Atrevida Beer out of beer after supporters flock to Colorado Springs

The kegs have been mostly empty at Atrevida Beer Co., and the brewery’s merchandise is completely sold out. The last few weeks have been among the brewery’s busiest ever, after the Nov. 19 mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs focused international attention directly on its owners, Jess and Rich Fierro and their small business.

“We’ve had an incredible amount of support,” Jess said. “It’s been overwhelming in the most beautiful way.”

The Fierros and daughter Kassy were at Club Q that night attending a drag show when a gunman walked in and fatally shot five people and injured more than a dozen others. Raymond Green Vance, Kassy’s 22-year-old boyfriend, was killed. Rich, a U.S. Army veteran, tackled, disarmed and beat the gunman, a heroic act that police have said saved many lives.

When news about the Fierros involvement in the Club Q shooting got out, drinkers showed up “literally in droves,” Jess said, draining several months worth of beer in just a few days, while letters of gratitude flooded the brewery’s mailbox. Friends both inside and outside of the beer world offered donated or discounted kegs and additional staff so the bar could remain open. Those who couldn’t attend in person bought merchandise from the brewery’s virtual shop — orders that may take weeks or months to fill because it doesn’t keep much backstock.

The outpouring of love and support has helped fuel the family the last month because, while mourning Vance, they have been in and out of the hospital with Kassy, who sustained a knee injury after slipping and falling during the chaos at Club Q and needed surgery. Jess, meanwhile, suffered injuries to her ribs and lower back during the pandemonium.

Rich and Jess have been sharing their story locally and nationally, even joining “The Drew Barrymore Show” as guests in mid-December, an appearance that helped raise about $50,000 for the Colorado Healing Fund, which benefits victims and survivors of Club Q.

“The show was an incredible experience,” Jess said. But the couple has turned down offers to do additional TV appearances for the sake of their mental health.

“Mentally and emotionally, you know, it’s a process,” said Jess. “We’re minute-by-minute, second-by-second at this point. We never know what’s going to trigger one or the other.”

A Latina’s legacy

Club Q drew international attention to Atrevida Beer Co., but it wasn’t the first time the Fierros have been in the spotlight as small business owners.

Jess, who is the head brewer, first developed her passion for beer and learned to homebrew while the family was stationed abroad in Europe during Rich’s military tenure.

She later competed in and won the first season of Vice TV’s homebrew competition, “Beerland,” with a tamarind-infused Bière de Garde inspired by childhood days spent cooking alongside her abuela. That scored her a deal with California’s Golden Road Brewing, which brewed, canned and distributed the beer, Doña Neta.

Shortly thereafter in 2018, Jess opened Atrevida Beer Co., at 204 Mt View Lane in Colorado Springs, as something of an homage to her Latin heritage. The word atrevida means a daring or bold woman in Spanish, and the brewery prominently showcases Mexican ingredients like lime and the Oaxacan delicacy chapulines, or crickets. Atrevida’s Drunken Churro is a Belgian wit-style beer spiced with cinnamon and agave.

The brewery has also been a staunch advocate for representation in the craft beer industry, where women and Latinos account for 23.7% and 2.2% of brewery owners, respectively, according to a 2021 survey by trade group the Brewers Association. Atrevida’s motto is “Diversity, it’s on tap.”

“Before this event, we were opening our doors to everyone and trying to be inclusive to all cultures, all genders, all everything,” Rich said. “As horrible as the circumstances are, it is still beautiful to see so many walks of life come in the door and sit down and have a beer together.”

Atrevida is the very definition of a micro operation. It has just six employees, including the three Fierros, and brewed only 160 barrels of beer in 2021, or roughly 320 kegs, according to the BA. Assistant brewer Tasha Bestwina is now brewing again and Jess started slowly bringing back her house-made beers last week.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Kassy is also a brewer. In early 2022, she was selected as the recipient of the Professional Certificate in Craft Beer Diversity Award from San Diego State University, which included a scholarship and a paid internship at Coronado Brewing Co. in California. She was visiting home on break when the Club Q shooting took place.

  • Atrevida Beer Co. December 23, 2022. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Bracelets like this one photographed December 23, 2022 are sold for $1 at Atravida Beer Co. Proceeds from the sale of the bracelets that also carry the Atrevida Beer Co. logo go to the Colorado Healing Fund. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Patrons line up at the bar on a busy evening at Atrevida Beer Co. December 23, 2022. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Atrevida Beer Co. was busy with regular customers and new customers December 23, 2022. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Joe Romano, left, and his daughter, Jasmine Romano share beers Atrevida Beer Co. December 23, 2022 during her holiday visit from New Zealand. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Will Shaffer, foreground, and his brother, Andrew Shaffer, pick up their beers at the bar at Atrevida Beer Co. December 23, 2022. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Left to right, Joe Loyall and M.B. Partlow-Loyall and their daughters Nikko Partlow-Loyall and Lucy Partlow-Loyall laugh together during a visit to Atrevida Beer Co. December 23, 2022. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

  • Atrevida Beer Co. December 23, 2022. Jess and Rich Fierro, co-owners of the Colorado Springs brewery and bar, were at Club Q the night a shooter walked in and took five lives, injuring dozens more in the process. Rich helped incapacitate the shooter and Atrevida has had lots of customers support the business. (Photo by Mark Reis/Special to The Denver Post)

“Unfortunately, we’re going to see this again”

Eric Steen recalls meeting Jess, Rich and Kassy during the 10th anniversary of Beers Made By Walking, a program he founded as a way to combine beer and nature. BMBW takes brewers on hikes to find inspiration for ingredients in their local environment. The Fierros big smiles, friendly demeanors and community-centric attitudes stuck with Steen long after the event.

When he heard the family was involved with the Club Q shooting, he felt shock, sadness and also relief that Rich was there to subdue the shooter.

“You just don’t expect anything like that to happen to anyone you care for or that you know,” Steen said. “Everyone is thankful for [Rich] and what he did. It’s extraordinary.”

But the Fierros will also have to get back to business because they have a brewery to run. And while they are focused on recovering and healing from the trauma they experienced that night at Club Q, they will continue to uphold their mission to welcome everyone in for a beer, Rich said.

Since the company now has a wide-reaching platform – Atrevida’s Instagram alone exploded to almost 80,000 followers – it will also continue to raise awareness and money for worthwhile causes, especially those affected by the Club Q shooting. Atrevida is currently promoting several fundraising campaigns that directly benefit the victims’ families, as well as campaigns for those injured who will be out of work or do not have health insurance.

“This is highlighted right now, but this is a lifetime of pain and hurt and remembrance and memorial. At the end of the day, thank you to everyone that has given, but also understand this is still a thing. Unfortunately, we’re going to see this again,” Jess said.

“The message is there’s more power in numbers and how do we come together? How do we be kind, be nice, love each other? It’s really that simple sometimes.”

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