Why did a doctor and a school counselor decide to start a brewery at Stanley? Javier Perez, an emergency physician, and his educator wife, Jennifer, are opening Cheluna Brewing Co. in the Stanley Marketplace as a way to “put down roots” in Denver.
“Javi” and “Jen,” the parents of two teenagers, lived in New York, California, Texas and Alaska before moving to the Lowry neighborhood in 2010. “I got wanderlust again and suggested that we move to a foreign country with our kids,” says Javi. “But Jennifer asked me ‘What are you missing?’ and I told her, ‘We’re new here, we have no deep roots and no tightknit community.’ We decided we love Denver and we want to stay and develop friendships. Through the brewery, we’re digging into the place we love. We like to make beer, and people like beer—so we’re sharing ourselves and building relationships.”
The Perezes say the opportunity to be part of the Stanley Marketplace, which now feels like home away from home, is the most exciting adventure they have had since meeting and working together over 26 years ago as Outward Bound instructors in New York City.
The name “Cheluna” is a combination of chela, a Spanish slang word for beer, and luna, for the moon incorporated in their logo.
The idea for Cheluna was inspired by Javier’s heritage: his parents emigrated to Southern California from Mexico City over 65 years ago. His paternal grandmother was from the Zapotec people of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. His maternal grandparents were German immigrants to Mexico in the 19th century, who started a chocolate factory.
“We’ll have beers for everyone, including India pale ales and wheat beers, says Javi. But they will also have specialty beers “built with a German backbone” and incorporating various Mexican flavors: fruits, spices and cacao from Oaxaca.
The brewery will offer between eight and 12 beers on the menu at a time. “How often we brew depends on how long our supplies last,” said Jennifer. “Our brewing schedule will be dictated by the customer demand. We hope we might be brewing a couple of times a week.”
Javier, an emergency room doctor, works at the Veterans Affairs hospital. He also works on the team of NASCAR doctors, treating not just the drivers but the myriad of health emergencies that arise in a celebratory crowd of 100,000 people. Among his previous jobs was a post in Bethel, Alaska, a remote bush hospital where he worked primarily with Yupik Eskimos. “We had only a basic X-ray and a lab and no surgeons or orthopedists,” he said. “Sometimes they couldn’t get out in a blizzard, so it was challenging. I became competent in many situations, but also aware of my limitations.”
Jennifer has a master’s degree in education and school counseling credentials and worked in schools for 25 years. Most recently she helped open and worked as a school counselor at McAuliffe International School. Although she is now working full time at the brewery, she goes back to the school regularly and mentors a student there.
Javier’s early interest in chemistry and cooking led to a desire to attend culinary school. “My parents didn’t go for that; they thought I needed something more stable, so I went to medical school. Now I get to do both medicine and brewing, which are actually similar: you have to know sterile technique, and you have to pay attention to detail. Brewing is like combining the science of medicine with the wonders of cooking.”
Javier started brewing beer at home on a stove in his Berkeley, Calif., apartment in 1988. Most recently, he has been using a one-barrel, all-electric system in the garage. He now uses that system for research and small batches.
Javier will continue to work three nights a week at the hospital and will spend his days off at the brewery. Jennifer is devoting her full attention to Cheluna where she can put into practice what she learned working in schools—“a good sense of humor and good problem-solving skills.”
The 3,000-square-foot brewery and public tasting room has the feel of a Mexican village, with bright paint colors, a Mexican tile backsplash, burnt-finished wood and pierced tin light fixtures. The multilevel space offers two floors of seating. “We hope this will be a place where all people feel welcomed and want to return.” Customers can order food from any one of the food establishments within the Stanley Marketplace and enjoy it at Cheluna with a beer. For more information, visit cheluna.com.