Inside Jade Mountain’s Decision to Rebrand As Incantation Brewing
It’s been a brutal past four years for the craft beer scene, so when a brewery’s social channels abruptly undergo a massive rebrand with all past content getting wiped, it’s certainly cause for concern.
However, instead of a brewery acquisition or merger, Friday, Aurora-based Jade Mountain Brewery and Teahouse revealed an unexpected wholesale re-brand, transitioning from its Asian-inspired roots to punk/heavy metal-inspired, Incantation Brewing. The unexpected move also signals a dramatic shift in the brewery’s taproom aesthetic and beer program moving forward.
Founder, Sean Guerrero, revealed that the difficult decision to move on from the Jade Mountain brand primarily came down to a business decision, but also represents a deeper, more introspective conflict with identity.
“Incantation’s beers are more representative of the styles that I prefer to brew and drink,” said Guerrero. “But we’re just honestly trying to sell more beer. If we were succeeding and killing it as Jade, I wouldn’t have had to change. But it’s time to try something else. I can’t be stagnant and hope things change, so I thought, let’s reinvent, let’s try something different.”
While many in the Denver area found Jade Mountain’s beers, which often utilized Asian-inspired ingredients like Sichuan peppercorn, durian, and five spice powder, to be a refreshing alternative to the norm, Guerrero, who originally opened the brewery in China before moving it back closer to his hometown of Denver, CO, noted how niche his specialty styles could be.
“I used to pride myself on saying that I brew beer for people who don’t like beer but coming from a brewery, that doesn’t make any fucking sense,” said Guerrero. “I need to brew beer for people who do like beer. And with this move, we’re hoping to brew more styles people can enjoy two or three of on a visit or inspire them to visit two to three times a week, not just when they want to try unique beers.”
Guerrero also acknowledges reading the writing on the wall from the recent demise of other brewery friends like Dos Luces and a few other Denver-area breweries, who also adopted similar approaches in focusing on culturally specific styles but ultimately had to close down.
“It’s not just people’s style preferences,” continued Guerrero. “You’ve also got the cost of ingredients, especially when it comes to rare fruits and spices, as well as accessibility to those ingredients, that have been difficult on us at times. This lets us be a little more well-rounded and a little less niche. It allows us to reach a broader audience especially where we’re located out here in Aurora.”
And while the Denver brewery scene is already no stranger to punk/heavy metal-inspired breweries, Guerrero admitted that the Incantation theme feels like a more authentic representation of his own identity these days.
Despite spending over 12 years living in China and originally launching his brewery in Huzhou, Guerrero, who is of Hispanic descent, admitted that he’s felt conflicted about the misguided judgment he’s received from the community at times.
“I speak Chinese, my kids are half Chinese; I spent so much time out there, it’s like my second home,” said Guerrero. “This (Jade Mountain) was meant to showcase what I saw and experienced out there and it was difficult to come back and feel some rejection. It wasn’t necessarily from Chinese people, because they appreciate that I can speak Chinese to them, they say that visiting us feels like stepping back into their hometown, and they understand that I understand the culture. But instead, I’ve felt negative pressure and received some negative reactions from people who maybe are not Asian or have never been to China, who don’t understand my background, and at the end of the day, it’s just one of a million things that have led to our struggles.
Guerrero reflects that the departure from Jade Mountain and its rich cultural relevance will be a difficult one, but that he’s also hopeful patrons will understand the new layer of personal relevance Incantation plays in his life. A longtime rocker, Guerrero grew up playing guitar, drums, and bass in local punk and metal bands throughout most of his life, and already often nodded to those motifs even during the brewery’s previous lifespan.
With the change, Incantation will begin featuring several themed music and programming nights throughout the week including “Magic Mondays” which will serve to host Magic the Gathering meetups with Black and Doom Metal music playing, Power Metal Tuesdays, horror movies aired on Friday, Punk & Ska on Saturday, and Emo/Scream Sundays. Similarly, Incantation’s beer lineup now features more conventional styles like a Mexican Lager, Dark Lager, IPA, and Double IPA, while also nodding slightly to its Jade roots with a Rice Lager, Hibiscus Hard Tea, Sour Ale w/ Raspberry Apricot, and Black Tea.
Moving forward, Guerrero teased that Incantation will focus primarily on Lagers and IPAs but that they’re working on growing a specialty beer program that will feature a clean barrel-aging Stout program and begin shifting away from smoothie-style sours and more toward growing a Mixed Fermentation sour program.
As for all of the smoke and mirrors this past weekend regarding the overhauled rebrand? Guerrero admits it was one part social experiment and another part marketing showmanship. “It was a purposeful decision to generate a little buzz,” laughed Guerrero.” I honestly wanted to see people’s true opinions without any background or context. But ultimately we’re hopeful that we can change things up and keep people here for longer.”