Chantel • Co-Owner, Novel Strand Brewing Co.

Chantel moved to Denver from New York four years ago. She is an Assistant Project Manager for a local construction company and is currently part of the Denver Water Redevelopment Project. In addition to her day job in a male-dominated industry, Chantel co-owns a boutique brewery called Novel Strand with her husband, Tamir and their business partner, Ayana. They faced a lot of challenges starting the new venture, but persevered and are now operating in the Baker neighborhood.

You won’t see traditional beer categories at Novel Strand. Their beverage selection is out of the box and fluid. The names, which are carefully selected, focus on the attributes, not labels. Speaking of labels, each can is wrapped in a beautiful design, featuring people of all shades. Some of my favorite designs include Queen of All Everything, Brett Crumbs, and Galactic Funk Punch. If you’re looking for something to do on Fridays or Saturdays, stop by. Food trucks are on-site and the beer is cold.

When I asked Chantel to describe Denver in one word, she responded with: Growth. Here’s what it means to be Chantel in Denver.

What does it mean to you to be Black in Denver?

To be honest, this is mostly a new concept to me and I could even describe it as a new identity for me. While I was born in NYC, I was raised in the Dominican Republic — where my family is from — with many people that looked just like me. There was never this question or focus as to where you are from. Similarly, in NYC, such a melting pot of different ethnicities, there are many others that look and sound like me. As such, I never gave it too much thought.

Being Black was only introduced to me recently, some of it during my university years, but most poignantly after our move to Denver, where it seems people don’t see or understand the nuances of my background. However, I do feel It would be unfair for me to expect them to since there isn’t a significant Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc, communities here in Colorado for people to be exposed to.

They see the color of my skin and have no idea that I am of Hispanic heritage. Most are surprised that I speak Spanish and are even more surprised that I speak it well, but ironically it is my native tongue and the first language I spoke. If I had to ‘choose’ a category to include myself in I’d consider myself perhaps Afro-Latina or maybe Latina and then Black.

One of the first things that struck me on our way to Colorado was the lack of diversity. Where I’m from, I was one in a mass of people who looked like me. In Denver, I’m usually the odd one out. Also, being in the craft beer industry, there are not many people who look like me. When we opened our brewery, there was a lot of conversation around what it looks like to be Afro-Latina in beer. It’s been an interesting experience to figure out who I am here. I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but I feel like I’ve allowed myself to be more comfortable in my skin. Denver is so laid back and judgment-free. There’s a certain level of freedom here.

What do you love most about living in Denver?

Access to nature! Depending on how long you are willing to drive and how much you can tolerate being in traffic, there’s always awesome mountainscapes to find.

How have your experiences in Denver shaped you?

The last four years living in Denver has been an ongoing exploration of who I am and what motivates me. Some of the more critical milestones in my life have happened here. I continue to develop into who and what I want to be when I “grow up”.