Xicha Brewing, known for its innovative and creative approach to Latin American and Spanish food and as the only Latinx brewery in Oregon, is expanding its operations into south Eugene where it expects to open a brewpub in July.
Xicha currently operates in west Salem and is owned by chef and social media specialist Ricardo Antúnez, a native of Guerrero, Mexico; marketing and business manager Ben Mendoza, born in New Mexico and with roots from Chihuahua; human resources and daily operations administrator Maggie Antúnez, born in Michoacan, Mexico; and head brewer Matthew Dakopolos, from Salem and with German roots.
It all started with the friendship between Antúnez and Mendoza, his compadre and his son’s godfather. They wanted to do something together, food and beer-related. “That little idea turned into this brewery idea that we would do in the valley, some tacos, and beer. That was a super simple little idea, right? A little seed in the pot, right?” Antúnez says. Right along came Dakopolos and Maggie Antúnez, Ricardo’s wife, and the idea grew.
Together, their goal was to serve something different, representing their culture. “Because you just don’t see that very often,” Mendoza says.
What was once an office space became a brewpub nurtured by diversity and creativity in 2017. The diverse backgrounds and heritage of the owners, as well as Antúnez’s culinary experience in San Francisco and his trips to Latin America, have all influenced Xicha’s food and beer selections. You can find empanadas with green chile from New Mexico, chile relleno with Peruvian yellow chili pepper, Peruvian ceviche with popcorn, beer with passionfruit and mango, and German-style hefeweizen. “It makes it one of a kind,” Mendoza says.
Xicha [CHEE-chah] originated from the word chicha morada (a Peruvian purple corn drink) and its spelling alteration was a strategy to present the business as different. Its exceptionality also lies when considering that people of color continue to be a minority in the U.S. beer industry.
The four owners have been through the lead-contaminated water crisis in Salem and the COVID-19 pandemic, and now have their eyes set on Eugene. “Growth was always in our next step. I always enjoyed the valley,” Antúnez says. There is also a demand. Some of their clients drive from other cities to eat at the establishment. In social media, they have observed clicks from Eugene and Springfield. They also distribute beer to both cities and have worked for years with valuable feedback received.
Xicha Brewing is still a small craft brewery, and its equipment is sufficient for its supply. The uniqueness of their beers is not found in the making process. “It’s more the ingredients and the idea of intentionally making the beer to be paired with the food,” Mendoza says. Among other beer flavors that they have experimented with are guava and tamarind. What will be next? Their Eugene menu will not be a replica of the one found in Salem but its own different and unique version.
“It will be a good test for us, but I think Eugene will love what we have to offer,” Mendoza says.
Xicha Brewing will be located at 747 E. 32nd Avenue Suite B in Eugene. For more information, visit XichaBrewing.com.