Seven Latino men gathered on a Hacienda Heights driveway on a warm Southern California night.
Shiny homebrewing equipment filled the garage so the fledgling craft brewers stood in the car port—pint glasses in hand—sharing names, hometowns and brewing experiences.
The SoCal Cerveceros homebrew club was born.
“We didn’t really know what it was going to be,” said Ray Ricky Rivera, one of the club’s seven founding members at that inaugural meeting on April 10, 2015.
Six years later, America’s largest Latino-based homebrew club has blossomed into a mosaic of nearly 250 diverse beer aficionados, mirroring the ethnic melting pot of its Los Angeles County stomping grounds.
Many of the Cerveceros have become prominent players in the So Cal craft beer scene, opening and operating brick and mortar breweries and spearheading commercial collaborations with popular craft breweries. This network of knowledgeable and influential brewers has established a pipeline to careers in an industry that has lacked Latinx representation.
“The Latino culture impacts the whole city,” said Sarah Flora, an award-winning homebrewer and internationally-known YouTuber. “It’s super fun to see that come out in our beer. Beer’s not an old, white man’s game anymore.”
Agustin Ruelas, now co-founder of Brewjería Company in Pico Rivera, played host at that inaugural gathering six years ago. He poured pints of early home-brewed creations he concocted in his garage with his brother, Adrian Ruelas, for his new club mates, Adrian Gonzalez, Jaime “Jimmy” Cardenas, Alfred Mayen, Richard Estrada and Rivera.
It was a breath of fresh air for Rivera, who admits he often wondered why he had never seen other Latinos at his go-to homebrew shop of Stein Fillers in Long Beach.
“Every time I went in there I was the only brown dude there,” Rivera said, noting Los Angeles County is home to more than 5 million Latinos.
With the Cerveceros, Rivera felt like he was among peers.
The group agreed to meet the third Friday of every month, sharing brewing tips, favorite beers and must-visit local breweries.
The club grew to 20 members before Zaneta Santana became the first woman to join the Cerveceros. A member of the South Central Brewing Co., Santana also works as the general manager at Angel City Brewery in Downtown LA.
Rivera, now the club’s president, said the club struggled adding female members outside of wives and girlfriends, but he was determined to create the diversity he knew was lacking.
“It wouldn’t be genuine of us to criticize the beer industry or the homebrew community if we weren’t actively working on our own diversity,” Rivera said. “Having a bigger presence of women helps us to be cognizant about creating a welcoming, supportive, safe space for all members.”
Rivera recruited on social media and created the ColdXela Homebrew Fest. The fest only allowed club members to pour beers at the event, which sparked a rise in membership numbers.
A kaleidoscope of like-minded homebrewers flocked to join. Members of the Warcloud Brewing Company, a group of mostly African American homebrewers, were the first non-Latinos to join the ranks. Laurie Ann Gutierrez, a Caucasian homebrewer and cider specialist, was one of the first non-Latinas to sign up.
More than 30 percent of the club’s members are now women. There’s enough passionate female brewers that they’ve created the SoCal Cerveceras, a sub-group that organizes additional brew days and online meetings of their own.
“We didn’t realize how big this could be,” Rivera said. “We’ve become this massive network…Now we’re directly impacting the LA beer industry.”
Edgar Preciado—better known as BeerThugLife to his 15,000 followers on Instagram—teamed up with fellow Cervecero Julio Trejo to release a string of highly-anticipated brews with their business partner, Daniel Phoenix.
Preciado was already known for his lightning quick beer chugging abilities before he joined the club, but he wanted to take his beer persona to the next level.
Shortly after attending ColdXela Homebrew Fest in 2018, Preciado joined the club to learn how to homebrew. He fondly recalls nights where he’d stay up until 1 a.m. perfecting his recipes.
“I just wanted to learn,” Preciado said. “I knew if I kept trying, that it’d come out good.”
