, the expansions. I think they broke down on Phase 2. Phase 2 is– [crosstalk]
Justin: I think that’s right, yes.
Boyan: I think it’s going to require a lot of people coming together, the bond being successful, the projects moving forward, and some of the developments actually come into fruition.
Justin: It was funny, I had somebody on the show and I said, “What’s one of the things that makes San Antonio different?” They said, “San Antonio still votes on bond projects.” A lot of cities have turned against them but San Antonio still wants to spend money out of pocket to make our city better, which I think that’s unique and it’s great. Do you do any Fiesta stuff and how long before Dorćol has their own event?
Boyan: It takes a minute. It’s a few years ago and probably would have been maybe ’16, we did our damn best to participate as one of the official beers in the German [unintelligible 00:13:57], because the Kölsch is a very classic German beer from Cologne. It turns out that large distributors, one in particular that has that contract,-
Justin: They did not like that?
Boyan: Did not want us participating, so I think it’ll be a minute. We doubled down on the commitment to self-distribute and support our brand and those that support us ourselves. Fiesta is a very lucrative citywide project that for the time being, is probably outside of our realm but–
Justin: I feel like you all are perfectly placed to have a post-King William event.
Boyan: We’ve done incredible– Yes, we’ve done that stuff but that’s– [crosstalk]
Justin: All you got to do is make a fundraiser. Then prove yourself out for a few years and you become an event.
Boyan: [chuckles] We’ve done the floats, we’ve participated in some things, but yes, I think it’s very much a San Antonio thing.
Justin: What do you love most about living in San Antonio?
Boyan: It’s got to be the food right now. It’s very diverse, it’s getting a ton of attention. There are some great cooks putting together some great stuff. I’m a fan. This first year, right? [laughs]
Justin: [crosstalk] I want to know what you really think about the food scene, like–
Boyan: What are you talking about? I’m a fat baby.
Justin: Let me just ask. In the last week, where have you eaten other than home?
Boyan: Well, you can’t eat right now unless–
Boyan: Well, that’s easy. I think I may have had one home-cooked meal that was probably–
Justin: In the last week.
Boyan: In the last week. Shall I pull up my bank account, just to make sure–? [crosstalk]
Justin: No, I don’t want to know.
Boyan: You take my word?
Justin: Yes, generally.
Boyan: I’ve definitely had Il Forno, I had bought a burger. I have a Starburst right here, that’s lunch from earlier today. [laughs]
Justin: You’ve been carrying around a bag of Starburst the whole time.
Boyan: Listen, man, I came after one meeting into another, so this is not like–
Justin: [laughs] Like that’s an excuse.
Boyan: I’ve got an Outlaw Kitchen order. There was at Cherrity Bar on Cherry Street. Also–
Justin: What part of town do you all live in?
Boyan: Just off of Central 410 I-10 kind of thing.
Justin: 410 I-10 kind of a thing, okay.
Boyan: North Central. I mean Central.
Justin: What’s the neighborhood?
Boyan: I don’t think there is one. It’s that unincorporated, non-historical, non-significant, not quite–
Justin: East or west of I-10?
Boyan: West, so not Castle Hills.
Justin: 410 of I-10.
Boyan: It’s like this weird, just the non-incorpor–
Justin: Over there by like Dave & Buster’s area?
Boyan: No, that would be the wrong side, the other side. Closer to–
Justin: Lo Fogata?
Boyan: Yes, further– Just like– [crosstalk]
Justin: There is a name to that. Is that Los Angeles Heights?
Boyan: If there is, I don’t know about it.
Justin: I pulled a map one time of all the names of all the neighborhoods, and there are a lot of them.
Boyan: A thousand, Yes.
Justin: I live in North Shearer Hills. Little known fact, it is south of Shearer Hills.
Boyan: [chuckles] What side of town is that?
Justin: Here, literally where we’re sitting right now.
I could walk home. You’re an owner, you’re a distiller, the place is Dorćol Distilling & Brewing. You have a personal family story, family history into what you make. I think it’s important to tell a story, because so many people think liquor is liquor, it’s a poison, it’s a bad blah-blah-blah. You hear all these terrible stories about people that don’t understand how a lot of distillers have a real long family story or family history into what they do, the same way people are passionate about anything they do. Tell us about your history, and your story, and your passion, and how you became a distillery and specific to this type of liquor.
Boyan: Before I became jaded and–
Justin: Before you became the guy with a bag of Starburst, sitting in front of me-
Boyan: And two bottles of liquor with– [crosstalk]
Justin: -with a Nike Swoosh T-shirt.
Boyan: Listen, don’t judge. It’s like the chef eating at a taco van, you don’t talk about it, but it’s 3:00 in the morning and it’s also available.
Justin: He’s like, “Don’t look me in the eyes.”
Boyan: Do not, yes. I’ll pay with cash so nobody can trace it back to me. I was born in Belgrade. Belgrade’s, at the time, capital of Yugoslavia and modern day or today Serbia. Eastern Europe, so thank the Balkans–
Justin: Was that when Slobodan Milošević was there?
Boyan: No, it was before that. It’s I think ’80s. [laughs]
Justin: It’s a fun name to say.
Boyan: Before all the Serbs became NBA stars and tennis champions. No, the year was many moons ago in the early ’80s.
Justin: We’re the same age. Oh my God.
Boyan: I know. Running up or down?
Justin: I don’t know what that even means.
Boyan: Don’t talk about it. I don’t know. I’m still under 40.
Justin: Me too.
Boyan: Good for you. I had to prove it recently but it’s true, I’m under 40.
Justin: The last guest on the show looked at my logo and said, “You look a lot younger and your logo.”
