Last November, Jessica Fierro traveled back to Colorado after speaking at the annual Chicago Beer Culture Summit. Just one week later, her family changed forever at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. Her daughter's boyfriend was killed by a mass shooter that night, and her husband stopped him from ending more innocent lives.
Nearly one year after the shooting, the local Colorado brewers who were at the center of the tragedy are coming to Chicago to speak publicly in a live forum. Jessica and her husband Richard Fierro will discuss the Club Q shootingand their community's healingat the opening night of this year's Beer Summit on Oct. 18.
Richard and Jessica, the owners and head brewers at Atrevida Beer Company, were at Club Q on Nov. 19, 2022 with their family to watch a performance when the shooter, Anderson Lee-Aldrich ,opened fire on the crowd. Richard, who is a U.S. Army veteran, tackled the shooter and pummeled them with their weapon until police could make the arrest.
Their daughter's boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was one of the five victims. He was 22.
The Fierros posted a statement on the brewery's Facebook page two days after the event: "We are going through a lot of emotions as a family and as a brewery. The loss of lives and the injured are in our hearts. We are devastated and torn. We love our #lgbtq community and stand with them. This cowardly and despicable act of hate has no room in our lives or business. FUCK HATE. It has left us and our community scarred but not broken. Much love to everyone."
One year later, the Fierros are ready to speak about their experiences. The panel, led by the executive director of the Chicago Bruseum Liz Garibay, will explore themes of loss, resilience, queer resistance, and recovering through the strength of community.
Garibay created the Chicago Beer Summit in 2019 to counter the traditional insularity of beer-industry events such as conferences and tasting festivals. Such events are also industry specific, expensive and mainly benefit established professionals. The summit is an annual event where anyone can access the value and community of all these spaces.
Last year, Jessica Fierro spoke on a panel about the beverage industry through the Latinx perspective. This year, she will return with the rest of the Atrevida Beer Company team to show how they've been able to lean on their community for healing and recovery.
"The key thing here is that we will touch on the tragedy, but that is not going to be the focus," Garibay said. "The real focus is about how identity, humanity, and community have played a role in their healing process, but also how they're moving forward as a business, as a family."
At the time of the shooting last year, the brewery still had the Chicago Beer Summit's website in their Instagram bio. Messages and donations started flooding in, and Garibay forwarded it all to the family. This year's summit will be the first time the Fierros will be speaking in a public forum about their experiences.
McKeown, events manager for CHM, worked closely with Garibay and the rest of the team to ensure that the conversation runs smoothly. "I think that having a public space and a public forum for these topics to be addressed, and to give a platform to the people who are speaking out against that," McKeown said. "Fighting back against that, whether it's in a physical way, as Richard and Jessica Fierro did, or in advocacy and outreach, I think that's very important."
McKeown is also responsible for the wellbeing of the event's guests and participants.
"We want to be very conscientious that all of our guests are safe and comfortable as they attend this event with such an important but sometimes difficult topic," she said. "While still being very meaningful, it can be challenging, and we want to be aware of that."
In preparation for the event, organizers have made sure to accommodate the participants who may find the contents of the discussion difficult to hear. They have set up a dark, quiet room nearby where members of the audience can go to decompress. They will also have trigger warnings, mental health resources, and hotline numbers on hand in case any audience member needs direct support.
"I think that's the core of it, the core of this conversation, the core of who they are, the core of what we do is all about community," said McKeown. "And I think that's the main connector. And I think that's why they're coming. That's why we exist. That's why they exist as a brewery, really, to create these safe spaces."
The event takes place on Oct. 18 from 6-9 p.m. at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark . See https://www.chicagobrewseum.org/bcs-full-schedule-of-events/opening-night-an-evening-with-atrevida-brewing.