By Dylan Hochstedler
It’s a hombrewer’s dream: Craft a beer that flawlessly displays your heritage, enter it in a competition competing against other homebrewers throughout the country, win the competition and the thrill of getting to brew the beer at a large-scale brewery where it will be nationally distributed.
Easier said than done for most people, but for Jess Fierro, a proud Latina homebrewer from Colorado Springs, it is a dream come true.
Meg Gill, founder of Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewery teamed up with VICE News to film Beerland - a TV series that followed her around five different states as she searched for the best homebrewer she could find. During her journey, Gill travelled to California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico and New York and had the privilege of meeting several homebrewers and sampling all kinds of unique beer along the way.
Fierro brewed a Biere de Garde for the competition, which translates to a “beer for keeping.” Biere de Garde is a style of beer that was first brewed during the colder months in French farmhouses to avoid unpredictable problems with the yeast. Fierro differentiated her beer from the traditional style by adding tamarind, a tropical plant that boasts both sweet and tart flavors.
“When I started the whole process of learning about beer, we started exploring the large variety of styles and I thought it was cool how anybody could become a beer lover. When I explored more flavors, I realized, ‘oh my gosh, there is something out there for everybody,’” Fierro explained.
As a Latina homebrewer, Fierro loves to use Latin flavors and ingredients whenever possible. She named the beer Doña Neta, as a way of paying homage to both her Latin culture and her grandmother, who she says has always been a huge influence in her life. She explained that like saying “ma’am,” the term “Doña” is a way of paying respect in the Latin culture. “Neta” is a shortened version of her grandmother’s name.
Prior to the competition starting, Fierro admits that she had no idea what she was getting herself into. She is part of a group of lady brewers that recently brewed a beer called, Makin Noise: A Pussy Riot Beer, that was brewed in combat of hate and intolerance in order to fight for equality for all. One of the members asked the group if a homebrewer was available to make a beer for a competition and Fierro volunteered, thinking it was more of a regional competition.
Next thing she knew, an assistant producer from VICE was calling her, asking her all kinds of questions. “It was intimidating,” she said, as she explained how she almost pulled herself out of the competition when she realized how big it was. Luckily, her daughter was able to convince her to stay in, which more than paid off for her.
After winning the Colorado episode, Fierro moved on to the finals, which featured Gill’s top picks from every state she had visited. She was crowned the winner June 1 on VICELAND, VICE’s TV channel.
The competition has opened several doors for Fierro, who says her dream is to one day open her own brewery. “As far as my goal from here on out, I will definitely pursue this and I am open to any opportunity that comes to me and I will try to pursue opening my own place.”
She says that she would love to become one of the first professional Latina brewers in the state and share her craft and heritage with everyone. Her Doña Neta has already been brewed at Golden Road in Los Angeles and was scheduled to hit the market June 1. Look for it in Colorado liquor stores soon.