Justin: I said, “Well, first, it’s a cartoon and second, it was taken three years ago.” It’s been a rough three years, I guess.
Boyan: It’s been tough. Born in the early ’80s in Belgrade. The neighborhood is Dorćol. It references a play on a Turkish word, that’s four corners. Dorćol was a trading post in the Roman times. Danube runs through the downtown Belgrade. It was the Western Bank of the Danube where the Roman merchants and settlers traded with product from the east. Ended up state side and as a kid, would get sent every summer to go visit the grandparents.
Justin: In Belgrade?
Boyan: In Belgrade, yes, surrounding areas. Every year, grandpa would send dad some home-distilled rakia, brandy. One particular year, my brother and I–
Justin: Do you speak Serbian? Is it Serbian?
Boyan: I do, yes. Serbian, yes.
Boyan: Serbo-Croation. I don’t know. Modern day is weird. My brother and I were kids and we flew through Chicago for the connecting flights. Chicago has a very large Eastern European immigration. The fellow that we were randomly selected for the luggage check–
Justin: Additional screening?
Boyan: This is pre-early 2000s, pre 9/11, so back then, he could have been considered random.
These two kids end up opening up the luggage and there’s a unmarked coke bottle wrapped in children’s clothing, in Saran Wrap. He, the guy that the Customs Border Patrol guy accuses us of bringing in slivovitz, which is a particular type of rakia, a plum brandy. I remember us not bringing in slivovitz over, it was a different fruit, but I wanted to be very matter of fact. If he was accusing me of doing something wrong–
Justin: How old were you?
Boyan: We’re going to get to that.
Boyan: It’s my story.
Justin: Okay, sorry.
Boyan: It’s my story. This guy opens the bottle because he’s going to prove me wrong, and he sniffs in. Obviously, it’s alcohol, but the dummy doesn’t know the difference between the different types of rakia. He just refers to slivovitz as being any type of, let’s call it, moonshine.
Justin: Fruit moonshine.
Boyan: He doesn’t know any difference, I bet, but yes, fruit moonshine. He says, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’ve done this. I’m going to tell your father. Don’t tell your father to come looking for it because I can throw him in jail.” I respond back with, “Two bottles per passenger, I can bring in two and my brother can bring in two.” He comes back and he goes, “How old are you?” I think we were 14 and 10. He goes, “Over the age of 21.” That’s where we realized bootlegging was not in our stars.
Justin: Did they take it?
Boyan: Of course they did. Of course, my grandfather, who loses his mind, drops all kinds of terrible words about this guy and ultimately says, “Did you spill it out? Because you know he took it home and enjoyed it.” I ended up being scarred, I can’t bootleg successfully for my family so–
Justin: When you were in Serbia, did you see him distill it?
Boyan: Yes, of course.
Justin: You skipped over a really important part of your–
Boyan: Well, as kids– Okay, so I skipped through the ’80s, I moved right into the ’90s. That’s where the cool stuff was happening.
Justin: I’m saying you skipped through the idea of how you learned that this was part of your family, other than the bootlegging portion.
Boyan: Listen, how I learned was that I was at home and there was booze everywhere. That’s how I learned about it. How I got into it was they told me if I was one day going to have rakia seriously stateside, I would have to make it myself. That’s how we fast forward it 15 years, 20 years. Co-founder and I were just dumb enough to put something together, but we grew up– Our summers were spent on the Croatian coast. Grandpa married a Croatian woman from Dalmatia, and they had a ton of vineyards. He comes from an inner Serbian area where grapes and plums were popular.
Justin: Your life sounds like a romantic novel.
Boyan: No, it’s terrible.
Justin: Summers on the Croatian coast with the Dalmatian women.
Boyan: I’ll show you pictures. Yes, and prosciutto and red wine. It’s so horrible and difficult. Life is so hard. In any case, the booze was just around and I think there’s a– Food and alcohol had a different relationship in different cultures, and Eastern Europeans are– [crosstalk]
Justin: My parents hid the beer-
Boyan: Hid the beer.
Justin: -at the grocery store. Literally, they would cover the beer in toilet paper-
Boyan: So nobody can judge them? [chuckles]
Justin: -before we went to the checkout line. I’m not kidding. How it is different in different cultures? My parents will hide it.
Boyan: Your parents would send you to the local store and go fetch the booze and bring it up to the apartment because you could, so it’s a little different.
Justin: That was your background story in bootlegging. How did he distill it? Did he have a still?
Boyan: Yes, of course. Yes. Very typical of an Eastern European farmhouse.
Justin: I feel like we’re skipping over a lot. If you go to Dorćol, you all have this super neat, cool, old distill.
Boyan: Yes, this coppersmith and– You know, what’s funny is that’s not old. I mean that was built for us by the same coppersmith.
Justin: You don’t clean it well. It looks very old.
Boyan: No, it was literally built in 2012, but the Eastern European, the Balkan still geometries are very traditional. It’s a– [crosstalk]
Justin: Is that important, the geometry?
Boyan: Yes, absolutely and the shapes. Yes, the surface area contact between the vapor and the copper, does a ton to clean up the distillate. That speaks volumes on the production side of things as to why we got the recognition on the spirit side.
Justin: You’d go visit your family in the summer, you’d see your grandpa make traditional rakia in a traditional still?
Boyan: Without disclosing the date of birth and the date of immigration, there is a period when I lived in the Balkans full time and was growing up. Those summers were still immersed on the farm thing. There are pictures on carriages pulled by donkeys and shit, getting out into the vineyards. That kind of thing was–
Justin: I love the fact that you say growing up in the Balkans because as a kid, I remember when you had this, the Yugoslavia, the wars that were going on over there and all the regions were such an important thing. Because I didn’t have cable, I only had local news, Brian Williams or whoever would discuss this every night, and I remember learning so much about it, including Slobodan Milošević, with the funny name.
