- Griffin Swartzell
Springs resident Jessica Fierro thought she was entering just another amateurs-only brewing contest. Imagine her surprise when she found out who was throwing it.
"One of the assistant producers from Viceland called me... Viceland is on my TV like 24 hours a day, so I immediately got extremely intimidated."
On Thursday, May 18, Fierro will appear on Beerland, a new show on the Viceland cable channel, produced by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Budweiser-producing multinational corporation known for buying out small craft breweries, a homebrew supplier and at least one major hop farm. Over the course of the series, Fierro's beer will be considered against amateur brews from five states. If hers is selected as best in show, then she'll get to brew for national distribution at show host Meg Gill's Golden Road Brewing (owned by AB InBev, naturally) in Los Angeles.
Fierro has been homebrewing for eight years. She picked up the hobby in Heidelberg, Germany, while her husband, Richard, was stationed there. At the time, though, she did not enjoy beer. But she made the shift and developed a taste for entirely pragmatic reasons.
"Turns out it's cheaper to drink beer than anything else," she says. While living in Germany, she didn't just grow to accept beer, she fell in love with the stuff, exploring the huge variety of styles available to her in the region. When Richard was called back to the U.S., they wound up in Colorado Springs, where they've lived ever since.
Appropriately enough, Fierro's favorite styles to brew are Belgian, German and Czech, her favorite being Belgian witbier. Of course, she adds her own twists, adding a "Latina flair" by incorporating flavors she experienced growing up. She's particularly proud of a churro witbier she's made several versions of over the years.
Of those, she talks about the drunken churro wit, made with coriander and agave, aged on cinnamon sticks. Most people who try it get the cinnamon, she says, but they usually can't pick out the agave.
"You get a little bit of a boozy hit, which I like," she says, adding that one taster described it as "almost like Christmas came to visit in summer."
If she wins, Fierro hopes to leave her career as a cosmetologist behind and open her own brewery. She wants to be an inspiration for women, especially other Chicanas, driving them to seek leadership positions in the brewing world.
"I think there's so few of us represented... as a whole in the industry, I think women are typically put in supporting roles, and I would like to be able to bridge that gap gender-wise and hopefully build a bridge culturally."