When Jose Beteta and Tamil Maldonado began seriously working on their idea to open Raices Brewing, the couple thought they’d be the only Latino brewery owners in Colorado.
They slowly discovered that there were others, however. Some were new or quiet — they simply didn’t talk much about their Latino heritage. “We didn’t have a voice,” Beteta says.
On Thursday, the Boulder-based Brewers Association awarded Raices Brewing one of its six inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Event grants. The money will help fund Suave Fest, a beer celebration that will highlight Colorado’s small but growing number of Latino brewery owners — not to mention Latino craft-beer drinkers — this fall.
“This project actually started because we saw a discrepancy, an underrepresentation between Latinos drinking beer and in brewery ownership,” Beteta says. “About 21 percent of craft-beer drinkers are Latino. But ownership is less than 1 percent. We wanted to fill in that gap."
The festival will take place on September 14 on the grounds around Steam on the Platte, a 3.2-acre mixed-use development at 1401 Zuni Street, just southeast of Mile High Stadium. Raices, which is currently under construction nearby, is slated to open that month at 2060 West Colfax Avenue.
Beteta believes that Suave Fest will be the first craft-beer festival in the country dedicated to Latino-owned craft breweries, as well as Latino culture and community. As such, it will feature Latin American and Caribbean cuisine and Latino musicians. Rather than just being for Latinos, though, Beteta says he wants the event to be unifying for everyone, no matter their heritage, and he expects several thousand people.
Some of the participating breweries include Cheluna Brewing in Aurora, Atrevida Brewing in Colorado Springs, Coal Mine Avenue Brewing in Littleton, Boggy Draw Brewery in Sheridan, Lady Justice Brewing in Denver, Dos Luces Brewing in Denver, Novel Strand Brewing in Denver, and Donovan Brewing in Arvada.
The Brewers Association began dedicated diversity efforts in 2017 by creating a committee; the next year, the association hired a diversity ambassador, J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, a professor who now travels the country attending and speaking at events. For the grants, the BA split a total of $20,000 between the six winners (out of 51 applicants). But the money isn’t as important as the BA’s involvement, Beteta says.
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“To have their name and brand behind us and their participation, it’s a huge deal,” he adds. “What they do gets attention around the country, and around the world. That means there will be a national spotlight on underrepresented groups that need the exposure — coincidentally opening up a wider dialogue for diversity and inclusion that's been missing from the craft-beer industry and which we welcome with open arms.”
Beteta, who owns an I.T. consulting company, and Maldonado, who ran a nonprofit arts group called Barrio E’, aren’t strangers to festival creation. They also organized the Colorado Latino Festival, now in its fourth year in Boulder. But in planning for Suave Fest, they contacted the organizers of Pittsburgh’s Fresh Fest, which last year became the first U.S. festival dedicated to black brewery owners. Fresh Fest, which also got a grant from the BA, has received national media attention in recent months.
Starting out, the Raices owners decided to only invite Colorado breweries to Sauve Fest. After that, they plan to open it to Latino-owned breweries in other states and possibly to other businesses with a positive Latino message.