Boyan: There was a ton of history before that period that allowed for a much more joyous time in both cultural, and travel, or eating, or drinking time.
Justin: How far is Poland from there?
Boyan: Pretty far.
Justin: I’m Polish, so I want to know if I’ve got an excuse to make liquor and give it a cool story.
Boyan: Totally, man. You got potato vodkas and shit.
Boyan: Not nearly as good tasting but it’s– [crosstalk]
Justin: You’re an amateur bootlegging liquor in a Coke bottle, and somehow you–
Boyan: Unmarked soda bottle. Coke is not a paid sponsor of the show, is it? Do you have to plug them in?
Justin: Maybe. I’m still waiting on sponsor. Is Dorćol interested? It’s very cheap right now. [crosstalk] It’ll go way up. Joe Rogan is $20,000 an episode for one spot-
Justin: -of multiples spots.
Boyan: People pay for that?
Boyan: Who’s this guy? [chuckles]
Justin: Fear Factor.
Boyan: Fear Factor.
Justin: You go from being a bootlegger to a guy who’s rakia has been gold medal, award-winning.
Boyan: Well, there might have been like 15 years in between of growing up,-
Justin: Yes, we’re going to get there.
Boyan: -going to college. [laughs]
Justin: Gold medal, award-winning, all these wonderful things. When was the next time you got into distilling or following this specific passion? Did you do any brewing or distilling in college or was it all once you got here?
Boyan: It’s kind of funny, we talk about you can’t home distill like you can home brew or make wine.
Justin: You can, your house will explode though.
Boyan: [chuckles] The Feds don’t want you to. Lou will deny any effort to drag us into that. I don’t know what the statute limitation for that is. Generally speaking–
Justin: But you’ve got three 55 gallon drum molded together if anybody’s interested.
Boyan: Yes. [laughs] Yes, sitting in the driveway right now, waiting to be picked up by somebody.
Boyan: No, I think the idea that distilling was in the family and the idea that vineyards and fruit was readily available and you didn’t have a big house or a fancy car or anything because there’s communism in Eastern Europe, you settled for a non-compromising tomatoes and fruit distillates. It’s why it’s easy to be a snob now because you know what real tomato smells like and you know what a good distillate tastes like.
When you talked about the culinary scene earlier about what’s really awesome about San Antonio is there’s an incredibly homegrown scene that started with chefs interested to do something other than frozen fruits, and vegetables, and meats and now has urban gardens and local produce and farmers.
Justin: I have an urban garden, I have two beehives, I’ve got 20 chickens.
Boyan: Look at you.
Justin: I’ve got all the stuff.
Boyan: Why are we not talking about this?
Justin: That’s like the price of wheat in China or whatever the saying is, because what I asked you was, [chuckles] what did you do in terms of distilling or brewing through college or early life before you opened Dorćol?
Boyan: Well, nothing. What 20-year-old looks to–? [crosstalk]
Justin: I had a buddy that brewed all through college. Did you do any of that?
Boyan: That’s untrue. Unlikely. Did he really?
Justin: Yes, [crosstalk] and they exploded one day in front of all of us, and we had to take him to the hospital because he capped them too soon.
Boyan: Wow, brewing?
Boyan: Brewing? I don’t know– [crosstalk]
Justin: He did a secondary fermentation, all the bubbles,-
Boyan: In the bottle.
Justin: -he had already capped them. Kaboom.
Boyan: Kaboom. Right in his face.
Justin: You don’t think that could happen?
Boyan: You don’t shake a [unintelligible 00:29:58] bottle in front of your face.
Justin: I watched it happen. We were diving behind couches watching Tim. His name was Tim Gilbert. He works for the Census Bureau now.
Justin: You can call Tim. Lives in DC.
Justin: Your next foray into brewing or distilling was once you and your business partners decided, “Hey, we’re going to do this.” What was the next step? Was it finding the equipment, finding the location, putting your recipe together? What was next?
Boyan: I’ll starts backwards. The recipe was pretty easy. It’s 100% fruit distillate, so we don’t hide about it.
Justin: Tell us what that means because I don’t think people– I didn’t know until you explained it to me. I didn’t realize you all make straight alcohol and then you kind of blend it down.
Boyan: We do, yes. You take your sugar– [crosstalk]
Justin: Did you bring me any hand sanitizer, by the way?
Boyan: There’s absolutely none for public distribution.
Justin: God, okay. Go on.
Justin: Tell us how rakia and Kinsman is made.
Boyan: Of course. Rakia is a Balkan word for brandy. Literally, the entire Balkans call it rakia. It’s a Serbian-Croatian and to make a good quality rakia, you use 100% fruit mash bill. You literally take whatever fruit you’re going to use, and it’s always a single fruit and you ferment it. You depit it, you destem it, and you add yeast, and similar to brewing.
Justin: Fruit is your sugar?
Justin: Yeast is yeast, and those go together and they make alcohol.
Boyan: Correct. Yeast converts sugar to alcohol. You take this wine, if you will, and you put it in the still. You run it through the still twice. The first run is your stripping run, the second run is your spirit run. That’s really where the art happens on the flavors because the spirit run is split into three sections; the heads, the hearts, and the tails.
The heads will be tossed, and these are the alcohols that are more volatile. These are alcohols that give you a little bit of burning sensation on your lips or in your mouth, on your palate. The hearts is where the–
Justin: The heads just get tossed down the drain?
Boyan: We do, yes. Literally just toss it.
Justin: What’s the alcohol by volume on that?
