Driver eluding authorities who hit Adams County deputy sentenced to 20 years in prison

A driver who hit an Adams County Sheriff’s deputy while eluding authorities was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

Cesar Irreza, 30, on April 30  pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder extreme indifference and vehicular eluding with injury, according to the district attorney’s office.

On April 2, deputies responded to the area of East 148th Avenue and Lanewood Street on a report of a home invasion, the DA’s office said in a news release. When deputies arrived Irreza fled the area driving a white Cadillac. Deputies pursued Irreza with speeds upward of 100 mph. At Tower Road and East 120th Avenue, the Cadillac hit a Jeep Renegade. Irreza continued driving, hitting an Adams County deputy who was standing on the shoulder of the road with stop sticks. Irreza was eventually stopped and arrested.

“The brazen and dangerous conduct of this defendant nearly cost an Adams County sheriff’s deputy his life,” said District Attorney Brian Mason, in the release. “I am pleased that justice was served in this case and that the defendant will not present a danger to the community for the foreseeable future.”

Irreza was not involved in the original home invasion call, but he was wanted on an active warrant stemming from a felony parole violation at the time of the eluding incident, prosecutors said.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on the attempted murder conviction, and to three years on the eluding charge, the release said. The sentences will run concurrently.

 

Sealed with a kiss: Macron revives France’s cheeky embrace

PARIS — The double-cheeked embrace that was a customary greeting in France before the coronavirus pandemic saw it largely abandoned as a potential kiss of death is back with a presidential seal of approval.

French President Emmanuel Macron made the return of “la bise” all but official Friday by giving warm cheek-to-cheek embraces to two World War II veterans at an award ceremony.

The French leader wore a face mask. The veterans — Leon Gautier, 98, and Rene Crignola, 99 — did not. But both seemed comfortable, and reciprocated, as Macron reached in and put his cheeks to theirs.

Macron is vaccinated against the coronavirus and also suffered a moderate bout of COVID-19 in December.

The gesture put Macron’s seal of approval on what is still a slow, hesitant and not always welcome return of embraces. They became frowned upon as COVID-19 infections ravaged France, which counts 110,000 dead from the disease.

With 60% of France’s adults now having had at least one jab, embracing family and friends again has been one of the joys of vaccination for those who are quickly falling back into the habit.

But others are clinging to the hope that its disappearance during the height of the pandemic might still become permanent, particularly in workplaces.

Even before the pandemic, “la bise” was a source of division. Having to do rounds of kisses with colleagues was regarded as an awkward and tedious chore by some, a pleasant, relationship-affirming exercise by others.

Macron’s embraces for the veterans as he awarded them the Legion of Honor, the country’s highest award, marked another step toward France feeling like its former self again.

Face masks also came off this week — no longer required attire outdoors in most circumstances. And a nighttime curfew is ending on Sunday.

Study: Texas bases, Fort Carson lead Army posts in risk of sexual assault

WASHINGTON — Female soldiers at Army bases in Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky face a greater risk of sexual assault and harassment than those at other posts, accounting for more than a third of all active-duty Army women sexually assaulted in 2018, according to a new Rand Corp. study.

The study, released Friday, looked at Army incidents, and found that female soldiers at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, both in Texas, faced the highest risk, particularly those in combat commands or jobs such as field artillery and engineering. And units with more frequent deployments to war also saw higher risk. Other bases with high risk were Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort Riley in Kansas, said the study which reviewed assault data from previous years.

Rand’s study provides greater detail on the rates of sexual assault and misconduct across the Army, a chronic problem that military leaders have been struggling to combat. And it comes a year after the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who was missing at Fort Hood for about two months before her remains were found late last June.

Guillen was killed by a soldier, who her family says sexually harassed her, and who killed himself as police sought to arrest him. Her death put a spotlight on violence and leadership problems within the Army. The Rand report also confirmed one of the Army’s conclusions about the impact of command climate, finding a lower risk of sexual misconduct in units with more positive supervisor scores.

