Around three and a half years ago, Jose D. Beteta was hanging around with some colleagues over beers when it hit him: he knew plenty of Latinx beer-drinkers, but couldn’t think of a single Latinx-owned craft brewery. In fact, there weren’t even statistics or databases of where he might be able to find one.
“That just meant that I had to do the research myself. I found 40 breweries that were Latino-owned. If you consider that there are more than 7,000 craft breweries in the United States, that’s way less than 1 percent,” Beteta says. “It’s kind of shocking, but it becomes even more so when you factor in consumption.”
According to a study by Univision, Latinx consumers accounted for 14 percent of the $60 billion domestic beer market in 2014. And while the beer market has grown substantially since then, the wealth associated with it still belongs overwhelmingly to white men.
In recent years, organizations like Crown & Hops and Fresh Fest have attempted to shine light on the growing number of black-owned breweries. Beteta and his partners have been doing the same for the Latinx brewing community since 2018, when they opened Raíces Brewing Co. in Denver, Colorado.
“We set out to create a brand that Latinos in the US could connect to, that they could feel a part of and that could give back to the community,” Beteta says. “Raíces is all about celebrating Latino culture through beer, food, and different types of artistic expression, be it music, painting, or poetry.”
This Saturday, they’re going to take matters a step further with the inaugural edition of Suave Fest. During the festival, 10 Latinx-owned breweries—including Cheluna Brewing Co., Dos Luces Brewery, Lady Justice Brewing Co., and Atrevida Beer Co.—will offer unlimited pours at the Raíces Brewing Co. grounds.
“As we started getting ready to open, we decided to reach out to some of those other 40 breweries to create an event to celebrate the Latinos who already here,” Beteta says. “We want the industry to be more diverse. We want to see Latinos as managers and business owners, not just as consumers.”
Visitors will be able to witness the culmination of all those efforts tomorrow. Beteta and the other organizers have made a point of highlighting the diversity within the Latinx community. Dishes from Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic will be available, while six different live bands, including the much-lauded La Maquina Insular, will perform. The star of the show, however, will very much be the beer and the brewers behind it.
We want the industry to be more diverse. We want to see Latinos as managers and business owners, not just as consumers.”
“People can expect to meet the owners of these breweries, all of whom will be coming out to pour beers. We’re going to have 35 varieties of beer, many of which draw on Latin American flavors,” Beteta says. “One of the brewers is making a mole beer with chocolate, cinnamon, and other spices. We will also a horchata beer. There is a chile-lime beer. There’s a mango pale ale. Those alone give you an idea of the diversity of flavors.”
Throughout the process, Beteta worked closely with the organizers of Fresh Fest, whom he said provided constant support, insight and encouragement throughout the process.
“Fresh Fest was absolutely an inspiration for us,” Beteta says. “We connected with them and consulted with them right from the beginning. They were amazing partners in showing us what to expect at an event like this.”
In the end, he hopes visitors to Suave Fest walk away with a newfound appreciation and sense of pride in the Latinx community. Last May, the Brewers Association awarded Raíces Brewing Co. one of its $20,000 diversity grants. Beteta views it as an opportunity to make craft beer a more welcoming space for all.
“Latinos don’t necessarily feel connected or included in regular craft beer culture, because they don’t always identify with those spaces. We want other Latinos to be able to feel welcome in a space like this, as well as to welcome others to learn more about our culture.