Boyan: It’s 85%, 86%, so 190 proof. It’s pretty high stuff.
Justin: It’s ever clear?
Boyan: Yes, it’s a high proof booze. The hearts is just like it implies, the meat of the highest quality ethanol, and it is where your aromas and your flavors are cleanest. It’s what ultimately gets collected and then moderated with treated water down to your bottling strength. For us, it’s 84 proof.
Justin: See, I never knew that.
Justin: You distill really high quality, high percentage alcohol and then you water it down.
Boyan: Correct, yes.
Justin: Yes, I didn’t know that.
Boyan: Then the tails are these bitter elements of the alcohol. Those also don’t make the cut in the hearts and allows for the spirit to be very clean, very aromatic.
Justin: Why don’t you all do everybody does? All the wineries have their $100 bottle and then their $20 bottle. Why don’t you all make a, you can call it, I don’t know, not Kinsman, Brotherman, something?
Boyan: There are some distillates in the works. There are some barrels you probably notice that are sent around the warehouse. There’s a single malt whiskey that was a precursor to the beer component. There’s some grape that’s been aging– [crosstalk]
Justin: Was it going to be grappa?
Boyan: No, no, no. Grappa would be the pomace brandy after the wine making. We literally took the wine itself and–
Justin: Did you learn all this as a kid?
Boyan: You see it. You don’t think of it as a science project. At the time, you look at it as a task.
Justin: But as a kid.
Boyan: Yes, you’re having to shovel things, or you’re having to clean things, you’re having to move things, you’re having to go fetch things in– [crosstalk]
Justin: I had one grandpa who was like, “Don’t touch me.”
Boyan: [laughs] No, mine were–
Justin: I had another grandpa who would tell me to kill the pigeon.
Justin: Oh, and also, we’d go fishing and he would pee into a can because he was worried if he peed off the boat, he’d fall in.
Justin: We had a very different upbringing.
Justin: He was definitely an alcoholic, but not in the fun way that your grandpa was teaching you science projects.
Boyan: No, no, no. For us, it was–
Justin: Was that too personal?
Boyan: Yes. [crosstalk] I feel like it’s a therapy session. [laughs]
Justin: I feel like my upbringing was way more common for listeners than yours on the Croatian coast-
Boyan: No, listen, man. It’s–
Justin: -making brandy.
Boyan: Making booze. Third world countries do have some or developing nations do have some really fun stuff that comes in a form that’s less economic driven, if you will. Part of that is–
Justin: Because you all were communist and there was no economy.
Boyan: Socialist. Socialist.
Justin: Well, Iron Curtain.
Boyan: No, that was on the Bulgarian side.
That was on the other side of Danube.
Justin: [laughs] I’ve got just a few personal questions and they’re not personal, but they’re selfish questions because I want to know.
Boyan: Selfish. Go.
Justin: How many times did you all have to run through this process before you were like, “This doesn’t like shit anymore”? Because there had to be some runs?
Boyan: Yes. We cheated a little bit. We had the still made in Serbia. We knew what we were going to get was going to be very identical to what was available in the farmhouses.
Justin: Is the still that important?
Boyan: It is, yes. Think about the tools. It’s one thing to have great dough for bread, it’s another to have an oven that actually works, right?
Boyan: Baking in the ground and using coals to cover, for instance. Things like that. No different. Tools of the trade. The other is my uncle’s friend of 40 years owns the orchards that we started with, and we literally put this 80-year-old man on a plane and we flew him out here to make sure that when we put the still together and started distilling, we had an adult figure in the room.
The first day wasn’t as fruitful as we thought. We had a flue vent collapse off the ceiling and it’s last minute crisis, but we collected ourselves and woke up the next day and went back to it. We definitely had a family support. After the family gave up on talking us–
Justin: Your family?
Boyan: Yes. After they gave up on talking us out of this, they decided to help instead of divert the attention. Both my uncles were in the, let’s call it produce world, so we had access.
Justin: It sounds like they’re drug dealers.
Boyan: Produce. Produce.
Justin: How do the apricots come in? Yours is an apricot brandy, right? [crosstalk] Do you get whole apricots?
Boyan: Of course, yes. You literally prepay your harvest. In order for the yield to be successful, you want the fruit to be ripe. A grower typically has incentives to pick early because you get a ton of water weight. We work with growers to make sure that the fruit is ripe, full of fructose, and that involves prepaying harvests and then waiting to–
Justin: All Serbian?
Boyan: Yes, all central Serbian. 90% of the world apricots supply actually comes from the Balkans and Turkey.
Justin: Would you use anywhere else or does rakia require–? Some–
Boyan: No. Look, you can’t make a good product with a shitty ingredient, so why wouldn’t you–?
Justin: Well, you all use peaches from Fredericksburg at some point.
Boyan: The hardest thing– Look man, we talk about US as being this heavy producer of foods in this– We like to romanticize orchards, but to distill fruit, you literally have to have tons of fruit. It’s 20 pounds of a fruit to a bottle of booze.
Justin: Is that right?
Boyan: Yes, it’s nuts.
Justin: That was actually a question I was going to ask. That bottle we’re looking at right now-
Boyan: Is 20 pounds of fruit.
Justin: Why don’t you hold it up, because you were very concerned that it wouldn’t get enough– Yes, there you go.
Boyan: Enough attention, airtime?
Boyan: Where do we–?
Justin: Well, you can figure it out.
Boyan: Right there.
Justin: There you go.
Justin: That bottle requires 20 pounds of-
Boyan: Yes, it’s 20 pounds of fruit.
Justin: -depitted fruit?
Boyan: Yes. Let’s pretend you went to the grocery store and apricots are $5.99 a pound.
