If when you think of a craft brewery an image pops into your head of a Sam Adams looking dude with a beard and a trucker hat standing over a vat of fermenting hops in Connecticut, you wouldn’t be too far off. In fact, with only .05% of the 8,700+ craft breweries in the United States owned by Latinos, and many of those created to fit the mold of a traditional brewery, you’d be pretty spot on.
Now though, three Latinx founders in Denver, Colorado, José Beteta, Tamil Maldonado Vega and Martín Vargas, are out to impact the industry. Their Raices Brewing Company is not only Latino owned but it also intentionally celebrates Latino culture, front and center. From their name to their artwork, events and the beers themselves, Raices is a craft brewery that makes a point of being a continuous platform for visibility in the community.
And, with their tri-faceted approach of “communidad, cultura y cerveza” they’re doing a kick ass job at it. “The mission is really huge,” explains Co-Founder, Tamil Maldonado Vega. “We serve as a community center. We serve as a cultural center. We serve as a resource center.”
Raices facility displays artists’ work and holds gatherings. For Latinos, it’s a place to connect with other Latinos and feel at home surround by traditional food, music and culture. For non-Latinos, it’s a great space to learn taste great beer and food and learn about the richness of Latin American culture.
Maldonado Vega talked to Startup Cuba about some of the challenges they faced in starting their business. First, their lack of experience in the industry made it difficult for them to raise money. Despite co-founder Martín Vargas’ background as a brewer in the Denver area, they needed to show that they could do it. The trio made microbrews at home, submitted them to festivals and won some awards. This proved that they had the chops to make beer people wanted.
Then came the lack of access to the financial markets that many people of color face: barriers that they had to overcome because they previously
didn’t know how to play weren’t invited to the game. In the face of financing rejection after rejection, without explanation, the co-founders quickly learned to ask questions. They learned to dig for information, course correct and then repeat the process, over and over again.
After three years of setbacks, they officially opened the brewery in 2019.
Today the trio proudly represents Latin American culture in the Denver area. But, they also do what they can to support the small niche of Latino craft brewers across the country. Each fall they host a Latino craft beer festival called Suave Fest giving fellow brewers, food trucks and artists an opportunity to come together and celebrate. Personally, I think this sounds like an amazing time and I’ve got it on my calendar for September, 2022.
If you’re in the Denver area this fall, please let me know. I’ll see you at Raices to drink beer, eat food and maybe do a little dance, or seven.