California, which is home to more than 700,000 American Indians, accommodates the most tribal-operated casinos in the U.S., with 76 gaming facilities currently owned by 73 of 109 federally recognized tribes in the state.
First Nation casinos date back to the 1970s when Native American tribes established bingo operations to help raise money to fund needed tribal operations. Half a century later, there are now more than 450 Indian casinos across 29 states, with California-based operations generating fully 25% of total U.S. tribal gaming revenue.
Even so, Bo Mazzetti isn’t convinced that gaming will always be a reliable economic driver for Native communities. Mazzetti is in his fifth term as chairman of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians in Valley Center, a tribe that was established in 1875 and is a federally recognized sovereign government.
“I’ve always looked at gaming as a temporary gift,” Mazzetti said.
The Rincon Band owns Harrah’s Resort Southern California and use the casino resort’s profits to provide government services, cultural programs and economic development resources for tribal members and surrounding communities.
Mazzetti, the tribe’s leader since 2007 and chairman of the California Tribal Chairpersons Association, said he has long believed that the band should not stake its entire financial future on its casino operations. “Gaming may not be here forever,” he said. “So, what you do is you take the proceeds and invest into other businesses.”
Rincon Reservation Road Brewery Comes Hopping In
And that’s what the tribe has done — most notably with Rincon Reservation Road Brewery, also known as 3R Brewery. Backed by the Rincon Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), the tribe says that it offers the only Native American-made beers produced at a brewery actually located on a reservation in all of California.
The on-site craft brewery on Rincon land in Valley Center initially opened in 2018 as SR76 Beerworks and was managed by an outside entity. After that business folded, the tribe started over in 2020 with its own leadership and a new name.
The 3R brewery is cozy, with wooden tables and high ceilings. Local bands play live music outdoors, where there is additional seating.
After nearly two years of COVID-19 delays, Rincon opened a tasting room in Ocean Beach earlier this year, taking over the Newport Avenue spot where Belching Beaver Brewery was for four years until it closed in late 2020.
REDCO Board member Rik Mazzetti, a cousin of Bo Mazzetti, is helping run both endeavors.
“To actually be able to rebrand and put our name out there, with Rincon Reservation Road Brewery, we are so proud of that,” Rik Mazzetti said. “We are proud of the fact that we produce this ourselves and also that it is very good. We’ve been to the San Diego Food and Wine Festival, and we were recognized as the best beer there, as a new brewer.”
Earlier this year, Rik Mazzetti hired brew master Zeth Devore of Temecula to oversee the creation of 3R Brewery beers. Devore had been working for some other brew spots including Garage Brewing Co. in Murrieta and was looking for “something new” when he heard about the opening at 3R Brewery in February.
“I’ve implemented some things I learned at Garage, but on a different scale here,” he said. “The plan is to have 3R become a more widely known and recognized name. We hope to join with other breweries and collaborate to get noticed more. I think expansion is always the goal, too.”
Beers With Meaning – Chief, Rez Dog, Tuupash
Some of the ingredients for the different beers Devore has created – with names that pay homage to the tribe’s heritage like Chief, Rez Dog, Luiseño, Tuupash (the Luiseño word for “sky”) and Red Rattler — are sourced from tribal land. Bo Mazzetti said the tribe is looking at some point to grow its own hops and barley. That idea is part of an overarching self-sufficiency business mindset and long-term planning model that the tribe holds close.
In addition to the brewery and tasting room, 3R beers can be found in North County Costco stores, BevMo stores, different market spots throughout Valley Center and at other local casinos. 3R Brewery products are also available at San Diego Zoo Safari Park and have been at Disneyland California Adventure since March after being featured at the Food & Wine Festival.
The sales push outside the tribe’s borders brings great pride to Rincon leaders, including both Mazzettis and REDCO Board Chairwoman Ruth-Ann Thorn.
Tribal leaders in 2009 formed REDCO, a Section 17 Corporation wholly owned by the Rincon Band, hoping for this kind of success. The goal from the start, they said, has been to promote the economic development of the Rincon Band, seeking to mainstream market Native culture offerings to the San Diego region and educate people about the tribe.
The Rincon Reservation Road Brewery name was chosen to honor the road that the ancestral Luiseño people traveled, a trail along the San Luis Rey River that ran from headwaters located in the Warner Hot Springs area of Palomar Mountain to its mouth at modern-day Oceanside.
Along the way on the indigenous, historical trail there were tribal villages at Rincon and Pauma, where tribe members would stop to visit friends and relatives. Today, the road runs through several modern-day Indian reservations including Rincon, Pauma, Pechanga, Soboba, Pala and La Jolla.
Rincon Reservation Road Brewery (3R Brewery)
CHAIRMAN (REDCO): Rik Mazzetti
HEADQUARTERS: Valley Center
BUSINESS: Brewing company
EMPLOYEES: 11 (including OB tasting room)
CONTACT: (760) 651-6572
SOCIAL IMPACT: 3R Brewery helps support the needs for government, infrastructure and more for thousands of First Nation residents across the region.
NOTABLE: The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians have been around for more than 14,000 years and its Rincon Reservation Road is a historical area that runs through several Indian communities including Rincon, Pechanga, Soboba, Pala, Pauma and La Jolla.