Boyan: Do 20 pounds times– [crosstalk]
Justin: Would American peaches be cost prohibitive? I just don’t know the economics.
Boyan: There’s a couple of things. In order to make it financially enticing to the grower, they pick it early. Ultimately, if your harvest yields are low, investing in the infrastructure long term is a difficult, expensive task.
Justin: You all buy futures, basically.
Boyan: In an essence, yes. You’re hoping that there’s no late season freezes or there’s hail that wrecks the trees. If you look to the Texas grape industry, that’s a precursor. A ton of people made– [crosstalk]
Justin: Since it’s seasonal, do you all distill as the fruit arrives and do you all have a distilling season?
Boyan: Yes, absolutely. That makes fruit distilling that hard.
Justin: I’m learning so much.
Boyan: This is so much fun. All the boys and girls in science class– [crosstalk]
Justin: Can you give me a little splash of your Kinsman?
Boyan: Of course.
Justin: I want
just two pounds of apricots.
Boyan: Two pounds of– Hold on.
Justin: Brandy, please.
Boyan: Let’s say 40% percent loose. The truth is that fruit is only available once a year. Right? Grain distilling is a ton easier because you can get a bag of grain delivered on a truck, just like breweries and distillers do all the time. Fruit distilling is a little more complex. It doesn’t hold. It’s got its own seasons and it’s only available that one time a year.
Justin: How do you get it? What does it look like? It’s not a pallet of apricots.
Boyan: No, it’s literally truckloads of apricots that end up on the back of a farmhouse in Serbia. They get delivered to us in, literally, truckloads.
Justin: In a bag? In a bucket?
Boyan: No, truckloads so think of 13–
Justin: It’s not just single apricots, though.
Boyan: There’s a truckload of single apricots. He’d love to pick this. How do avocados end up at HEB? What do you think?
Justin: When they show up at the distillery it’s literally just a whole apricot with the stem on it and everything?
Boyan: No. of course not. We get to do our fermentation on the back of our farmhouse in Serbia. JC, my uncle’s friend of 40 years, an 80 year old man that we’ve invested a ton in the infrastructure so that they can take possession of the apricots for us.
Justin: Okay, so then what do they do with them?
Boyan: They deep heat them. There’re these machines that have– let’s call them ogres.
Justin: You’ll get the fructose.
Boyan: That’s right. We get a first. We call them low wines but ultimately what it is, is, in order to stabilize the fruit for shipping, you’ve got to be able to somehow preserve the flavor profile. The idea of freezing fruit is both unpredictable and not very conducive to quality control. JC’s good friend, was the professor at the Belgrade Institute for Fermentation Sciences.
His first question was, how do you intend on moving fruit from Serbia to Texas? Of course, it’s in August and September so we’re all in the northern hemisphere and the temperatures are outrageous. The ship travels for 30 days. Once we worked out the logistics, we literally had the Customs and Border Patrol issue, a ruling that allows us to import our own low wines.
Justin: When you say low wines, they’re lowly fermented basically to survive the trip?
Boyan: They’re low booze. They’re low alcohol and then that gets re-distilled.
Justin: That’s fascinating. When they get to San Antonio, they still have enough sugars that you can run the process?
Boyan: They’ve got the alcohol component so that’s literally what we’re distilling. Distillation is separating alcohol or any compounds based on boiling points and alcohol blows off at a lower boiling point than water.
Justin: If you had all the fruit in San Antonio to start with, you would do a early fermentation and then a distillation, is that right?
Justin: I didn’t know that.
Boyan: We did that with the grape stuff. One season, we got, I think, eight or nine tons of Texas grapes and we’ve got three barrels to show for it so that’s a ton of– And you look at the price.
Justin: Have you all thought about peaches? We make more peaches than any state in America.
Boyan: Which still doesn’t say we make very much. If you think about 20 pounds–
Justin: Do they make that many apricots over in Serbia?
Boyan: Yes, think of grapes. Think of California grapes.
Justin: I think about them all the time.
Boyan: All the time.
Justin: Lots go down the gullet.
Boyan: In 750 bottles and [laughs].
Justin: 750 bottles. Yes, that’s correct. Not one fives.
Boyan: Not one fives. We’re grown up. No boxes.
Justin: Sometimes a bag of wine.
Boyan: No pouches. It’s often incriminate.
Justin: I could literally talk to you about the distilling process forever. It’s just this funny thing that I think some people go through. There is a weird– If you were passionate about cheese then your cheese would taste better to me. It just would. People that are passionate about what they do when they produce a product for people to ingest or enjoy, it’s family. It feels familiar and it’s something that I have realized I’ve always loved.
I got into the brewing thing in Texas whenever– There were six of them. When I was in law school, I went and drove to every microbrewery in Texas. I think there were six or seven at the time because, the stories really just resonated with me and I loved it.
Because we’re not a long show I want to switch a little bit and I want to talk about how you all have revitalized a part of town that needed to be revitalized, that was on the edge of revitalization but you all have clearly become the anchor tenant and a part of town that needed an anchor tenant. You all haven’t done it haphazard. You all put a lot of money and time and effort into making sure that you all are a destination for that part of town.
Was the idea of revitalizing so flow? Was this just ancillary to what you all were trying to do, or were you all really trying to find a part of town that you all could become the tourist destination, or how did that come about and how have you all grown as it is grown?
Boyan: It’s funny. We looked all across town and funny enough, at the time, Pearl was going to be a development and we thought, “Oh, this must be like any other project that was big in San Antonio, wasn’t going to go anywhere.”
Boyan: We passed on some stuff on, I think it was Josephine street. They turned them into condos anyway.
