Wah Gwaan, Denver's new brewery, brews Jamaican flavors | The Know

Harsha Maragh and Jesse Brown have accomplished two things that many have dreamed of but few have attempted over the past year:

1. They got married, back in October.

2. They left their previous careers to become small-business owners.

If you go

Wah Gwaan is having its grand opening on Juneteenth at 925 W. 8th Ave., in Denver. The brewery will host food trucks and DJs throughout its opening and moving forward. Hours are from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday, closed Monday and Tuesday. Find out more at wahgwaanbrewing.com.

Their Wah Gwaan (Jamaican patois for “What’s up?”) Brewing Company opens Saturday, June 19, in Denver’s Santa Fe arts district. It’s a tribute to Maragh’s Indian-Jamaican heritage and a celebration of diversity in craft beer for both owners.

A first-generation American, Maragh grew up in Little Jamaica in the Bronx, while Brown, who identifies as biracial, is from Wheat Ridge. He spent five years serving in the Marine Corps and traveling the world before coming home to a very different Denver and wondering what to do next.

The two met for their first date at Boulder’s Avery Brewing, and while they’ve shared an “obsession” ever since with craft beer (including homebrewing when they moved in together), they knew something in the local brewing scene was missing.

“The culture piece of it is the biggest differentiator,” said Maragh, who moved out to Colorado for graduate school but longed for her close-knit New York Jamaican community.

“A lot of (American) Black culture has been influenced by Jamaica,” Brown added.

The pair are blending beloved aspects of their sister cultures with Wah Gwaan — a warm and lively community gathering space with bright murals, tropical plants, reggae and hip hop music playing, and ingredients in the beers that “first-generation kids grew up with,” Maragh explained.

That means styles and flavors such as jackfruit kolsch, a rare coffee IPA, coconut dunkelweizen, soursop hazy IPA and pomegranate wheat ale, to name a few on tap or in the works.

The beer names, too, carry meanings close to Maragh’s heart: Washbelly, the wheat ale, is “sweet and sour” and named for the Jamaican term of endearment for a youngest child. (It’s a nod to her sister and Dad, who are both the “washbellies” in their families.)

Longtime Denver brewer Dick Tucker, who previously worked at Stranahan’s and Epic, is behind the unique flavor combinations. Tucker said he’s focusing on high-quality traditional styles with added fruits and adjuncts. Before now, he, Maragh and Brown admit, most people would associate Jamaica with just one beer: Red Stripe lager.

“Craft beer isn’t that big in Jamaica yet,” Maragh said, “so this will be a cool blend of Colorado and Jamaican culture.”

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