Former Rock Bottom Brewer Is Behind the New Mestizo Brew Cantina in Wheat Ridge

Mestizo offers Latin American fare.
Mestizo offers Latin American fare. Mestizo Instagram
Ryan Piec is leaning on his heritage and world travels to carve out a neighborhood brewpub in Wheat Ridge, where the former Rock Bottom brewer opened Mestizo Brew Cantina at 6800 West 38th Avenue in January.

In Latin America, "mestizo" is the term for a person of mixed race. Piec’s family on his mother’s side is from Mexico, while his father’s family is from Poland and England. But the naming inspiration goes deeper than that. “What I studied [in brewing school] is deeply rooted in European brewing tradition,” explains Piec. “And then the food is native Latin American flavors. So the menu is mestizo.”

Piec draws his inspiration from working in restaurants most of his adult life, and he aims to bridge the gap between the front of house and back of house. “Working at restaurants in Chicago and Denver, there’s always a lot of Latin American people in the kitchen, and [it’s common] for the kitchen to make family meals for everyone on staff,” he says. “And so many times over the years, you hear people say, ‘Oh, it’s better than what we’ve got on the menu.'” A lot of the items on Mestizo's menu are inspired by dishes Piec learned to cook growing up, or from his time cooking in Latin countries.

The offerings span borders, with dishes like Salvadoran pupusas and Ecuadorian llapingachos, which Piec calls "cheesy potato cakes" that he learned to make as a kid. The al pastor tacos are cooked on a spit, while skirt steak tortas come with chimichurri, inspired by a trip Piec and his wife took to Argentina.
The blue bus now has a permanent home.
Piec’s goal is freshness, so everything is made from scratch, and there is no freezer on site. There's a small prep kitchen inside the building, and a blue bus houses the food truck out back. That bus helped the concept both survive and build awareness for the brewpub opening as it served food at local community events throughout the pandemic.

Mestizo's tortillas come from La Amapola, a tortilleria in east Aurora. Though it's at least a thirty-minute drive, Piec feels that it's an essential part of his menu and worth the extra effort. “It’s like sushi rice,” he notes. “That’s what makes or breaks a sushi chef. It doesn’t matter what’s in the taco if the tortillas are dry and starchy and taste like shit.”

The interior of the space, which is a former oil shop, invokes community. Mestizo’s customer-facing area is a single shallow but wide space that includes the bar front and center, with the brewhouse opening up on the far side. The result, despite seating about fifty inside, feels intimate and close-knit.

Piec also sees this part of town as an up-and-coming stretch for the city. “Wheat Ridge doesn’t have an old downtown area, but this area is really turning into that sort of space,” says Piec, adding that neighbors on the street, from Colorado Plus Brewpub to Clancy’s Irish Pub, have been open and welcoming to the new concept. And while some businesses have complained about the city permitting process and unforgiving landlords, Piec has had the opposite experience. He says that Wheat Ridge was keen on developing the area around Mestizo and that his landlord has been supportive.

While the menu is strictly Latin American, the beer will be more widely varied. Piec is currently contract brewing while supplementing with local favorites. He hopes to have his first house beers on draft in the coming weeks, brewing on a system purchased from Mash Lab in Windsor.
Mestizo Lager is the brewery's flagship Mexican-style lager.
Mestizo Instagram
Mestizo Lager, a Mexican-style lager, will always be on tap. Otherwise, Piec plans to narrow down the typical brewpub-style beer menu of fifteen to twenty selections to eight or ten choices, leaning on his background in brewpubs and the local Denver market to have something for everyone. “I plan a dark beer tap, a Belgian tap, a fruity sour tap and a specialty seasonal tap,” he says, adding that a house West Coast IPA and rotating IPA tap will be in the mix as well. He also plans to bring on some local, independent guest taps, to cover some niche beers that he may not want to make a full batch of. “We want to plug our buddies, hand-pick and feature the beers that we think people brew best.”

While the brewpub is open, the path was anything but smooth. It’s been common, especially since COVID, for new breweries and restaurants to face mounting challenges when it comes to the actual buildout process. Mestizo faced an especially high number of hurdles, and Piec eventually ended up doing a lot of the work himself, with help from his partners, friends and family. While he is glad to be open, he admits that some finishing details are a work in progress.

At one point, he almost walked away from the project, but he and his wife live in the area and he couldn’t fathom driving by the space every day and seeing another business there. “I didn’t want to give up on this location,” he says. “It’s a great neighborhood. We would’ve had to move; it would have been hard emotionally. We wanted to stick it out.”

Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “People are liking it and coming back,” notes Piec. “A head brewer shouldn’t be waiting for a public response to know that their beer is good, because they should only put good beer on tap. But I’m not a chef. I learned from some really good people and places, so it’s encouraging to see that.”

Mestizo Brew Cantina is located at 6800 West 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge and is open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, visit
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Ryan Pachmayer is a beer writer living in Arvada. He has written for publications such as Craft Beer & Brewing, Zymurgy, Porch Drinking, Homebrewing DIY and Punch. He is also the head brewer at Yak & Yeti Brewpub, marketing director at New Image Brewing and a BJCP Certified Judge.

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