Justin: I just want to know who in that discussion was the one like, “No, I know what I’m doing.” [laughs]
Boyan: Think about it, Chris and Blaine were the only two in the discussion at the time anyway. But, what the hell did we know? We’re not in that circle and there was talk of stuff and there was going to be a development and there was going to be a North River expansion. All these things were going to happen. There was also Sunset Station for 30 years and it’s still going to happen.
Justin: There’s very specific reasons to that and I would love to have some of those people on the show that have held that back because the city will not give them what they want but that’s another discussion.
Boyan: It’s another day. Another guest.
Justin: I hope that guest wears a salmon colored shirt on, that is a Reebok shirt, though.
Boyan: Boom. Same. That’s not pink, right?
Justin: No, it’s your color. Salmon. This is salmon.
Boyan: Oh. I thought this is red. It’s the blue lighting.
Justin: If it fades enough it becomes salmon.
Boyan: I use Tide thought, to test the colors.
Justin: I use Costco.
Boyan: The neighborhood actually was accidental. It was November, I think, of 2010– No, 2011, and it happened to have been a second Saturday and there is a restaurant down the street from your first office that had just opened and I had dinner there.
Justin: Which one?
Boyan: Well, I don’t think they’re open anymore. It’s like the story of the neighborhood. It’s things come and go.
Justin: It’s funny, we’re very good friends with Andrew.
Boyan: Very good friends. Closest friends.
Justin: Slightly involved in that lawsuit. Whatever, it’s public.
Boyan: Did they pay? [laughs].
Justin: Well, he won.
Boyan: Did he?
Boyan: Anyway, after dinner, I knew there was a lot that was for sale, rolled down onto South Flores and saw an incredible volume of folks just having a good time on the street. There was great galleries run by great people doing some really fun stuff and from former directors of museums to homegrown Chicano artists and here’s a slot that was infested with used restaurant equipment and crack pipes and syringes.
Justin: Was there anything there before?
Boyan: Long time ago? There was a building that had burned down 30 years earlier and somebody just owned it.
Justin: It was just an old burned down building was there when you bought it?
Boyan: No, it was a vacant lot that had restaurant equipment just scattered on it.
Justin: Is that right? [laughs]
Boyan: Yes. They cleaned it out before we got it.
Justin: Next to the train tracks.
Boyan: On the train tracks. That used to be the days when folks would jump off the tracks and ask you which way’s downtown and it wanders anywhere but here.
Justin: Shut up, you act like it was 2000 or 1981 when they were like–
Boyan: 2001, it was a long time. No. Think about a man. 1981, King William was hopping.
Justin: They have a stick with like a bag.
Boyan: With the bag on the bag, yes.
Justin: Say, Jimmy crack corn. [laughs]
Boyan: That’s right. Looks like it.
Justin: I’ve seen that train go through there. Somebody jumps off of that train 40 miles an hour.
Boyan: It stops there all the time. You know damn well, it does.
Justin: No. I’m messing with you.
Boyan: It stops and then holds up traffic for miles [laughs]. It’s a very active track.
Justin: I like that you’re getting annoyed with my jokes right now. Go ahead.
Boyan: It’s not annoying, I’m having a good time.
Justin: Go ahead so you had used restaurant equipment.
Boyan: Yes. It got cleaned up and we broke ground in February 5th of 2013.
Justin: How long before you all were built out?
Boyan: Officially? February 2013 to December 2013 so where does that put you? 10 months?
Justin: When was the first this distillation run? Distilling run?
Boyan: Hold on.
Justin: When was the first openly public legally?
Boyan: December 13.
Justin: Okay. Has it been well received the whole time in that part of town, have you all had any blow-back? Has it been?
Boyan: No. We couldn’t afford
to have blow backs. We literally went door to door and knocked and met folks and told them what we’re trying to do. The neighborhood was incredibly supportive in 2012 just as they’re supportive in 2020. Met the immediate neighbors, met the neighborhood leadership, met the elected officials. Some of those folks have obviously changed since, but the idea was we were genuinely interested in being part of what was happening there and for 20 years there’s some really great stuff that was going on in that intersection. It was very genuine, very homegrown and not interrupted by out of towners, if you will, that was left on the river.
Justin: Have you all expanded?
Boyan: Well, we grew a little bit. We were in the process of adding a second bar to it. We obviously grew our production side of things. We have the Second still. We added beer, we added a few large fermenters. We’ve done some stuff that allows us to share more of what we do with others.
Justin: Whose idea was it to have this community focus where you’ve got the food truck and you bring out the bands and you allow people to set up– You all allow people to set up booths on Second Saturday and sell things within your distillery. You all are not just a distiller. You all have a very community focus, especially for Second Saturday. Especially for private events. You all have Rivard report speeches. You all have political events. You all have become part of the community and whose–
Boyan: Civic events.
Justin: Well, whatever you want to call them. There’s a difference than being a business and being a business that has created an anchor for discussion and communication with the community.
Boyan: I think we knew that in order for us to work to be relevant, we knew we couldn’t do it on our own. We’re two schmucks who– We started out as two schmucks and now we’re a couple more schmucks, but we weren’t disillusioned that somehow, we’re going to do this, God’s gift to the world, distillate. You look through your business plan that you wrote a dozen years ago, the one thing that still resonates was our commitment to building a community around what we’re doing and that’s literally in that plan. We knew we had to herd all the cats that were into what we’re trying to do and share it with them. We do that with our spirit. We do that with our beer. We do that with our chefs and bartender partners across the state.
Justin: I think what you all do is fantastic. I’m really jealous that my degenerate friend became a business partner and I didn’t hear about this business opportunity.