The Fort Hood violence prompted an independent review which found that military leaders were not adequately dealing with high rates of sexual assault and harassment at the post. Christopher Swecker, the chairman of the review panel, told Congress that the base leaders were focused on military readiness and completely neglected the sexual assault prevention program. As a result, he said, lower-level unit commanders didn’t encourage service members to report assaults, and in many cases were shaming victims.

According to the Rand study, the risk of assault for women at Fort Hood was nearly a third higher than the average risk faced by all women in the Army. Overall, Rand said that the risk across the Army varied widely depending on the female soldiers’ base, unit, career field, age, and even whether they were at posts with a higher number of civilians.

For example, female soldiers in medical or personnel jobs have the lowest risk, while those in field artillery face the highest risk. Field artillery jobs were among some of the last Army combat specialties opened to women — coming in 2015. Other jobs that lagged behind were infantry, armor and special operations.

James A. Helis, director of the Army Resilience Directorate, said the study “sheds light on the environmental and occupational factors that contribute to the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment for our soldiers and, in turn, will help inform future prevention and response efforts.”

The report used earlier Rand studies as well as data from Defense Department anonymous surveys in 2016 and 2018 that seek information about sexual assaults and harassment that may or may not have been formally reported. And it compared that to other military personnel and demographic data.

Soldiers assigned to the Washington, D.C. region, meanwhile, have some of the lowest risk totals, with the Pentagon showing the lowest of all installations listed. Among the bases with the lowest reported risk were Fort Belvoir, in northern Virginia, and Fort George G. Meade and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Maryland.

According to the study, an estimated 8.4% — or about 1 in 12 — of the roughly 5,883 Army women who served at Fort Hood were sexually assaulted, while at the Pentagon it was 1.8%, or about one in 50. The study noted, however, that the difference is not surprising considering that it’s likely that women at the Pentagon are, on average, older, more senior-ranking and more highly educated. They also are more likely to be working with older and more senior-ranking men.

The report said that the data can be used to help the Army tailor prevention and other programs to better counter sexual assault in the ranks.

“These findings provide the Army with increased visibility on where exactly risk is consistently high for sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said Jenna Newman, social science advisor at the resilience directorate and the Army’s project lead for the study. “It suggests there are location-specific concerns that require targeted interventions into climate and culture and will require additional research to understand.”

In the wake of the Guillen killing and a spike in suicides last year, Army leaders launched a program in October that focuses on the wellbeing of soldiers and their families, specifically making people the Army’s top priority, overtaking combat readiness and weapons modernization.

And the Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael Grinston, the top enlisted soldier, began a campaign called “This is My Squad” to build unit cohesion and encourage soldiers to look after each other. The broader effort also is aimed at improving the command climate in units, since poor leadership was identified as a significant problem at Fort Hood.

Pedestrian killed after hit and run in south Denver

Denver police say one person has died after a car hit a pedestrian on the 5000 Block of East Evans Avenue.

The crash is being investigated as a hit and run and police are still looking for the driver and vehicle involved. It occurred on the border of Denver’s Goldsmith and Virginia Village neighborhoods.

Police say the vehicle is a white SUV. It was going west on East Evans Avenue when it ran onto the curb and struck a person on the sidewalk. The SUV may have damage on the front passenger side, according to police.

DPD is asking those with information to call 720-913-7867.

No information on the person who has died or a possible suspect has been released.

Denver homicide suspect arrested in Arvada

After barricading himself inside an Arvada home for multiple hours, a homicide suspect was taken into police custody.

According to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Tomas Perez-Gonzalez, 31, is being investigated for a homicide at the Primrose Motel in Denver on June 11.

On Thursday night, deputies located a black sedan at the Valli-Hi Motel that they tied to the initial incident, authorities say.

Officials say they worked to contact the suspect who fled the parking lot and struck multiple police vehicles in the process.

