Richmond’s Hottest Taqueria Is Turning Mangonadas Into Beer

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Photoillustration of a mangonada and a glass of beer against an orange "kapow" background, with a plus sign in between.
The new smoothie ale from El Garage and Armistice Brewing captures the sweetness and spice of a Mexican mangonada. (Images from iStock, illustration by Sarah Hotchkiss)

Though often operating under the radar—inside discreet flea markets, word-of-mouth backyards and literal garages—Richmond has quietly risen into the top tier of Bay Area food and beverage destinations.

Whether it’s a lager at East Brother Beer Co., a Guatemalan rice tamal at Antojitos Guatemaltecos, or a Hot Cheetos burrito at Taqueria El Mezcal, the area’s rich culinary scene—influenced by the diverse presence of Black, immigrant and working-class families—is worth a trip. 

The latest offering that speaks to that creativity? A mangonada-inspired beer created by Armistice Brewing and El Garage—two heavyweights in the Richmond food and beverage game.

Very few residents exemplify the area's success more than El Garage co-founder Viviana Montano. A born-and-raised Rich City business owner, Montano and her family opened their wildly popular taqueria in 2019, when it operated as a pop-up inside the family’s garage. Since then, El Garage has expanded into a premier downtown location and garnered attention from every taco lover in the region, including KQED’s own food editor, Luke Tsai, who spoke with Montano about her favorite hometown spots to grub.

Two tacos topped with beef birria and melted cheese, with sliced cucumbers and radishes on the side.
El Garage's signature quesabirria is revered by East Bay taco lovers. (Luke Tsai)

But before all that taco glory, Montano started out as a bartender for Armistice Brewing Company, back when the brewery first opened in 2017. At the time, the craft brewhouse, owned by siblings Greg and Alex Zobel, was among the early wavemakers to move in along Richmond’s changing waterfront. They have since outlasted COVID to become one of the city’s flagship breweries with prime real estate in the marina. And though Montano left Armistice in 2019 to pursue her own ventures, she loved her time there and took a newfound interest in beer that she never anticipated.

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“I knew nothing about beer,” she admits. “But working there gave me experience with seeing how a business runs. I definitely started liking beer after that.”

Woman in green sweatshirt stands in front of a large metal kettle for brewing beer.
Before Viviana Montano opened a taqueria, she dipped her toes in the beer business at Armistice Brewing. (Armistice Brewing)

Now, Montano is collaborating with Armistice again on the brewery’s belated “Four Once More” block party, a fourth-anniversary celebration initially scheduled for 2021 but delayed due to COVID-related safety. The June 11 day party will feature live DJs, a free photo booth, family friendly activities and food served by Rocky Island Oyster Co., Curbside Kitchen and, of course, El Garage.

Most enticingly, Armistice will be releasing a line of special beers, headlined by their partnership with El Garage’s Montano, who has taken the lead on her own unique creation: a mangonada “smoothie ale” called the Feliz Sábado.

If you don’t know what a mangonada is, it’s a juicy mango party inside your cup. Usually, the summery treat consists of some variety of mango-flavored sorbet, fresh mango puree, salsa and chile. There are lime and orange variations as well, and they’re all typically served in the form of a colossal smoothie or spritzer. Drinking one is a common way to cool off in parts of Latin America.

Turning all that into a beer isn’t exactly the norm, but it’s Montano’s way of showing love to the many influences and flavors that have shaped who she has become in her own community. 

“Being from Richmond, I always wanted places like El Garage,” says Montano. “Places to hang out, drink a beer, have fun, with a Latinx experience for the community. That’s our goal: to embrace Richmond.”

Four cans of beer with an orange and red label; the text on the can reads "Feliz Sabado" and "Armistice + El Garage"
Once they have their beer and wine license, the El Garage team hopes to serve the "Feliz Sábado" at the taqueria. (Armistice Brewing)

Made with “pounds and pounds” of mangoes, chile piquín and milk sugar (an ingredient that helps to prevent the loss of sugar during the highest temperatures of the brewing process, allowing the beer to retain a sweet thickness reminiscent of a smoothie), Montano’s playful tribute will debut at the Armistice “Four Once More” block party.

Eventually, Montano hopes to feature the beer at El Garage, which is currently in the process of securing a liquor license (as well as some old-school pinball machines). The taqueria and brewery are also in talks about another collaboration for Armistice’s next anniversary, which is scheduled for later this year on August 6—National IPA Day—to properly celebrate its fifth year of brewing.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll get some rendition of a Quesa-Beer-IPA then? Or not. I’ll leave that to the pros to decide.

The “Four Once More” block party will happen on Saturday, June 11, from 1 to 8 pm, at Armistice Brewing Company, 845 Marina Bay Parkway, Suite 1, Richmond. $10 tickets include first beer. Children with guardian are free.