New LA Brewery Brings Latino Culture to Craft Beer

Edgar Preciado is recognized as one of the 2023 "Food & Wine" Drinks Innovators of the Year.

Edgar Preciado
Photo:

Dylan + Jeni

One night in 2018, Edgar Preciado stood alone in his Compton, California, kitchen. He cursed a bit, poured a much-hyped hazy IPA into a glass, and chugged. Instead of tasting notes, Preciado unfurled two middle fingers as hip-hop played, then pointed to his “Beer Thug Life” beanie. End scene. “It was like, screw you and your fancy drinking,” says Preciado, who posted the clip to his Instagram, @beerthuglife. The message was brash and clear: Forget fussing. Let’s have fun. And everyone’s invited to craft brewing’s increasingly diverse party.

“I want people to understand that we’re here, and we love beer, too,” says Preciado, the founder of lifestyle brand Beer Thug Life and Beer Thug Brewing. A first-generation Mexican American, Preciado invites all comers to the craft beer table through boisterous events and beers that celebrate Latino culture, such as his Nuestra Ciudad hazy IPA and Mexican-style lager Para Mi Gente. “We try to bring the culture into a can,” he says.

See all of Food & Wine Drinks Innovators of the Year 2023

Preciado grew up in South Central Los Angeles during the ’90s and fell into gang life. He survived a shooting and went to prison several times, including a final 2010 stint. Following his release, he rebuilt his life with his wife, Maria, and their three boys, working for an aerospace company. A pandemic-related layoff prompted Preciado to turn his love of beer into a profession. He collaborated with rap artists and local breweries on Beer Thug IPAs and created entertaining videos to promote releases, even tapping a sports broadcaster to play-by-play his online chugs.

Last year, Preciado signed on to open a permanent Beer Thug home in the city of Bell, southeast of Los Angeles, inside Border X Brewing, a San Diego–based Mexican-inspired craft brewery. An alternating proprietorship arrangement lets the breweries share production equipment yet remain separate. (“We’re roommates,” Preciado says.) Initially, his criminal record wrapped the licensing in red tape. “The system is not made for people who get in trouble to return to society,” he says. Paperwork and permits finally came through last fall, and Preciado turned on the taps in November. (Maria runs human resources.) The vibrant taproom welcomes DJs and hip-hop artists, serving michelada brunches and $5 pints of please-everyone Thug Lite. Preciado has also joined the nonprofit organization Defy Ventures, which puts prisoners and parolees on entrepreneurial paths. “I want to be an inspiration to other people who have made mistakes,” Preciado says.

Cans to Buy

Thug Lite ($14 for four 16-oz. cans)

Inspired by German leichtbier, this fuller-flavored take on the light lager delivers a touch of toasty character and a bit more bitterness than you’d expect from a low-alcohol lager.

Para Mi Gente ($15 for four 16-oz. cans)

A brisk-drinking Mexican-style lager, it’s made with flaked maize for a splash of sweetness and a light body. The beer’s name translates to “for my people.”

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