A police chase began and came to an end near West 54th Avenue and Harlan Street. That’s when Perez-Gonzalez left the vehicle on foot and eventually hid in a family member’s residence in the 6200 block of West 53rd Avenue in Arvada, Adams County Sheriff’s Office say.

That’s when a shelter-in-place order was issued for the area as law enforcement established a perimeter, eventually taking Tomas without issue.

The shooting occurred June 11 at Primrose Motel on Federal Boulevard around 4:15 p.m. Authorities say they found a man in a vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head, who later died in the hospital.

Colorado taxpayers to see refunds thanks to a sound state economy, analysts say

Colorado’s economy is in such good health, state economists said Friday, that taxpayers are likely to see refunds and a temporary income tax cut through 2023.

Colorado state government is expected to take in 11.4% more revenue this fiscal year — ending June 30 — than what was expected in March, analysts from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Council said in a quarterly economic forecast presentation to lawmakers. The growth is projected to continue with a nearly 4% improvement next year, and more than $3 billion more in General Fund revenue by the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Colorado law does not allow the budget to grow unrestrained. In times of good economic health, the government is required to refund citizens — likely $440 million this year, $658 million in 2021-22 and $909 million in 2022-23, according to Legislative Council projections. Those would be the largest refunds in the state since 2001.

Those savings would be split into three categories: a sales tax refund, a temporary cut to the state’s flat income tax rate (from 4.55% to 4.5%) and reimbursements to local governments.

“The actual economic results so far this year are well above expectations. As long as this year finishes out strong, there is some terrific news on the horizon,” Gov. Jared Polis said. “While some Coloradans are still facing challenges created by the global pandemic, today’s figures show that the Colorado comeback is well underway. I look forward to formally announcing the expected tax cut and tax refunds this fall.”

Individual taxpayers would see relatively small refunds. Before the pandemic-induced recession, state analysts projected a $342 million surplus, which would have translated to a refund just shy of $100 for the wealthiest filers and $30 to $50 on average for most Coloradans, and refunds this year likely would be near that range.

The strength of the state economy is attributed in large part to better-than-expected income tax revenues. Employment for people making more than $60,000 has hardly suffered save for a brief dip at the start of the pandemic; employment for that income bracket is up 15% today from January 2020 levels, the state reported.

Meanwhile employment rates for Colorado’s poorest — those making under $27,000 — is 6% below the January 2020 level, and has been well below that level throughout the pandemic.

State economists encouraged lawmakers who heard the presentation to approach the figures with caution, though. Federal stimulus money is “masking what’s happening under the surface,” Chief Economist Kate Watkins of Legislative Council said. She also warned about the pressures of inflation, estimated at 3.1% this year for the Denver area, and slightly lower in the next couple years.

Denver airport CEO nominee directly mentioned in L.A. search warrants, complaint

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s nominee to be the next Denver International Airport CEO is mentioned by name in search warrants served by Los Angeles County deputies and by a grand jury complaint alleging bribery, fraud and a pay-to-play scheme at his old agency in California.

Those mentions directly contradict a statement from Hancock’s office Tuesday that Phil Washington, who led the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for several years, had not been named in a warrant. The mayor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday on the new documents, nor has it provided information about the city’s background-check process or Washington’s references.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has an ongoing criminal investigation into the L.A. Metro and a nonprofit that it hired as part of an apparent no-bid contract. Washington, who previously headed the Regional Transit District in the Denver metro area, ran the L.A. public transit agency from 2015 to this May.

L.A. Metro and Denver officials who support Washington say the investigation is a politically motivated smear campaign by Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and that Washington is caught in the middle.

Additional documents obtained by The Denver Post, and first reported by Axios Denver, give more insight into the nature of the allegations.

A complaint filed in June 2020 to a Los Angeles County civil grand jury claims L.A. Metro leadership and city and county officials are corrupt and abusing their power. That complaint, filed by self-described whistleblower Jennifer Loew, mentions Washington in connection with “bribery, conspiracy, pay to play, fraud, waste.”