Boyan: Your wife, your wealth. [chuckles]
Justin: That’s also a good point. I think we joked about this before we got on the show because the previous guests before you, he had never heard of you all. He had never heard of Second Saturday and he’s exactly the kind of guy that should know about Second Saturday. What is a good way for people to learn more about the distillery? What would you say is your perfect introduction to Dorćol? Because the first time I went was a very like low attendance early in the day Second Saturday, had a great time. I got to walk around and hear things and see things and I had some cocktails from you all. Two things here, what is the perfect day at Dorćol for a random person that wants to check it out and what’s the best way to learn more about what’s happening at Dorćol?
Boyan: The easy part is that I had to learn about is obviously social media. It’s how do people communicate these days. It’s on the apps.
Justin: Under Dorćol?
Boyan: Yes, Dorćol Spirits. dorcolspirits.com, at dorcolspirits on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. I don’t know what else is out there. Then under normal circumstances–
Justin: Don’t get on Reddit, by the way. People there are terrible.
Boyan: Yes, it’s a terrible thing. YouTube horrible.
Justin: They told me that my show was not– They said, “You need to understand that people in San Antonio are not educated and therefore you need to rearrange your show.” I thought, what the hell are you–?
Boyan: Did you cancel your subscription?
Justin: No, it’s free.
Boyan: You move to your MySpace account or?
Justin: I just changed the name to Boyan.
Boyan: [laughs] It’s foreign enough. Other than keeping up with us virtually, right now it’s kind of an odd time.
Justin: Social media is the best way to get new information.
Boyan: Correct, keep up with us. See what we’re doing. See what we’re up to next. Next beer release. Next spirit release.
Justin: What do you think is the best introduction to what you all do? Would it be a Second Saturday? Would it be a private deal?
Boyan: It’s likely going to be like a– When we’re back into normal operations, it’s got to be like a low key Thursday 6:00, 7:00.
Justin: Because you all have a bar?
Boyan: Yes, we were the first distillery that opened after the law changed to allow on premise sales. In 2013 everybody was a manufacturing space that practically just cranked out Booz and distributed it and we miraculously designed the space to allow for a non-premise component.
Justin: When you say distributed it, that meant you all gave it to a distributor to distribute. You all can distribute.
Boyan: Correct that’s still the case with spirits.
Justin: Can you all not sell Kinsman?
Boyan: For what? Onsite or distribution?
Boyan: The law changed in 2013 to allow on premise sales. Before that–
Justin: But you can sell a bottle of it, right?
Boyan: We can, yes. Two bottles per person for 30 days. TABC is pretty explicit in how they want things done. We still have to sell it through a distributor to a bar or liquor store, but we can sell onsite.
Justin: When did it change that you can sell an actual bottle of liquor?
Justin: I thought that was more recent.
Boyan: No, 2013. Just recently in September, change was that we can sell you a bottle of beer on site. Literally just–
Justin: You couldn’t sell beer, but you could sell liquor.
Justin: That makes sense.
Boyan: It gets epic.
Justin: You were limited to how much beer now?
Boyan: To 188 ounces a day.
Justin: So what, 24?
Boyan: Yes, case per person.
Justin: I guess I wouldn’t know these things.
Boyan: If you can bring the neighbor or the spouse or a friend in the car and we’ll sell you more than one.
Justin: If I’m bringing random people to overcome the limit, I need to go see my clergy.
Boyan: Absolutely not. You’re just having a party. That’s absolutely not. We were blessed by Father Emo. He was at St. Henry’s and he literally walked over, he’s Polish and he traveled Serbia on five dollars, apparently in the ’70s and he came in, he heard what we were doing. He literally blessed the space.
Justin: Do you prefer Serbia or Croatia?
Boyan: Same place–
Justin: If you’re going vacationing.
Boyan: One’s in urban downtown New York City, the other is a beach.
Justin: Which one’s urban?
Justin: Is it as dense as New York City? Is it like that?
Boyan: That’s hard. New York City is pretty dense, but yes, it was the world capital, party capital of the world. It’s absolutely incredible.
Justin: According to who?
Boyan: I don’t know.
Justin: Playboy? [chuckles]
Boyan: Yes. USA Today. I don’t know, or a travel channel.
Justin: There was a one episode of Playboy that was like, “Best liquor, Kingsman, best city Belgrade.”
Boyan: Playboy didn’t write about the name as the best liquor. They reported on five best American products or something to look for. We were one of those.
Justin: Our mutual friend was very proud of the job. You all should be. That’s a big deal. All of this stuff is a big deal.
Boyan: We’re very humbled by the attention we get from some really incredible folks.
Justin: I like that I know you well enough to joke with you, but what you all done here is really cool. It’s very good. Your space is super cool.
Boyan: Thanks man.
Justin: The community that has been– It’s almost has its own orbit on a lot of times. That’s just true. Second Saturday is such a cool thing in our city that if you haven’t been, you have to go, but you all are the anchor to that and you all aren’t haphazardly, you all are because you all have a food truck and you all have a bar and you’ll let people that can’t afford the big fancy gallery set up and you all allow independent artists and musicians to be there. It really is something you all should be super proud of because I’m proud to know you all. Every time I go to that– I took my parents to that for Christ’s sake. My parents are in their ’60 and ’70s. My dad’s 74 years old.
Boyan: It’s family friendly space.
Justin: The last time he was there I said, “We need to go do this.” It’s walkable. It’s nice, when the weather’s nice, it’s fun. There’s nice people. You’re exactly right. It’s this weird hidden gem in the city that I feel like doesn’t get enough attention. You all make great alcohol, but you’ll also have become such incredible community anchors and partners for that part of our town that needs it. I hope you all get all of the attention in the world. What do you all think is the next step or what do you all hope happens as you all progress and as you all grow?
