From the heart of Aguadilla, the craft recipe of a beer created by Jorge Castro Ramos and his partner René Pérez, who dared to stay with the Del Barril brewery, which belonged to an acquaintance who moved to the United States, is fermented.
It seems that fate was knocking at their doors when this duo of friends who met for their passion for music decided to unite wills to take forward an opportunity that they could not miss.
Thus began the new path of Boxlab Brewing Company, a company with which they have created more than 80 craft beers for local consumption.
“I started in 2012 in another place in Aguadilla near the base, with a concept called The Beer Box, which was for beers to go. At one point, I had the idea of learning how to make beer, although I didn’t want to do it at first, I was in total refusal. And a friend who was the previous owner of this taught me at his house,” Jorge, 48, recalled.
While Pérez, born in Arecibo, arrived a little later to do the graphic design of his business and, at the same time, develop the corporate image of the beers.
His first product, according to Castro Ramos, was born in 2014.
“It’s a beer called Demolition that we still make from time to time. Demolition became a representative issue of what we did, which was beer outside the ‘comfort zone’, a little stronger at that time. It is a very bitter beer with a high alcohol content”, explained the man from Ponce.
“The original version was a little sweeter, more malty. Now it’s twice the alcohol and twice the ingredients. It is between 11% and 12% alcohol by volume. It is not the most we do, but from time to time. Already in 2015 we started to make beer in Caguas, a blonde and lighter beer”, she added.
Two years later, one of the biggest disasters that Puerto Rican society has experienced occurred with the passage of Hurricane Maria, a situation that forced thousands of people to leave the country, but Castro Ramos’ business received another type of support.
“After María passed away, we continued in business, we were very close to closing, but we continued because of the support of the people. Six months later, we were given the opportunity to acquire this place because the person who had it, one of my mentors and the one who taught me how to make beer, moved to the United States,” she recounted.
“Since 2016 we were trying to develop and set up a brewery. So this opportunity was perfect because I already had the permits, the transfer process between owners was easier than starting from scratch. He had the basic equipment to start making beers quickly and be able to recover the money quickly,” added Pérez, 40.
Their enthusiasm was such that they did not wait to complete the process of buying the company and launched into various recipes they were devising.
“Until then, we have struggled with the pandemic, earthquakes, the hurricane, and along with the other business we moved to another location. We were dealing with many things at the same time and we have been fighting hard for four years”, René admitted when revealing that they will move the brewery to the area where they have the Boxlab.
“Before we served beer here because there was a bar. But right now it is a restaurant, bar, cocktail bar with beer and our beer. It grew little by little and is becoming a brewery. Now it will be a brewery and a business, ”she confessed about the move they hope to complete by the end of August.
“What determines if a beer is ready, for me, is the fermentation and the conditioning. If the fermentation is complete, then it goes through a cooling process and that process is what determines that a beer is complete and ready to pack. Temperature control is also very important because it can be damaged,” Castro Ramos explained, noting that the business employs about 25 people.
He explained that part of his proposal is present in the premises located on the PR-110 highway in Aguadilla, where the consumer can choose a variety of 16 own beers, among them, Mal de ojo, Buscapié, Cocotero, Majadero, Zarzuela, Vertex, Scratchboard, Misty, Vibrate, Haste, and Sanctuary.
“Now we are in another process that is moving to a much larger location, we are going to increase production. We also have another project that is with Mal de Ojo that we want to give more love to. We are focused on working hard and confident that our product is of quality”, René concluded.