Denver’s latest brewery blends Jamaican flavors, Colorado craft beer

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

1. They got married in October.

2. You gave up your previous career to become a small business owner.

When you go

Wah Gwaan has its grand opening on Juneteenth at 925 W. 8th Avenue in Denver. The brewery will host food trucks and DJs during the opening and the rest of the way. Opening times are from 12 noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, 12 noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 12 noon to 10 p.m. Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Learn more at wahgwaanbrewing.com.

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

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

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

“The cultural element is the biggest differentiator,” said Maragh, who moved to Colorado to study but longed for her close-knit Jamaican community in New York.

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

The two combine beloved aspects of their sister cultures with Wah Gwaan – a warm and lively common room with bright murals, tropical plants, reggae and hip-hop music, and ingredients in the beers that “first generation children grew up with. “Maragh explained.

That means styles and flavors like jackfruit kolsch, a rare coffee IPA, coconut dark wheat, soursop hazy IPA, and pomegranate wheat ale, to name a few on tap or in progress.

The beer names are also close to Maragh’s heart: Washbelly, the wheat beer, is “sweet and sour” and named after the Jamaican nickname for a youngest child. (It is a nod to her sister and father, who are both the “wash bellies” in their families.)

Long-standing Denver brewer Dick Tucker, who previously worked at Stranahan’s and Epic, is behind the unique flavor combinations. Tucker says he focuses on high quality traditional styles with added fruit and side dishes. So far, 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,” said Maragh, “so this is going to be a cool mix of Colorado and Jamaican culture.”

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