A new craft brewery plans to open in a huge development in the Sun Valley neighborhood next year, and the owners hope to cross cultural divides in the same way that city planners are hoping to finally connect the long-forgotten neighborhood, between Federal Boulevard and I-25, with the rest of Denver.
Raices Brewing, at 2060 West Colfax Avenue, will occupy an existing 6,000-square-foot building across the street from the Mile High Station events venue and the bus lots for Mile High Stadium. It is part of a 3.2-acre mixed-use project called Steam on the Platte at 1401 Zuni Street, which sits between West Colfax and West Fourteenth avenues, and between Zuni Street and the South Platte River.
The brewery will comprise a fifteen-barrel brewhouse and three patios, one of which will be a 3,500-square-foot outdoor space that will lead down to the river itself, an amenity that is sadly quite rare in a city with two rivers running through it.
But the amazing location next to the stadium and a planned entertainment district from the Denver Broncos — and just steps from the planned site of the four-acre, $90 million Meow Wolf art exhibition space — won’t be the brewery’s defining feature, says Jose Beteta, who founded Raices Brewing with his wife, Tamil Maldonado, and head brewer Martin Vargas.
“There are three components that make us unique,” he explains.
The first is that all three owners are Latino, something that is extremely rare in a craft brewery — not just in Colorado, but nationwide. Beteta is from Costa Rica, while Maldonado and Vargas are both from Puerto Rico. The Boulder-based Brewers Association doesn’t keep track of minority ownership, but Beteta says he believes that minorities make up less than 1 percent of brewery owners across the country. That’s astounding, considering that there are now more than 6,300 craft breweries in the United States.
As a result, many Latinos don’t feel welcome in craft breweries or simply haven’t taken an interest in them, Beteta says. But they are certainly drinking a lot of beer.
In 2014, Latinos spent $8.4 billion on beer in the United States, which was about 14 percent of the total beer market, according to a study by Univision. By 2019, that number is expected to grow to 31 percent, or about $11 billion. Millennial Latinos, meanwhile, spent $3.6 billion on beer in 2015. Most of it was imported brands like Corona or mass-market brands like Miller, Budweiser and Coors, according to another study from the Hispanic marketing firm Lopez Negrete Communications. The study showed a real opportunity to change Latino drinking habits, however. Lopez Negrete said millennials in general buy more than a third of craft beer sold in the United States, while Latinos account for just 14 percent of that total. When asked if they would try craft beer if they knew more about it, however, 54 percent of millennial Latinos said they would.
“That’s going to be our target market,” Beteta says. “They are ready to experiment, but they haven’t made that jump. We want to make young Latinos and Latinas feel welcome. ... We think it is something that will help the whole industry. This demographic that is not feeling included — they'll find out what craft is all about. Then they'll want to try more beers and visit other breweries.”
But Raices, which is still raising money, will also target all craft-beer lovers and foodies by making carefully produced, quality beer. "I think our formula is going to do really well," Beteta adds.
The other two things that will make Raices — which means "roots" — unique are a focus on Latino food trucks and planned partnerships with Latino arts and cultural programming, Beteta says. Both he and Maldonado are longtime Latino advocates in Boulder County and have many connections. Beteta, who owns an I.T. consulting company, served as director for the Boulder County Latino Chamber of Commerce, while Maldonado ran a nonprofit arts group called Barrio E’.
Martin, for his part, is a rare example of a Latino brewer in the American craft-beer industry. After starting as a home brewer in 2007 while he was in the U.S. Army, Martin moved back to Puerto Rico and eventually helped open a brewery there. He moved to the mainland in 2014 and got a job as a brewer at Dry Dock Brewing in 2016.
He plans to brew a variety of styles, and Raices has already won several awards for its beers, including Raiz, a Bohemian pilsner; Furia, a malty double red ale; and Latina, a pale American Belgo-style ale.
In Colorado, there are only a handful of breweries with Latino ownership. They include Cheluna Brewing in Aurora, Lady Justice Brewing in the Denver area, and Atrevida Brewing in Colorado Springs. Two others, Jade Mountain Brewing and Novel Strand Brewing, plan to open this year in Denver.
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Making connections to the Latino community is important to Raices, another reason the owners are excited by their location in Sun Valley, which has been heavily Latino for decades — Latinos currently make up more than half of the 1,500 residents — but is also one of the poorest neighborhoods in Denver.
Located in a long, thin strip from Sixth Avenue on the south and 20th Avenue on the north, it covers the area between Federal Boulevard on the west and I-25 on the east. But because of the highway, the stadium, the river and the train tracks, it's often cut off from the rest of the city.
In recent years, the city has been working on what it calls the Decatur-Federal Master Plan, which aims to make the area more livable and more connected to rest of town.
"We learned that one big goal of that master plan was to make sure that minorities were included in the process. For us, that was very important," Beteta says.