Loew’s attorney could not immediately be reached to verify the grand jury complaint or search warrants provided to the Post.

Earlier this week, Hancock spokesman Mike Strott said Washington is “not the subject of any criminal or grand jury investigation, nor is he named in any criminal warrant.”

While the June 2020 complaint does not necessarily mean the grand jury is investigating the nominee, search warrants served in February do mention Washington.

Specifically, the warrants seek any “recordings, memos, notes, messages, or other communications” between Washington and Patricia Giggans and Sheila Kuehl, among others.

Giggans is executive director of Peace Over Violence, the nonprofit hired by the L.A. Metro; she also sits on a citizen oversight board that called for Villanueva’s resignation last September. Kuehl is a L.A. County supervisor, a member of the L.A. Metro board, an ally of Giggans and also called for the sheriff’s resignation.

L.A. Metro attorneys are fighting against the warrants in court, calling them “ill-conceived” and “legally-flawed.” Dave Sotero, a spokesman for L.A. Metro, said in a statement that the complaints and accusations come from a disgruntled employee.

“The agency is not aware of any improprieties related to the awarding of any of these contracts,” Sotero said. “The Los Angeles Sheriff is seeking records related to that contract, which is with an organization headed by a woman who sits on the Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commission and has been highly critical of the Sheriff’s Department.”

Under Washington’s watch at RTD, a senior manager was sentenced to 18 months in prison for taking up to $145,000 in bribes over six years. Washington was named as a witness in that federal case, but no complaints or allegations were filed against him personally.

Trevor Noah, Trippie Redd, Van Morrison and more tickets on sale for Denver concerts

RiNo’s Mission Ballroom had only been open for seven months when COVID-19 shut down live, public events last year, and all that high-tech equipment wasn’t going to pay for itself. Now, promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains has stuffed the venue’s calendar with name brands — most at $55-plus per ticket — in an attempt to reassert Mission as Denver’s must-see new venue (and to not lose millions of dollars).

Here are some highlights of this week’s on-sale announcements: Rancid, Dropkick Murphys and The Bronx will play outside Mission as part of the venue’s long-planned Outdoors series, Oct. 1 ($50-$60); New Jersey punk-pop duo The Front Bottoms plays Oct. 11 ($29.50-$85); Karol G’s first-ever Denver (and U.S.) tour concert arrives Oct. 27 ($60-$80); and Ween returns for its annual Halloween shows, Oct 29-30 ($55-$60). The outdoor show is all-ages, and most indoor shows are 16-and-up and on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18 (if not earlier) via axs.com.

Emmy-winning “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah is stopping by a couple of Front Range venues with his “Back to Abnormal” tour, including dates at Loveland’s Budweiser Events Center (Oct. 1) and Colorado Springs’ Broadmoor World Arena (Oct. 2). Tickets are on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18. ($49.50-$125, axs.com)

Rapper Trippie Redd hits Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre this summer, with Ian Diorr and Sofaygo, as part of his 25-date “Tripp at Knight” tour. Tickets for the Sept. 28, all-ages show are on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18. ($35.50-$149.50, axs.com)

Also at Fiddler’s: Northern Irish legend Van Morrison, who rankled fans by mocking pandemic restrictions last year, kicking off his U.S. tour at the Greenwood Village venue Sept. 25. Tickets for the all-ages concert, with Taj Mahal, are on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18. ($45-$395, axs.com)

Remember 420 on the Rocks? The April 16, 2020, cannabis-centric show with Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Cypress Hill has been rescheduled with a decidedly un-420 date (Sept. 1) and an updated lineup, including performances from Wiz Khalifa, Method Man & Redman, Busta Rhymes, Juicy J, Collie Buddz and more to be announced. Tickets for the all-ages mini-fest are on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 17. ($, axs.com)

Red Rocks will also host Oakland rapper G-Eazy on Oct. 27 with a packed lineup of openers, including Yung Baby Tate, AllBlack, Kossisko and Jahmed. Tickets for the all-ages concert are on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18. ($60-$140, axs.com)

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Su Teatro and Control Group deliver local history with vision and verve in these two plays

Last March, Su Teatro was making its way through the start of the run of “The War of the Flowers” when the pandemic shuttered everything. Its remounting of the original musical about a group of Mexican-American women fighting to unionize at a Brighton carnation farm arrives as a gift both purposeful and entertaining.

