KUSA - Since 1995, Keith Villa has been hard at work as the founder of Blue Moon Beer, but success didn't just fall from the sky for the brewmaster.
Villa is a third generation Mexican-American who was born and raised in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s had its challenges because of a lack of diversity. As a student at CU Boulder, Keith felt it. At times he was the only Hispanic in class.
“It made me work really hard to get good grades and to prepare myself for future professional life,” Villa said.
While Keith was planning his future, something came along and changed those plans. As he was getting ready for medical school, he saw an advertisement at the university lab to do beer research with the Coors Brewing Company.
Being a self-proclaimed beer geek, he decided to apply. Out of more than 75 applicants he got the job and was faced with a life changing decision.
“They said they'd like to have me the day after I graduated,” Villa said. “And that's when I had to ask myself do I want to go to medical school and work with sick people or do I want to go work with beer.”
You can guess what happened next. Med school was replaced with four years at the University of Brussels where he earned his doctorate in brewing with high honors. In the same year, he returned to the states and created the Belgian inspired Blue Moon Beer, but Americans weren't ready for the new brew.
“Most Americans thought that craft beer was amber ale and amber lager and here I come along with this thing,” Villa said.
“It's cloudy. It’s Belgian-style beer with wheat, oats and barley malt, spiced with coriander and orange peel. And of course people said I don't get it. I remember there were times when I never knew if (Blue Moon) would survive for another year. And you know, you'd go back home and family was always there and that's what kept things going.”
Twenty-one years later, Blue Moon is served in 16 countries around the world with spinoffs like the White IPA and Summer Honey Wheat. His latest brew is a nod to his Mexican roots, Cinnamon Horchata Ale.
“Why not try to bring some of the Hispanic culture into a beer? I was thinking of a drink I used to have as a kid. It's horchata! A drink made of mild cinnamon and sugar,” Villa said.
Despite winning many awards and even being a clue on Jeopardy, his biggest reward is sharing his success with his family. What's his secret? I'll leave you with the Dr.'s Orders:
“Just believe in yourself,” Villa said. “You live here in the best country in the world. There's no reason why you can't be successful.”
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