Home / World News / In Denver, the trend toward Mexican-inspired craft beer comes with a message — The Know

In Denver, the trend toward Mexican-inspired craft beer comes with a message — The Know

Head brewer Jason Buehler poses for a portrait at Cerveceria Colorado on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Denver Beer Co. is opening a new brewery soon focused on Mexican-inspired craft beers. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

The owners of Denver Beer Co. are launching a new Mexican-inspired brewery and it comes with a political message: #BridgesNotWalls.

“What we stand for is supporting the community and what we don’t stand for is this divide that we feel is occurring between different cultures,” said co-founder Patrick Crawford. “The political climate right now is not OK with us. So we are going to use our business and our voice to promote a more inclusive way to go about life.”

Cervecería Colorado opens May 5 — Cinco de Mayo — in the former Barrel Room next to the brewery’s flagship Platte Street location in Denver. The 10 taps will embrace the ingredients and flavors of Mexico.

Think a wheat beer made with nopal cactus, which offers a pepper aroma with tartness. Or a churro sweet stout made in collaboration with Casa Cerveza Cru Cru in Mexico City.

“I think people here are always starving for new ideas and new things,” said Jason Buehler, the head brewer for both operations.

His frequent travels in Mexico and connections with local brewers in the country led to the new concept. “As American craft brewers, we are always trying to push the envelope and find something new,” he added.

The brewery is the second in the Denver area to celebrate Mexican culture and flavors after Cheluna Brewing opened in Stanley Marketplace in December 2017.

Customers enjoy lunch at Cheluna Brewing Co. at the Stanley Marketplace on December 20, 2016 in Aurora (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

And it builds on a growing trend to feature the nation’s southern neighbor in craft beer, further evidenced by major brewers embrace of Mexican lagers in recent years.

“All things Mexican are pretty popular,” said Javier Pérez, Cheluna’s co-owner and brewer. “People are finding more sort of creative ways to make beer with this whole new palate of flavors.”

In Mexico, independent craft beer is starting to grow — thanks in part to local breweries with Colorado ties — but it still represents a fraction of a market dominated by international companies and light lagers, such as Corona and Dos Equis.

The two most popular beers at Cheluna straddle the same divide — a Mexican lager called Lowrider and IPA variations.

Pérez, a Chicano who grew up in Los Angeles, said most of Cheluna’s beers are Mexican-styled but not all of them. The brewery’s name is a combination of Chela, a slang word for cold beer, and the Spanish word for moon, which he says is a reference to the balance in the logo.

Where the inspiration shines is the taproom. The colorful decor, lively music and laid-back vibe, not unlike an open-air Mexican bar, offers “a cool, different way to hang out,” Pérez said.

The new Cervecería Colorado hopes to do the same with bold murals inside and outside by well-known artists Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios.

For both breweries, the bigger question is whether they can offer a gateway to introduce craft beer to a more diverse audience. A 2015 survey found about one in five Latinos are craft beer drinkers.

Artist Jaime Molina works on a mural at Cervecita on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Denver Beer Co. is opening a new brewery soon focused on Mexican-inspired craft beers. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Based on his experiences at the brewery, Pérez said money and deeper economic disparity are obstacles to more growth. He’s working on creating a $3 beer to help make craft offerings more approachable to all income levels.

“I think there is a lot of interest in the Latino community, but there is an economic divide,” he said. “If we can make beer a little more affordable, and create spaces that are warm and welcoming and familiar, hopefully we will be able to get them to come around and enjoy.”

From there, he added, we can have “a bit of a cultural commingling over beers.”

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