Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Paola Fernandez at Paola.FernandezGrados@colorado.edu.
University of Colorado graduate student Nicholas Politte, 29, is breaking new ground by bringing craft beer out of the United States and into Central America. His hope is to raise enough capital to fund the start-up of Chelatenango, his craft brewery in Guatemala.
The brewery is in the fundraising stage, looking to raise $2.3 million. This will go toward the construction of a brewing facility and cover the debts that come with a startup. The goal is to reach this number by the end of May.
“That’s the one thing that can ruin a business — if you’re always fundraising, then you’re not really learning the business. We need to make sure we’ve raised what we need for the foreseeable future, which we’re hoping will be for the next five years,” said Politte.
Politte is not only looking to bring his product into a new market, but he also plans on being a social activist for the rural Guatemalan community. He expects to build a water purifying plant within the first two years of being in business. His vision is to fund this project through cash flow from the brewery or potentially through matching donations.
“I believe that water should be available to all people as a human right. We will not be charging the people for the building of the water purification plant,” said Politte. “We would expect the municipality, who will be charged for reaching each household, to charge the minimum for that service.”
His knowledge of the water problem in Guatemala comes from personal experience. During his time in the Peace Corps, Politte was inside the country as a consultant for the newest municipality in 2009. He spent a lot of time in the rural communities around Raxruhá in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. During his time there, he learned more about the communities’ needs and led training with the community councils. Because he stayed for weeks on end, Politte had no choice but to succumb to drinking the unprocessed water.
“That’s what led me to getting sick — eating and drinking how the locals do. When you’re drinking water that hasn’t been treated, your body has no resistance to that,” Politte recounted. “I would argue most people in those communities don’t have the resistance to the illnesses associated with this. They just suffer through them.”
Not only will the water purifying plant help the community, it will also make the water purification process easier for the brewery. This, according to Politte, will aid in the creation of the highest-quality beer they can offer their consumers.
Chelatenango plans to create four craft beers straight off the bat. These will focus on the budding local markets’ preferences in taste. They will use native fruits and adjuncts that are widely available in the country.
The initial repertoire will include a citrus IPA, a light stout with sweet notes, a saison, and the most important brew, a Kölsch ale.
“The Kölsch is the gateway beer for Guatemalans. They are very accustomed to light Pilsner lagers. The Kölsch is an ale, but it’s very fruity, floral and light,” Politte explained. “I think it is the kind of beer that people will taste and think: ‘this is a lot like my favorite beer, but so much better.”
Politte’s brewing experience started in 2011, when he became a Peace Corps staff member in Antigua, Guatemala. During this time he brewed beer in his home and shared five-gallon batches with friends. Realizing how successful these were, he joined a home-brewers collective.
After initial research, Politte decided there was a viable market. He returned to the U.S. and is enrolled in the business graduate program at CU to further his business knowledge and work toward creating the company.
The name ‘Chelatenango’ stems from the fusion of two local words. ‘Chela’ is the slang word for beer in the regions of southern Mexico and Guatemala. ‘Tenango’ is the indigenous Nahuatl word for “place of.”
Together, they make the “place of beer.” It creates a local vibe between the consumer and the brewery, something Politte considers a big part of the craft beer movement.
“It communicates directly to our consumer what we’re all about. We are a Guatemalan brand that provides high-quality beer made locally. It’s also creative and playful, which are two things we want associated with our brand.”