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Eat, Pray, Pickle

Inside Denver's The Real Dill



Photos: Aaron Colussi

Tyler DuBois and Justin Park aren’t just pals who share a passion for brining; these 30-something entrepreneurs are on a mission to make the best, crunchiest, most flavorful pickles while letting their palates and a conservative growth model guide the way.

These two first made pickles together in 2011 as wedding favors for Park (a Denver native) and his bride (a childhood friend of DuBois’), and a chorus rang through the reception: “You guys should sell these!” The following May, they started The Real Dill (TRD), pickling cucumbers out of DuBois’ parents’ basement and selling at local farmers markets.

Their wives believed in them enough that DuBois and Park were able to quit their day jobs. And it paid off, as these old friends and new parents now manage a 4,600-square-foot facility in Denver’s Baker neighborhood, with five full-time employees, six year-round pickle varieties, and 300 accounts.

Relationship building is a core value. They collaborate with local partners: Savory Spice provides brining spices; Snooze restaurants exclusively pour TRD’s fresh and fiery Bloody Mary mix; and their Briners & Brewers Series repurposes ingredients from local breweries as a pickle brine.

They are equally choosy about retailers, selecting those that understand their mission and can explain the hefty price tag ($9 for a 16-ounce jar and $12 for a 32-ounce jar) to customers. Sourcing the highest-quality ingredients (flavorful cukes from Georgia); developing delicious flavor combinations, such as habanero-horseradish, caraway-garlic, and jalapeño-honey; and packaging their pickles so that you’d be proud to give a jar as a hostess gift all cost more than your average pickle.

Park and DuBois do things the old-fashioned way. They hand-cut every pickle and physically place every single ingredient into each jar. But they know they can only produce so much without compromising their beliefs and integrity, which is why they won’t expand into a food-production business that sells to chain stores. And why, in the words of DuBois, “that Porsche in the parking lot won’t ever be owned by the pickle guy.”

“There is a weird perception that you need to use chemicals to preserve food; that’s just not the case. All you need is vinegar, salt, and a proper vacuum seal.” 
— Tyler Dubois, co-owner

PICKLE FACTS

#1: The blossom ends of cucumbers carry an enzyme that isn’t very tasty, so The Real Dill tops and tails each cuke before brining.

#2: While responsibly preserved pickles are safe to eat for years, The Real Dill believes that theirs should be eaten within six months in the jar.

#3: The Real Dill collaborated with Denver creamery Sweet Action, whose Honey Jalapeño Pickle Ice Cream garnered a place in Zagat.com’s 2013 list of “30 Crazy Ice Cream Flavors Around the World.”

Available at Marczyk, Savory Spice, Cured, and select Whole Foods Markets. therealdill.com

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