Home Career Q Club hero Rich Fiera and wife have always been heroes

Q Club hero Rich Fiera and wife have always been heroes

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In the summer of 2018, I commuted from Orange County to Denver and back doing a ton of freelance work. One of my stops was in Colorado Springs, on a topic I don’t normally care about: beer.

I’m more of a bourbon and mezcal fan. But Jess Fierro of Atrevida Beer Co. invited me to visit her family business. She and her husband, Rich, recently opened a small brewery and taproom that was one of the few Latin American breweries in the United States at the time.

Over a crispy campfire, Fiera told me her story. How she and Rich were high school kids growing up in San Diego. How they came to love the art of brewing when Rich was an army officer in Germany in the 2000s. How Jess, a cosmetologist by trade, worked up the courage to take up homebrewing when the Army transferred Rich to Colorado.

Jess talked about the thrill of winning a beer competition that aired on the Vice network. About the fear of turning a hobby into a livelihood. More importantly, she told me, she wanted to make her mark as a Mexican American in an industry that was predominantly white and male.

She was going to do this through beers with pan-Latin flavors like guava and tamarind, which had clever Spanish names. Jess summed up her philosophy with the name “Atrevida,” which translates to “daring” and is commonly used in Mexican Spanish as a term that expresses grudging respect for women who do things they don’t belong.

At one point, her giant husband joined us. The Fierros were warm and funny – and my fans. I took a photo of them in action and they asked for a group photo in return. She immediately posted it on Instagram, noting that she was “humbled and honored” that I stopped by. I left with a promise to visit Atrevid the next time I was in Colorado Springs, and promised that a national article was on the way.

None of this ever happened.

My mother was slowly dying of ovarian cancer. Other freelance assignments took precedence. I found a full-time job that took me away from writing about food. The pandemic has sidelined all stories that aren’t based in Southern California. By the time Atrevida rightfully began to receive national attention, any article I could have written would have been out of date. In the end I lost the notes and photos after dinner with Fierros and had to move on.

They didn’t hurt me. Atrevida Beer Co. from time to time. appeared in the comments of the weekly Instagram Live sessions I host from my personal account. Each time they appeared, I excitedly shut down the brewery and apologized for my years-old oversight. If a friend made his own profile jess and mentioning that we knew each other, she excitedly told him about how I had once visited Atrevid.

Fiera were the first people I thought of when news broke that a gunman had opened fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday night. five people died and 18 were injured.

I prayed for the deceased, mourned our nation’s gun laws, and moved on. I hope Fier wasn’t among the casualties, I thought.

But on Monday afternoon, as I was getting ready to record a podcast episode, an email arrived. A reader asked if I had heard “sad news” about Atrevid.

“Some time ago we were visiting them,” writes the reader, “and saw your photo there, yes [don’t] I don’t know if you are friends or just dropped by.”

I ran through my record, then immediately gathered as much information as I could. I started with Atrevida’s Instagram account, which I realized I wasn’t following. It showed a video of Jess, Rich and some friends hanging out with their daughter Cassie and her boyfriend Raymond Green Vance.

In the caption, Jess revealed they were at Club Q when the gunman, identified by authorities as a 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, shot up the site. Jess wrote that she had bruises on her right side and that Rich injured his hands, knees and ankle while helping to restrain Aldrich.

Cassie broke her knee. Fier’s friends “were shot several times.” Raymond was killed.

“This cowardly and despicable act of hatred has no place in our lives or business.” Fiera wrote. “F–K HATE. It has left us and our community scarred, but not broken. Much love to all.”

Then I read the news about what happened. Rich, who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, lived up to Atrevid’s name. He rushed after his attacker almost immediately—“I grabbed him by the back of his little cheap armor,” he told my colleagues. Other stories revealed that he asked a drag performer to stomp on the gunman with his high heel.

People on social media hailed Rich as a hero. He quickly dismissed such notions, telling the New York Times that he’s “just a dude.”

After the tragedy at the Q Club, the interesting story of Fier and the others who helped stop the carnage is impossible to overcome. It’s especially appealing to Latinos after a year where we played the villain too often, be it Uvalde is a killer or Los Angeles politics whose nasty words about Black, Aohacans and others were the antithesis of the welcoming atmosphere at the Q Club.

It pains me that tragedy is what finally prompted me to write about Fierros and Atrevida Beer Co. But everyone should know that they were heroic long before this horrible weekend.

I remember the marquee outside the merchandise store that said “Variety, it’s always on tap!” — the same logo as on Rich Fier’s immaculate vintage Chevy El Camino. Then Jess shared with me that she had to deal with a lot of racism and sexism in her industry, but she bore it because she had an important platform.

That’s why her company was proud to participate in the LGBTQ parade in Colorado Springs, she said, a bold move in a city with a large number of conservative and evangelical voters. This is what they continued to do during the pandemic. Not only that, but Jess followed through on her stated plans to mentor other women and Latina brewers. She even named some of her foams after Mexican American female icons Dolores Huerta and late Long Beach singer Jenni Rivera.

Alex Clemons, left, and his 11-year-old daughter Epiphania embrace as they pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Q Club in Colorado Springs.

(Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Scrolling through Atrevida’s Instagram account, quickly catching up on the past four years, I reread New York Times profile of Rich. In one segment, he admitted that his night at Club Q was the first time he had attended a drag show.

“These kids want to live like this, they want to have a good time, do it,” he said. “I’m happy about it because that’s what I fought for, so they can do whatever they want.”

If only we were all like that Atrevidas like Fierros.

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