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Latino-Owned Craft Brewery Seeks To Bring Cultural Connection To Craft Beer

Steam on the Platte is within walking distance of the Auraria campus and the Broncos' stadium.

Urban Ventures and White Construction Group are renovating the 6,062 SF former gas station at Steam on the Platte for Raíces Brewing Co., a Latino-owned craft brewery that will open next spring. 

Founded by three Latino business partners, Raíces Brewing Co. will also have 3,500 SF of patio space on the South Platte River and an additional patio to the north of the existing structure that will have views of the Denver skyline.

The brewery is being designed by Rob Forsland. White Construction, Urban Ventures’ partner in Steam on the Platte, will perform the core and shell work on the bowstring building, and Built Construction will complete the interior.

A native of Costa Rica, Raíces CEO José Beteta said he got the idea to start a brewery when he noticed minorities were not well-represented in the craft beer industry. His research found Latinos account for 14% of beer consumed in the United States, but they owned less than 0.5% of the 6,372 U.S. breweries operating in 2017. Latino spending on beer amounts to $11B of the $26B market. And of that, 80% comes from imported beers like Corona, Pacifico and Tecate.

“A very small sliver of that is craft beer,” Beteta said. “There’s a huge opportunity here.”

Raíces Brewing Co. is being designed by Rob Forsland.

While Colorado has nearly 350 craft breweries, it is rare to find Latinos in any of them, Beteta said. The key to getting Latinos into a craft brewery, he said, is creating a culture and environment that is comfortable and makes them feel included and welcome.

“They want to try craft beers, but they don’t have the correct environment,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of diversity in craft breweries.”

Raíces, which means roots, will take a three-pronged approach to the business to create that environment. The concept starts with high-quality beer and authentic Latin American and Caribbean food. There also will be a cultural component, which will include artwork, music, performances and events.

“We will be showcasing the Latino culture — not just for Latinos but for everyone,” Beteta said.

Award-winning brewer Martín Vargas, who was raised in Puerto Rico, will manage the brewery operations, production staff, quality control and product development at Raíces. In her role as vice president of development, Puerto Rico native Tamil Maldonado-Vega will handle front-of-house operations and programming.

Susan Powers surveys the future restaurant space during Steam on the Platte's groundbreaking celebration last fall.

“We will celebrate all the traditions of Latin America and the Caribbean in this space,” Maldonado-Vega said. “It’s very important for us to be authentic with what we do.”

Raíces' location at Steam on the Platte is just down the street from another project that will celebrate Latino culture and heritage. Urban Ventures President Susan Powers is working with Adrianna Abarca to convert four buildings on Lower Colfax into the Latino Cultural Arts Center, which will include museum space displaying Latin American art, street-level retail, a café, a full-service restaurant, a library, event space and a small auditorium.

“We were looking for the right operator to put in this building, and Raíces is the perfect fit,” Powers said. “With Raíces, the Latino Cultural Center and Meow Wolf all locating within a few blocks of one another, Sun Valley is shaping up to be a cultural hub.”

Urban Ventures and White Construction Group acquired the property in 2014. The site, originally settled by Russian-Jewish immigrants in the 1880s, once had 25 homes and several businesses on it. It housed the Johnson and Bremer Soap Factory and a rag-baling facility. When Urban Ventures and White Construction purchased the property, there were two illegal marijuana grows operating, and the Evil Souls motorcycle gang had taken over one of the buildings as its clubhouse.