As Guadalupe “Lupe”  Briseño, Felicia Gallegos Pettis anchors the show and imbues it with the determined spirit of the labor leader who was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame last year.

The musical joins a first-rate slew of currently running and upcoming works tackling and teasing Colorado history with vim, vision and rigor. Among them: The Catamounts’ “Land of Milk and Honey; Local Theater Company’s reprise of “Discount Ghost Stories: Songs from the Rockies” (June 24-July 15 at the Boulder Bandshell); and Control Group Productions’ collaboratively created  “After the Flood” (see below).

If you go

“The War of the Flowers.” 3.5 stars. Written and directed by Anthony J. Garcia. Featuring Felicia Gallegos Pettis, Magally Luna, Yolanda Ortega, Jordan Hull, Paola Miranda, Camilo Luera, Paul Zamora, Phil Luna. Through June 27, at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive. 303-296-0212 or suteatro.org.

A memory play with a communal and documentary bent, “War of the Flowers” is a lively example of the campesino theater tradition forged by the United Farm Workers. (One of the numbers, “El Picket Sign,” is a Teatro Campesino original.)

Su Teatro’s artistic director, Anthony J. Garcia, conducted interviews (or better encouraged story circles) with some of the women involved in the strike in order to craft this tale of a pioneering moment in the Chicano rights movement of the 1960s and ’70s. He also directs.

In 1968, Briseño — along with Mary Padilla, Martha del Real, Mary Sailes and Rachael Sandoval — began organizing for livable wages and better working conditions at the Kitayama Carnation Farm. Owner Ray Kitayama had been interned with his parents and siblings at the Manzanar Internment Camp during World War II. That makes the increasingly ugly confrontations between him, foreman Chuck Boomer (Paul Zamora) and the low-paid, ill-treated women even more dismaying (as well as instructive of industry’s ability to create divisions in racial groups that might see themselves as allies).

In launching the National Flower Growers Organization, the women took tactics from the United Farm Workers, as well as the bold eagle logo and the slogan “Si, Su Puede” (“Yes, it is possible!”).

Although the spotlight occasionally left the action unfolding on too-dim a stage, the set design (by Steve Nash) is efficient and evocative. (So, too, are the costumes by Molly Gallegos and Arnold King’s sound design.) Behind the scrim, the band plays original music and songs (many of them composed by Garcia). Under guitarist Adolfo Romero’s sensitive direction, cellist Chandrika Prem and percussionist Logan Foy provide an accompaniment that is often poignant but also muscular when warranted.

A jukebox gets wheeled onto the stage to conjure a local watering hole. There, Lupe’s husband, José (Camilo Luera), is goaded by a group of men who see the women as a threat to their livelihoods. Increasingly aggravated, the factory’s manager, Boomer, verbally jabs at the men who support the union efforts, ridiculing them for not being able to keep their women in their place. When that macho tactic backfires, he and Kitayama rally the police.

If Zamora’s portrayal has the fervor of a casting-call henchman, Phil Luna’s portrayal of the floral industry titan (which is what Kitayama and his brothers became nationally) relies on a muted, businesslike conviction.

In his introductory remarks before Saturday’s show, the writer-director called “War of the Flowers” a work about patriarchy. It is — and more. It is a tale of gendered arrogance, to be sure. But it is also a saga of fortitude.

In a climactic scene, the two chain-link panels that have been standing upstage become the site of a violent showdown between the owner, the police and the exhausted but persevering women.

