Golden Road Brewing
“I wanted to vomit and smile the entire time. It was so nerve wracking.”
That’s how Jessica Fierro described the feeling of being on the Viceland show Beerland, which features Golden Road Brewing founder Meg Gill scouring the country for a homebrew worthy of distribution. As it turns out, Fierro had nothing to worry about -- she won the whole dang thing. And now her beer, a tamarind-kissed bière de garde called Doña Neta, is available in cans all over this great (beer) land.
What makes Fierro’s story even more interesting is that she has a job that, on the surface, has absolutely nothing to do with brewing beer: Fierro is a cosmetologist. (Don’t worry: I had to look it up, too.) “It includes everything from hair designing to haircutting and coloring,” she says. “As a barber, that means straight shaving, fading, and all of the techniques that come from both of those worlds.” And while it doesn’t necessarily mean that whoever gives you a $15 shape-up at Supercuts is going to be the next Mitch Steele, Fierro says that her knack for coloring hair helped her understand how exciting brewing beer could be.
“I fell in love with the color formulation side of cosmetology,” she says. “I was always obsessed with the fact that you can create [a color] specific just to you. When I learned how beer was brewed, I realized that there was no cap on innovation or creativity. And you can [also] make beer that’s exclusive just to you. I was completely enthralled with that whole thought process.”
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Fierro first got into homebrewing about eight years ago when her husband, who was in the military at the time, was stationed in Germany. She didn’t exactly take to beer right away. “At that point, I wasn’t a huge fan of beer,” she explains. “All I knew was what my father drank -- Tecate and Coors. But it turned out that it was cheaper in Germany to buy beer than anything else! I quickly learned to love beer out there.” Lesson learned: if any country is going to turn you on to beer (and eating large quantities of tubed meats), it’s Germany.
Eventually, the couple resettled in Colorado Springs, Colorado -- and when Gill heard about Fierro’s homebrew and showed up at her home to try it, Gill liked the tamarind beer enough to invite Fierro to compete on the show, where she ended up beating out brewers from Hawaii, New York, New Mexico, and California.
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If tamarind seems like a very unique ingredient in beer -- well, it certainly is. But it’s not just a gimmicky adjunct. Though Fierro is from San Diego, she spent time growing up in Mexico with her grandmother, Neta (the beer’s namesake), who would make tamarind candy balls for Fierro to sell. “I wanted a base that was going to be subtle and would complement the tamarind and vice versa,” she says about the beer. “I didn’t want either one to compete with the other.” Thus, the clean base bière de garde allows the tamarind to shine as the star of the show, resulting in a seriously refreshing farmhouse beer with a fruit finish that tastes familiar and new all at once.
Fierro says she hopes to one day open up a Latin-inspired brewery. And though she’s a fan of many different styles of beer, she’s certainly gifted at brewing beer with an unconventional, Latin-inspired perspective. So we asked her to single out some of her favorite local Colorado beers that are similarly influenced by flavors and beer styles found south of the border:
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“This is a beautiful beer. Spicy, too. The heat keeps you wanting to drink more. It’s very smart.” (The beer also won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival...NBD.)
Poncha Springs, CO
“This is a horchata-based [imperial porter]. When I first tried it, I was blown away. It’s so rich and malty. You do get that horchata flavor in it, but it’s not overpowering and it doesn’t take from the style or from the flavoring.”
“Mexican Lager is a style that breweries are embracing, which is exciting for me. Ska has a great Mexican lager. I’m in San Diego now, and Fall Brewing also has a terrific Mexican lager.” (She also mentioned she’s excited to try the Mexican lager collaboration between the band Sublime and AleSmith Brewing Company called 40oz to Freedom. Frankly, so are we.)
Note: Golden Road Brewing is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.