Dan Suarez and Taylor Cocalis welcomed two new additions to their family this year. Their first child, Enzo, was born on Labor Day, and before that big event, the couple gave birth to an even bigger baby: Suarez Family Brewery.
Opened in Livingston this June, the brewery has already made a name for itself with the summer-friendly brews it was selling to New York bars and restaurants and at the taproom at its Route 9 facility, a former “creepy warehouse,” Dan says, that they bought in 2015. Dan, 31, and Taylor, 32, met in New York City back in 2007, while Dan was homebrewing. Soon, he was taking every internship and part-time job he could find in the brewing business. “He would stop at nothing to collect as much information as he could,” Taylor says. “I wished I had something that I was so interested in.”
He picked up his professional trade at Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, then the two moved to Vermont to join startup Hill Farmstead Brewery. They loved the area but longed for something closer to their families in New Jersey and Connecticut. When Dan’s brother, Nick, and his wife, Sarah, opened Gaskins in Germantown, they scouted around and found the aforementioned creepy warehouse, a construction storage facility with 10,000 square feet of un-insulated, unheated and long-uninhabited space. In other words, says Dan, “a great place to have a beer.”
Eventually, anyway. Like most new breweries, the birthing process took longer and cost more than expected. But they had a vision that they hope sets them apart. They installed a 20-hectoliter system to produce what Dan calls “nimble, delicate, dry, elegant” brews in three styles: unfiltered lagers — “which I am passionate about,” Dan says — like German pilsner; hop-forward, American-style session ales; and mixed-culture farmhouse beers.
Their tasting room faces west, with a wall of windows that drench the space in light and create a pastoral vibe that juxtaposes nicely with the industrial building. There are typically five to seven beers on tap, but no food (yet) beyond limited snacks. He sends hungry patrons to Gaskins, just down the road, which, in the spirit of brotherly love, devotes three of its six taps to Suarez suds.
“We hearken back to an old-school, family-run European business,” Dan says. “We went to tiny breweries in Belgium that had been passed down four generations and are still run by the same family.” The Suarezes were drawn to the perks of this European model. “They are run less like a business and more like a lifestyle,” Taylor says. “It’s about how they spend their time and who they spend time with. There’s more focus on product quality and process.”
Dan does the brewing, while Taylor does “everything else — sales, invoicing, distribution, bookkeeping, accounting, paperwork.” Though, as the new baby approached, she had to delegate at least one of her duties: “My days of keg delivery are numbered,” she said in July.
After their nearly 10-year journey, “it feels really awesome to be packaging up finished beer and putting our name on it, having people want to taste it and buy it,” Dan says. Of course, as with childbirth, this is just the beginning. “It feels like we just went through labor and delivery, and now it’s, ‘Oh gosh, now I have to keep this thing alive,’” Taylor says. “We definitely enjoy having a beer — or a few — at the end of the day.”
Suarez Family Brewery
2278 Route 9
Livingston, NY 12541