Boyan: If we obviously can put the immediate challenges behind is with this coronavirus and stuff, I think the looking forward is going to be getting some more folks down into the neighborhood. There’s going to be– A great barbecue joint was going to open across the street and the luck will have it, all the restaurants got shut down a few weeks ago. I smelled the smoke earlier today, so I think they’re going to be back at it in the next couple of days. There’s going to be some stuff happening this weekend. I’m hoping they’re successful. Forno’s the next block over. They’re doing some really great stuff.
Johnny has Frutería right up the street. There’s a ton of really creative things that are happening. I hope folks will show back up and show their support and continue to dig what we’re doing and the artists that are setting up shop and our space and in the galleries get the support and the love.
Justin: So you all have Kinsman, it’s a Apricot Brandy. You all have what beers on your current lineup?
Boyan: The HighWheel Betty is always the winner. She’s our anchor. She’s the only beer we canned when the law changed in September. She’s been what carries the boat this last three, four or five weeks.
Justin: But you all did just can another one.
Boyan: We just did, yes. We just–
Justin: Thank you for bringing it here today.
Boyan: I was in a different meeting.
Justin: No, that’s okay.
Boyan: I have a day job, man.
Justin: I think that’s important. You have a real day job different from this.
Boyan: I’m pedaling a payroll.
Justin: Wonderful things.
Boyan: But yes, we’re looking forward to releasing some age stuff before the end of the year, and we hope people show up and support us as much as they have in the past. That’s going to make the whole difference.
Justin: I was a huge Saint Arnold’s fan, a huge Craft brew guy early on. I had Saint Arnold’s divine number one through 15 for years. I had so many, I just sold some on eBay. Who sells beer on eBay? I mean, it’s ridiculous, but I was that into beer. Are you all going to get any of these sort of small batch craft specialty beers or you all going to stick with sort of the sessionable easy branding?
Boyan: Listen, we literally, I mean inside of the world for us but we took subtle flavors to a whole new level with this Wheat-A-Colada thing. We infused an American wheat ale and Hefeweizen with some pineapples. So it’s got this incredible summer melt to it.
Justin: Is it sold out?
Boyan: It’s not yet, but I did get some texts for some case buys from restaurants. I don’t actually know that we’re going to intend on distributing it to others, but we took this opportunity to release our Short Supply Tall Boy series.
Justin: Will you send me one? Just one beer.
Boyan: One beer.
Justin: One beer, yes.
Boyan: One can, I got you. It’s on me.
Justin: Okay. Is there anything planned currently for what’s going on at Dorćol, or is everything on hold or are you all holding on hope that X event is still going to happen in the future?
Boyan: We’re trying to think outside the box. We’re hosting a cool chef on Sunday to do a brunch to go. We’re kind of excited to–
Justin: Good for you. I mean, that’s what I [crosstalk]. That’s great, man.
Boyan: I think we’re doing our part. It’s nice to have folks want to partner with us. Folks are going to come online.
Justin: Who’s the chef?
Boyan: Ed. Ed is a homegrown chef.
Justin: You just said Ed.
Boyan: Ed, E-D.
Justin: I know but Ed didn’t have a last name?
Boyan: He’s homegrown. Homegrown is his brand. A homegrown chef.
Justin: Oh really?
Justin: Okay [laughs].
Boyan: That’s the whole thing.
Justin: It’s like, he’s an at-home chef.
Boyan: No, homegrown.
Justin: Homegrown chef is his deal. Okay, cool.
Boyan: We’ve got some cool stuff that’s coming along with that.
Justin: What time is that? How do you get it?
Boyan: Look it up on social media for the food menu. Then you text us at 210 900-4440. I’ve always wanted a 900 number.
Justin: So that’s when, Sunday?
Justin: Because I don’t think this is going to post before Sunday, but I will put it on our social media and our–
Boyan: Would you promise? Get the chef some attention.
Boyan: We’d love it. Long-term, I think we’re going to be excited about this whole beer-to-go thing to continue and booze-to-go. Then, hopefully get to host our official [unintelligible 01:03:52] of San Antonio this summer. That’s been a hit last six years.
Justin: Yes, I have done that. [crosstalk] Boyan, thank you for being here. This has actually been a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I have realized I have a weird affinity for people that have a passion about something. It’s great to hear the stories. I don’t know these things. We buy alcohol, we buy beer, we buy food and until you hear the story behind it, a lot of times you don’t maybe appreciate it like you should. Thank you for being here. When you all start doing new things or getting into new lines, or you release your 40 tons worth of grape one bottle liquor, will you come back on?
Boyan: We’d love to. Thanks for having us.
Justin: That’s going to do it for this episode. Thank you so much for being here. Dorćol distillery and brewery or distilling and brewing, what’s the website?
Justin: Okay. You can find whatever you need at dorcolspirits.com. You can find it on their social media at dorcolspirits, I assume, or you live in San Antonio, it’s not going to be hard to find. You can learn more about them there. Join us on our next episode. We’re going to continue to have great guests that are going to talk about what makes San Antonio very unique and special. Our top three wishlist continues. Coach Pop, you’re never getting off this list if you don’t come. Shea Serrano, all the great things you’re doing to help out San Antonio, and I’m a huge Office and Scrubs fan, and Ron Nirenberg, you’ve told me you’re coming on, so just do the deal. Thank you and we will see you all next episode.
Justin Hill: Thanks for joining us on this episode of the Alamo Hour. You are all what make this city so great. We hope you join us next week. In the meantime, subscribe to our podcast. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/alamohour or our website, alamohour.com. Until next time. Viva San Antonio.
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