Taking its title from something the real Briseño said of her labor-organizing sisters, the set-piece song “Strong Women Stayed” speaks volumes about the activists who launched a union but also were  instrumental in setting the tone for a larger rights movement. The strong stayed, stood pat and picketed. There was not a wilting flower among them.

“After the Flood”

Ten miles due south on Santa Fe Drive, “After the Flood” — developed by Control Group Productions, the Playground Ensemble and visual artist Adrienne DeLoe — is in its final weekend of telling a different, just as vital, Colorado story. This one is about, among other things, how citizens can interface with the environment after facing a natural disaster.

There are deer in the captivating outdoor performance “Hike,” which takes place at Reynold’s Landing in Littleton. The first sighting comes as one of the guides points out a loping dancer whose headdress resembles antlers, about 100 yards away.

If you go

“After the Flood.” 3.5 stars. A collaboration of Control Group Productions, the Playground Ensemble and  Adrienne DeLoe. Featuring Danielle Dugas, Hannah Kaufmann, Conrad Kehn, Patrick Mueller, Caroline Sharkey, Sarah Whitnah, Kristine Whittle. Through June 19. Meet at Reynold’s Landing, 6745 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. controlgroupproductions.org.

“Wild, right?” he says. “Just a couple steps from the brewery lawn, and the highway, and all of that.” Indeed, abutting the wooded space is Santa Fe Drive, or State Highway 85, and the sizeable Breckenridge Brewery and tasting room complex.

Another, more magical glimpse of a deer happened when some fellow audience members came to a full stop on the trail. Near a cottonwood, barely visible in the dusk and tall grasses, a doe stared back.

While there were to be more frolicking, leaping chimeras (courtesy Control Group and choreographer Patrick Mueller), that statue-like deer proved singular during the 80-minute show. Words like “show” and “audience” fall short in describing the ambitions and awe-teasing sweep of “After the Flood.”

The show is the first in a performance series called “Treeline,” which the collaborative trio intend to be (according to a release) “an exploration of the experience of wilderness, and a move to shift our relationship with nature in the Anthropocene era.” If you don’t recognize the word, Anthropocene is gaining currency as a way to talk about the geologic period in which we humans have a great (or not-so-great) effect on the environment and climate.

“After the Flood” recounts the 1965 flood that began gaining force near Castle Rock, overflowing creek banks, and then the South Platte, with the waters gathering force and trees and train cars and trailer homes and more as it roared toward Denver, finally tuckering out on the Eastern Plains.

The ramble is punctuated with pauses and prompts, asking you to smell and see, to breathe deeply and listen intently. There will be modest touching, maybe corny to some, in rituals intended to connect the fellow wanderers with the woods and each other. They often do just that.

The immersive amble takes its lovely, insightful language from a number of sources, among them: poet Mary Oliver (“attention is the beginning of devotion”); the Arapaho and Lakota peoples, who had names for the South Platte; and journalist Alan Prendergast and his engrossing 2015 feature “The1965 Flood: How Denver’s Greatest Disaster Changed the City” in Westword.

The Littleton location is significant because after the deluge, the citizens in the municipality urged federal officials in Washington, D.C., for the area to be designated a flood plain park. It was the nation’s first.

The piece spins the saying “all the world’s a stage” on its pretty little axis by making the open space trail an experiential saga. It’s a nature walk with benefits. One of the most beguiling is Sarah Whitnah’s plaintive violin and the percussive rhythms (drums, dead tree trunks, rocks) of Conrad Kehn, with a little help from the audience.

A note: Heed the emailed confirmation with info about appropriate gear for the easy, 1 1/2 mile trek: There will be bites (we had a tick). They also have a game plan for those with physical accessibility concerns. If you go for the later show, you may be treated to the best lighting design the state has to offer: sunset. Ah, wilderness.

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Denver’s newest brewery melds Jamaican flavors, Colorado craft beer

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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