How to craft the beer thug life one chug at a time
“I was drunk!” confesses Edgar Preciado, the congenial de facto mayor of the Los Angeles craft beer scene. He’s reflecting on March 4, 2018, the night of his first “cholo chug.”
Preciado had spent the day at Monkish, waiting in line to purchase the Torrance brewery’s highly sought-after cans. That evening, bored at home and under the influence of a few too many hazy IPAs, he made the fateful decision to post a video to Instagram via his @BeerThugLife handle. He grabbed an Enter the Fog Dog, cracked it open, and within seconds, the can that he spent hours to procure had completely emptied out into his esophagus.
The following morning, Preciado was shocked to discover more than 1,000 people had watched his drinking feat — his previous posts usually maxed out at a few dozen likes.
The 42-year-old Compton resident, who works as a production coordinator at an aerospace company, knew he was onto something. Preciado would soon add a delightfully profane signature toast as he continued to capture himself rapidly imbibing other celebrated local craft beers, plus some out-of-market heavy hitters, including his infamous chugging of Toppling Goliath’s KBBS, a holy grail bourbon barrel stout.
Industry insiders began to take notice. Not only was Preciado upending the beer culture stereotype of the bearded white hipster, his wanton disregard for drinking etiquette was a middle finger to the pinkie-raised snobbery common amongst craft consumers — and fans loved it.
“He was a breath of fresh air for a lot of people,” says Todd Alström, co-founder of the Beer Advocate website. Beyond Preciado’s chugging prowess, Alström was impressed that he often called out the lack of diversity in craft beer, an industry that has been slow to bring women and people of color into the fold. Preciado “is one of the faces of this change we’re seeing, this change we need.”
Nowadays, it’s difficult for Preciado to attend a local beer event without being mobbed, and breweries across the country are constantly soliciting him to chug one of their offerings.
While Preciado continues to work at his day job, in his free time, he’s busy expanding Beer Thug Life’s reach. It’s now a full-fledged brand that includes apparel, merchandise, frequent beer collaborations and even a tie-in with the upcoming indie horror flick “Cholo Zombies.”
The budding beer influencer has had his fair share of detractors. Critics have accused Preciado of promoting violence through his “thug” persona, and he continues to receive backlash from some members of the Latino community who contend that his videos perpetuate a negative stereotype.
“Unfortunately, human beings are always going to be judged by appearances,” Preciado says. “But when they start talking to me and they know who I am, all of that goes out the door.”
To fully understand Beer Thug Life, you have to go back to the ’90s when Preciado, a first-generation Mexican American, was a teenager in South Central.
“Those streets were mean,” says Preciado, who would ultimately become a gang member. “I joined it because of the brotherhood. Everyone was cool, but all of the sudden, people were getting shot. You see your best friend die. That’s when you’re like, ‘Man, what am I getting into?’ ”
Luckily, Preciado had other new family members he could rely on for support. At 15, he met his high school sweetheart and then-future wife, Maria. Three years later, the two became parents to Edgar Jr. and soon, two more sons, Angel and Carlos.
Though Preciado was a devoted family man, he struggled to stay out of trouble, eventually landing a five-year federal prison sentence for writing counterfeit checks.
While Preciado served his time, Maria worked a full-time job, earned a bachelor’s degree and made sure her sons excelled at Compton High School. (23-year-old Edgar Jr. recently graduated from Princeton; 21-year-old Angel and 19-year-old Carlos are attending Cal State Long Beach and UCLA, respectively.)
His wife and sons’ against-all-odds perseverance filled Preciado with immense pride but also regret that he could not be there with them. “I realized, ‘What am I doing? I have to change this. For my kids. For my family. I’m better than this.’ ”
Buoying Preciado’s resolve was his family’s unwavering support.
“People would always ask me, ‘Why are you still with that guy?’ ” Maria recalls. “And I would say, ‘Well, first of all, I love him. But second, there’s something there. I know there’s something there. I just wish he believed in himself the way I believe in him.’ ”
As Preciado continues to forge a new path for himself, he remains bounded by his roots, and Beer Thug Life is a reflection of that journey. “My past is what made me who I am,” he says. “I’m not going to be Beer Hipster Life.”
That authenticity won over fans who initially doubted Preciado and disliked his swagger.
“I really thought it was a gimmick account. Like it was making fun of cholos by using craft beer,” says Ray Ricky Rivera, co-founder of SoCal Cerveceros, the homebrew club that has been the launching pad for a growing trend of Latino-run breweries in Los Angeles. “I grew up in the projects around actual cholos. Gangsters. And I know that whole culture. So when people make fun of it, I don’t find it funny.”
But when Rivera finally met Preciado, he had a change of heart.
“Right away, I knew this guy is the real deal,” says Rivera, who notes that Preciado is now one of the most beloved members of the Cerveceros. “He represents the Latino tribe. But he’s also a subculture of a subculture. To me, that needs to be shown as well.”
Preciado is also focused on giving back to Compton and hopes to help produce a craft beer festival there. His ultimate dream is to open the first Compton brewery. He knows it will be financially challenging, not to mention the albatross of having a criminal record.
Still, Preciado remains optimistic. He even has a name picked out: Hood Soldiers Brewing, inspired by the title of his son Edgar Jr.’s college thesis, which examines Chicano gang culture in the ’90s. Full of pride and misty-eyed, Preciado pulls up a copy on his phone and gestures toward the opening sentence: “My father is one of the most courageous and intelligent men I know.”
This is a side of Preciado that many of his fans don’t get to see.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care about Instagram fame,” he says. “What’s most important to me is that my family is proud of me.”
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