Latino craft brewery puts down roots in Denver
From business plan to brewery man — Jose Beteta’s Raíces Brewing Co. is crafting a new take on Latino beer.
When Jose Beteta is asked what the inspiration was for undergoing a multiyear journey to open Raíces Brewing Company, he points to one staggeringly small number. “I was taking a business course at the University of Denver in 2015, and I had the idea for a Latino craft brewery,” said Beteta. “After researching it, I learned that less than 1% of the U.S.’s 8,000 craft breweries are owned by people of color — just 0.5% in fact. It represented this massive gap in the marketplace.”
Armed with this insight and an entrepreneurial spirit, Beteta, along with his wife Tamil and brew master Martin D. Vargas, began the arduous work of turning his idea into reality.
“We saw an opportunity for us to tap into the Hispanic and Latino community, to provide them with a beer brand that is based in the U.S. and that is not a big conglomerate but a local, proud Latino-operated business with strong ties when it comes to community and culture,” said Beteta.
Because of his time in business school, Beteta knew the importance of developing a business plan to take the next step in becoming a business owner. As he pursued financing and a location, that business plan became his blueprint.
“Jose had a very good understanding of what he wanted the project to be like and a good framework of a business plan,” said Charity Rice, part of the Wells Fargo small business development team that worked with Beteta on his financing needs for the new brewery. “We were able to help him put together all of the different pieces to show how he was going to get to the end goal.”
“It is not only important, but imperative, for any small business, startup, or entrepreneur to have a business plan,” added Rice. “Otherwise there is no way to detail how they are going to put their thoughts into practice and how they are going to turn that into achieving their goals.”
With a refined business plan better outlining the framework for the brewery, Beteta applied for and received a U.S. Small Business Administration loan backed by Wells Fargo, which he used to clear one of the largest hurdles in his journey — purchasing the equipment needed to brew the beer.
“As I researched the craft brewery industry, I learned how the high cost of brewing equipment can be a large barrier to entry, especially for a startup,” said Beteta. “We did go to different financial institutions, where they just made that barrier a lot bigger and a lot higher. So it was creating an impossible dream for us — until we came to Wells Fargo and they opened the doors for us.”
On Sept. 27, 2019, Raíces Brewing Co. opened its doors to the public, and Beteta’s dream to bring together Latino beer and culture was realized. During its first six months, the brewery hosted cultural events and, with its close proximity to the Denver Broncos’ stadium, the football team’s fans made Raíces a game day destination.
When mandatory COVID-19-related restrictions went into place in March, the brewery pivoted to an online ordering platform and curbside pickup. Even after operating under a varying degree of restrictions for the past eight months, Beteta has no regrets about opening Raíces — which means “roots” in Spanish — last fall, because his business planning and a culture-forward approach have proven strong enough to manage through the headwinds of 2020.
“Having started right before this pandemic happened — which nobody was obviously expecting — it was actually really good timing for us, as we were able to kind of get the feel for the market and adjust,” said Beteta. “We had hard times just like everyone else during COVID-19 closures and subsequent limitations on seating and spacing, but I think we were prepared to be able to handle those challenges.
“The importance of working together as a team and bringing our different talents to the table, along with financial and business education, is what has made Raíces a formula for success,” Beteta added. “We are about community, culture, and cervezas.”
There is an old African proverb that states, “When your roots are deep, there’s no reason to fear the wind.” For Beteta, the highs and lows of his brewery’s first year in business has proven just how accurate this saying is.