OGDEN — Eating Mexican food, Javier Chavez Jr. found it difficult to find a beer that paired well with the spices of the cuisine.
Exasperated, in search of something, he finally took matters into his own hands. “I struggled to find a craft beer that tasted good with Mexican food. So I brewed my own,” he said.
He’s been making beer on his own for eight years, tapping spices and flavorings distinctive to Mexico. And now, sensing opportunity to take it to another level, he’s launching his own brewery, aiming to bring his offerings to the broader public. But don’t expect a big brewery with huge tanks, massive bags of hops and more — not now anyway. His operation, Cerveza Zólupez Beer Co., is a “mini-microbrewery,” Chavez says, and he plans to make small batches to start, just five gallons at a time, enough to make maybe 45 bottles.
“The idea is quality over quantity. Scarcity is king,” he said, setting a tentative public launch date of October. Indeed, he may limit individual sales to just one or two bottles per person, though planning is still in the works.
Chavez’s father is Javier Chavez, who operates the local chain of Mexican eateries Javier’s Authentic Mexican Food, and the brewery is located in a compact 300-square-foot space behind the 29th Street restaurant location in Ogden. But the younger Chavez dreams of something more — he just doesn’t want to take it too fast.
“The idea here is to just test the waters,” said Chavez, a lawyer who’s still tending to his Ogden law office while developing the beer project on the side. “I want to see this grow into something beautiful.”
Chavez joins a slew of others in Ogden hoping to tap into growing demand for smaller craft brews. Talisman Brewing Co. expanded its beer-making operation earlier this year with the addition of a tavern, Roosters Brewing Co. is building a new production facility and taproom in Ogden, and two would-be brewers revealed plans earlier this year for new brewpubs in Ogden called UTOG Brewing Co. and Ogden River Brewing, which are still in the works.
But Chavez says the planned recipes of his brew, borrowing from Mexican flavors and spices to pair with the food he grew up eating, distinguish his operation. He plans to use flavorings like agave nectar, made from the same plant used to make tequila, and piloncillo, unrefined cane sugar from Mexico. Initially, he’s planning to offer an amber ale and an India pale ale.
There are other brewers that inject Mexican flair into seasonal offerings, but Chavez — whose parents originally came from the Mexican state of Zacatecas — says he’s the first in Utah to put an exclusive focus on such flavoring. “Authentically inspired by the beer and food culture of our family’s heritage de México,” reads the Zólupez website.
His brews will be high-point beer, with an alcohol volume of perhaps 6 percent to 7 percent, and aside from on-site sales, he’s mulling the possibility of selling to other locales, maybe his father’s chain of restaurants.
Dad, by the way, is a big fan of the plans. “He just loves the fact that I’m following my passion,” Chavez Jr. said.