Once he found his groove, he collaborated with Indie Brewing Company to release “Para Mi Gente,” a popular Mexican-style lager. He’s since partnered with various breweries to release 17 more beers, with another pair of brews set to drop in April.
Through homebrewing, Preciado’s gained a new appreciation for beer.
“It brings everyone together, no matter where you’re from,” he said.
A common interest in beer brought Preciado and Flora to the same Cerveceros meetings. Where else could a former gang member with a criminal past share homebrewing tips with a woman who serves as a director of operations at a Hollywood art gallery?
“She’s a rockstar,” Preciado said of Flora.
Flora’s homebrewing skills have grown exponentially since brewing up a pale ale with the Craft A Brew Catalyst Fermentation System kit she had bought for her husband.
Despite her concerns about not being Latina in a Latino group, the Cerveceros took her in as one of their own. She received invaluable feedback on her creations at bottle shares and she was inspired by some of the beers she tasted, including an avocado honey blonde, which she raves about to this day.
She’s developed into an award-winning homebrewer, claiming a pair of gold medals in 2020 for her Rosewater Lemon Gose called “Anything Gose” at the Doug King Memorial Homebrew Competition (put on by the Maltose Falcons) and Romancing the Beer competition.
Her evident obsession with the hobby has turned her into a homebrew aficionado. She’s wildly popular on social media, garnering 36,500 followers on Instagram and 17,000 subscribers on YouTube. She also recently launched the “Brewing After Hours with Sarah Flora” podcast on the BLEAV Podcast Network.
While she’s enjoyed unparalleled success online, she’s more proud to witness the growing number of women brewers, which she credits to Cerveceras and national organizations like the Pink Boots Society, which supports beer lovers and professionals who identify as female.
Flora said she’s also impressed by the growth she’s seen in fellow Cervecera Tyler Sadler.
Sadler, who started brewing early in 2018, has excelled as a homebrewer since joining the club.
“I do believe joining SCC was a game changer,” Sadler said.
The more types of beers she sipped at club meetings, the more she found herself intertwined with the craft.
- Since joining, Sadler has won two homebrew gold medals, one at the SheBrew HomeBrew Competition for a beer she calls “Mangose Before Hoes” and another for her Reseda Porter at the Romancing The Beer competition.
- Now a board member for the club, Sadler started working full-time at Simi Valley Home Brew in January, and she launched a successful homebrewing podcast, the Brew’d Up! Podcast, with Gutierrez.
- Most recently, Sadler spoke on the “Crafting Conversations: Black in Beer” panel hosted by Angel City in February.
Sadler’s meteoric rise in a relatively short period makes Rivera believe she’s destined to be a head brewer someday.
“Not only is she going to be a really talented brewer, she’s somebody that other women brewers can look up to,” Rivera said.
A club that started with seven amateur Latino homebrewers in a car port has developed into a full-fledged army of diverse, talented brewing specialists looking to influence the craft beer scene for years to come.
“We’ve definitely begun to make some kind of impact,” Rivera said. “That’s only going to grow.”
- Steven and Aracely Cardenas, Pacific Plate Brewing/Monrovia Homebrew Shop
- David and Carmen Favela, Border X Brewing
- Marlene Garcia, Brew-N-Crew Ale House
- Lewis Martinez, George Lopez Brewing Company
- Abraham Mercado, La Bodega Brewing Company
- Edgar Preciado, BeerThugLife
- Aurelio and Tania Ramirez, Feathered Serpent Brewing
- Ray Ricky Rivera, Norwalk Brew House
- Alfredo Rocha, Los Barbones Cerveceria
- Agustin and Adrian Ruelas, Brewjería Company
- Julio Trejo, Cerveceria Mundial
The Brewers Association and Craftbeer.com are proud to support content that fosters a more diverse and inclusive craft beer community. This post was selected by the North American Guild of Beer Guild Writers as part of its Diversity in Beer Writing Grant series. It receives additional support through a Diversity and Inclusion Grant by the Brewers Association Diversity Committee and Allagash Brewing Company.
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