A Jamaica-inspired and influenced beer brewery is set to open in Denver, Colorado, in the summer of 2021. The Wah Gwaan Brewery will make the beer scene in Denver a bit more “irie” as Harsha Maragh, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants who can trace her ancestry to the East Indian people who emigrated to Jamaica in the 1800s, launches in the space on West Eighth Avenue that previously housed Intrepid Sojourner Beer Company, which closed in May of 2020. “Wah Gwaan” is a Jamaican phrase that means “What’s going on?”
Maragh and Jesse Brown, a native of Colorado and a former U.S. Marine who enjoys craft beer and snowboarding, say the Wah Gwaan Brewery will offer a vibrant Jamaican approach with beers inspired by the fruits and spices of the Caribbean. The venue will also bring in multicultural music, food pop-ups, and women-owned businesses. The brewery’s logo combines images of hops and the swallow-tailed hummingbird known as the Doctor Bird, the national bird of Jamaica.
Maragh grew up in the Bronx, New York, where the culture her East Indian ancestors helped to create in Jamaica continued in her neighborhood. When she traveled to Boulder, Colorado, to attend graduate school, she had a difficult time finding any connections to those deep Jamaican roots, however, and one of the main goals of the new brewery is to bring people of Caribbean ancestry together and to share Jamaica’s rich culture with Colorado. Maragh also aims to create an inviting place for women and people of color who may not always feel welcomed in other craft breweries.
Brown supports the goals of Wah Gwaan as he is bi-racial, which he believes gives him a unique view of the world. “There isn’t a lot of representation by the African-American or immigrant communities,” he noted, and one way to remedy that is to include Jamaican and African music in rotation on the playlist of the taproom, together with hip-hop. Brown added that both he and Maragh are fun-loving people who want the brewery to reflect that.
Brown currently works in the software industry, while Maragh works in environmental science. They met several years ago on a date at Avery Brewing in Boulder and eventually got married. In 2020, both had to change jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown said they began thinking about what they really wanted out of life and decided to “bite the bullet and go for it” in establishing the brewery. The pandemic allowed them to take advantage of a lower financial barrier to entry in the business and by a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised $15,000, which Maragh obtained through Kiva, a nonprofit loan-sourcing organization.
Brown and Maragh believe the venue’s proximity to the city’s Art District will help to overcome some of its more challenging aspects, such as a lack of parking and the one-way street it faces. Their plan is to complete renovations and open Wah Gwaan Brewery in May or June of 2021.
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