Crafting a Beer Company on Home Turf

Alphabet City residents go from home-brews to their own beer label

By Mary Newman

Alphabet City Jason Yarusi and Jeffrey Simón bonded over beer as soon as they met. Both moved to New York City in 2001, and after discovering their shared love for a great pint, they became roommates and started brewing their own beer out of their apartment in Alphabet City. After many failed batches they eventually perfected an accessible blonde ale, and the Alphabet City Brewing Company was born.

Yarusi and Simón met while working behind the bar at The Frying Pan, where they both stayed for nine years, eventually deciding to share a place on 7th Street and Avenue A. Both were inspired by their new downtown neighborhood, becoming regulars at different restaurants and bars in the area.

“We started wondering what our next step was going to be,” Simón said. “First we thought we might open up our own bar or try to find something a little bit more interesting.” After being gifted an at-home brewing kit, they began experimenting and realized that making their own beer felt like a more creative option, and they decided to open their own brewery.

“The first batch went surprisingly well,” Yarusi said. “We always knew we wanted to start with a Kolsch blond ale. We both have always liked German style beers, and really researched what makes a great blonde ale. It was important to us that we made a beer that a lot of people would enjoy, and enjoy a lot of it.”

The pair are completely self taught, attributing most of their early knowledge to YouTube videos, and testing different batches of beer out on their friends. A lot of their brand identity is closely tied to New York City. In addition to their company name, their logo is a creative blend of a water tower and glass of beer. Since you can spot water towers all over New York, it pays homage to the city where ACBC was born as their company continues to expand.

Once they finished the years of paperwork required to start selling their beer, they began reaching out to their friends working in restaurants and bars in 2012. Their first client was the cozy downtown bar Clandestino at 35 Canal Street. It’s important to both Yarusi and Simón that they keep personal relationships with all of their clients, especially as they continue to expand.

“We don’t want to have a huge portfolio of beers too early,” Yarusi explained. “We really try to build real relationships with anyone who is serving our beer, and we’re looking to expand slowly.” They have added only a few new employees, including their director of sales Red Dacquel. Dacquel has years of experience in the beer industry working as both a beer rep and bartender since also moving to New York in 2001, and has been working on expanding their client base.

Coincidently Dacquel’s first apartment in New York was also in Alphabet City, and he has been a cheerleader for ACBC since the beginning. “I believed in what these guys were doing long before they brought me on board,” Dacquel said of his relationship to Yarusi and Simón. Dacquel started in the service industry after finding it difficult to get work and was inspired by their grassroots approach. “To hear their story it has been amazing to see how members of the service industry have really rallied behind these guys,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of that story.”

Creativity is involved with every part of ACBC, including the beer names and logos. The Kolsch Style “Easy Blonde” Ale, and the American Brown Ale, “Dizzy Brewnette” boast well-designed graphic packaging. They are constantly collaborating with their creative friends, including a 3D artist from Seattle who designed their tap handles.

They are introducing a new IPA this month, a West Coast Indian Pale Ale called “Alpha Male” IPA. Since the “Easy Blonde” and “Dizzy Brewnette” have sold mostly to restaurants, they hope the IPA will bring ACBC into more craft beer bars. The aggressive name is a nod to the IPA’s more bitter, hoppy taste and 7.0% alcohol by volume.

“It’s very difficult to get more than one tap at bars who usually only have four or five beers on tap,” Simón explained. “We want to introduce the ‘Alpha Male’ and bring on new clients, keeping our existing taps the same. It’s about expansion, and it’s important to us that we find the right environments for each beer.”

Visit their website to learn more about each beer and a list of upcoming events: