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It’s noon on a Thursday, and a group of white straight cis-men gathers in a low-ceilinged taproom in the Northwest corner of Denver, CO. They’re celebrating a bachelor party. Perhaps they notice the rainbow transgender flags hanging on a string above the bar. Maybe they see the sign next to the taps of a cowboy with a pistol that states, “We’ll have no misgendering in this saloon, partner,” or the bright yellow tin tacker that says, “Danger WoMen Brewing,” with the “Wo” drawn in front of “Men.” Have they seen the pink unicorn piñata with a gold horn? They’ve certainly noticed their bartender, the smiling, short-haired, tatted girl giving them beer after beer. That’s Goldspot Owner and Brewer Kelissa Hieber, a constant in the brewhouse or sometimes behind the bar.
Walk in to the taproom any given day and you’ll find an array of people as colorful as the New Progress Pride flag. In other words, Goldspot has gained recognition as a welcoming, safe taproom for all in the community. But this day, Hieber’s slinging in her brewery to your more typical craft beer demographic.
“I’m the best person to be with them,” says Hieber, who mentions that once they found out she owned the place, they kept telling her, “This is the coolest f**king place ever. That’s so cool [you own a brewery]. You’re so young and so dope.”
Six beers in, “they were just having a blast and were like, ‘I’m going to tell every single person ever to come here,” she laughs. “It was such a night. We were just connecting with people, and that was really nice.”
That’s how it goes at Goldspot, a one hundred percent Queer- and woman-owned brewery in Denver.
People of all ages, races, identities, genders, and more come into Goldspot because they know they’re going to get a damn good beer and they’re going to feel safe drinking it.
At Goldspot, you’ll feel seen, cared for, and golden.
Something Hieber has sought to bring to craft beer since the very beginning.
From Brewing Macchiatos to Brewing Heavy Metal Beer
Hieber fell in love with craft beer early. Pretty much as soon as she could by all legal accounts.
She started homebrewing at twenty-one, a hobby she picked up along with snowboarding from her former partner. “I’ll appreciate that forever,” she says.
Initially interested in professional organizing around racial rights, workers’ rights, and Queer rights, Hieber quickly realized that industry didn’t seem sustainable.
But beer spoke to her. “I’m ADHD as f**k, so it was like, we got history, science, art, the whole thing, and I just fell in love with it immediately and [knew] I wanted to try to open a brewery,” says Hieber.
From day one, she wanted her dream brewery to implement a very social, justice-driven model, a combination of her two passions.
Native to Ohio, Hieber felt she couldn’t pursue her hobby in her home state, especially as a young Queer woman.
So at twenty-four, Hieber moved to Denver, CO, getting a job at the Regis University Starbucks.
She says, “I think my dad messaged me saying, ‘Hey, [Regis] is starting an applied craft beer program. I was like, I’m taking a break. Dad, help me with my resume!”
Hieber says she was the first person to put in her application to Regis’ new Applied Craft Brewing Certificate Program.
She especially wanted to join because a part of the program included a stint working at a real brewery.
Hieber actually scored an internship at a then-fledgling TRVE—now one of Denver’s most well-known breweries with a heavy focus on metal music.
“It was hilarious because I am the least metal person who has ever worked there,” she says. Regardless, the brewery hired her as a part-time cellarman the day after her internship ended.
It was her first actual beer job.
Since the job only required part of her time, Hieber picked up bartending shifts at the recently opened Goldspot Brewing, owned by Matt Hughes and Alex Sward, in 2015.
By January 2016, Hughes and Sward hired Hieber as the full-time assistant brewer.
Two years later, the duo sold the brewery to Ryan and Winnie DuBois, with Hieber purchasing a thirty-percent stake.
“At twenty-nine [years old], I didn’t have the amount of money I needed to buy the whole thing,” says Hieber. “But Matt said he’d give us a better discount if I were a part of it because all the other people who were shopping would have probably turned [the brewery] into like a Denver Beer Co. version seven.”
Hieber believed in the brewery and its power to become a pillar in the community.
So much so that in February 2021, she bought out the DuBoises to assume full ownership, making Goldspot a one hundred percent Queer- and women-owned brewery.
At just over thirty years old, Hieber became the sole owner of a business she could now shape and mold into the socially minded community brewery she’d only dreamed of as a homebrewer.
Goldspot Becomes the Gold Standard of Breweries in Denver
Today, Goldspot is known as a welcoming taproom for all people no matter how they identify.
Hieber built that foundation brick by brick.
When she first took over, she says she hired “every Queer person I could” and began finding ways to give back to her community.
She says she needed people on her team who wanted to buy into her plan to “make a f**king difference,” she says.
“I always say I could make the best beer in the world, but if my servers suck and the rest of it sucks, then my beer will suck,” says Hieber.
She needed people like Lanie Novak, Goldspot’s former bar manager who became Hieber’s second in command, helping to grow the business.
“Goldspot would not still be around if [Lanie] wasn’t a part of it,” says Hieber.
With a dedicated staff, Hieber started to change the taproom’s culture.
Now Goldspot is “an inclusive space that people can just hang out in … a place to actually have a real community,” says Hieber.
And while the taproom certainly attracts many people who identify as Queer, you’ll also find a bachelor party of white cis-men, for example. Or even older dads who come in just to drink good beer.
“Sometimes you’re like, all right, we’re having the only normal positive conversation you’ve had with a Queer person that you actually know is Queer, and you’re acknowledging is Queer,” says Hieber. “You leave with some sort of common respect, which is nice.”
Common respect and a common love over one thing: beer.
“I have no idea what their political beliefs are … but at least in our space, it’s pretty gay, obviously, but beer can just be that bridge point,” says Hieber.
At Goldspot, Beer Is the Universal Language
The beer speaks loudly at Goldspot. Those like Gender Fluid, an Italian pilsner that initially started as a beer to raise money for one of the Goldspot bartender’s gender-affirming surgery. Matching the amount raised from $1 per pint poured, Hieber morphed that beer into a series, donating to a different organization every time, such as Denver Community Fridges or the Transformative Freedom Fund.
Or This Beer F*cks, a collaboration with the food truck The Easy Vegan. The session IPA with passion fruit donated ten percent of all proceeds to LGBTQIA+ organizations fighting for Queer rights in Texas, Tennessee, and Florida.
The third or fourth recipe Hieber ever wrote, Unicorn Floatie, is a hefeweizen with strawberry puree from a women-owned producer.
Hieber says this beer was the first time she did something “stupid and gay to see if people would still drink it.”
They did, and then some. “I always love when a big burly dude is like, “Can I get the Unicorn Floatie,’” chirps Hieber.
Essentially like a strawberry banana smoothie, Unicorn Floatie “is always good. Sometimes juicier, sometimes a little more tart, but always what you want it to be,” says Hieber. Which is just a crushingly refreshing beer to drink in the summer.
Goldspot’s in-house designer Cat Vasquez created the label. “I asked for Lisa Frank realness, and she delivered,” says Hieber. Sporting a bright pink and purple label with a cute unicorn caricature bouncing along a rainbow in a pool ring, Unicorn Floatie is just pure summer fun.
Goldspot Donates Tens of Thousands Through Events and Beers
Speaking of fun, along with brewing beers with a mission, Goldspot started hosting weekly events that, for the most part, support the Queer community. Everything from Queer Dungeons & Dragons to craft markets featuring Queer-owned businesses to open mic nights with Queer performers and gay dance parties.
One of Hieber’s favorite events, Homos and Homies, invites a BIPOC vegan food truck—Cholo Ass Vegan—and a Queer-owned one—The Easy Vegan—along with Queer artists and vendors to set up on Goldspot’s patio.
As Hieber tells it, Homos and Homies started after a particularly raucous night at Goldspot during another Queer event called Queertoberfest. The owners of Cholo Ass Vegan and The Easy Vegan got pretty toasty. “Cholo Ass Vegan was like we f**king love you guys. And The Easy Vegan was like, we f**king love you. And they were [both] like, we f**king love this place, so let’s start an intersectional [event]!”
Today, the love lives on, with ten percent of all sales raised during Homos and Homies going to a different local food justice or advocacy group.
At a recent event, Goldspot raised $300, with each participating vendor donating too, bringing the grand total to a couple of thousand dollars. Hieber tries to host one every quarter, saying, “It’s the most racially diverse that you’ll ever see at the brewery, especially in Denver. … It’s really diversifying the type of people that come into the space. … You’re just hanging out with friends, raising money; it’s always a poppin’ time. … Everyone is in a good mood; the vendors are doing well; it’s very cool.”
According to Hieber, through these events and beers, Goldspot has donated “tens of thousands of dollars at this point in the last couple of years.”
Hieber laughs, “My dad always jokes that you’re not an NGO. ”
But that doesn’t matter. And Hieber will never stop developing new ideas to support intersectional rights.
Goldspot x Everywhere Is Queer Start Out Loud Beer Project
Most recently, Hieber teamed up with Everywhere Is Queer Founder Charlie Sprinkman to start the Out Loud Beer Project, a collaborative beer recipe open to anyone to brew as long as they donate twenty-five percent of all profits to Everywhere Is Queer and a Queer non-profit of the collaborating brewery’s choice.
The aim, Hieber says, is to be a Queer version of Black Is Beautiful, an initiative started by Weathered Souls Brewing Co-Founder Marcus Baskerville to “bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily.” The collaborative beer project accumulated 1,601 participating breweries and allied trade participants representing 50 states and 28 countries. It has also raised more than $5.1M for 501c3 organizations. And recently announced the launch of Volume 2 on July 17, 2023, to raise $1 million for the National Black Brewers Association.
Out Loud started with a collab at 10 Barrel Brewing in Portland, OR, and recently brewed another beer with Denver-local Fiction Beer Company with proceeds benefitting the Transformative Freedom Fund.
If you’re interested in participating, read more here.
A Queer-Owned Brewery, Not a Gay Bar
Hieber says the brewery recently added something new to all of Goldspot’s canned beers.
All labels now sport the words “Queer-owned and woman-owned.”
“You’re kind of scared to put that out there sometimes,” says Hieber. But so far, the feedback has been positive. “Some of it may be just be trying to meet some diversity quarter. But I’ll be your token gay if you like,” says Hieber. “Maybe the people who wouldn’t like it probably won’t be nice, which is also acceptable.”
Queer-owned, women-owned, however you describe Goldspot, just don’t call it a gay bar.
“I get the question all the time: Are you a gay bar?” says Hieber. “I want no part of that. I would never identify with something like that because traditionally [gay bars] have been really problematic—a lot of transphobia, racism, and sexism.”
All things Goldspot will not tolerate. Signs around the taproom state that racism and homophobia won’t stand.
Hieber even hired Safe Bars, an organization that helps bars, restaurants, and breweries, create safe and welcoming cultures, to train her entire staff, giving them tools to handle situations in the taproom.
“If you have someone being a misogynist and … speaking so loudly to the group of people they’re with so that the whole taproom can hear it … how can you safely de-escalate that?” says Hieber.
Hieber emphasizes that with an entirely Queer staff, she only encourages employees to act if they feel safe.
For the last two years, Hieber and her team have helped turn Goldspot into something extraordinary, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, one might say.
In the future, Hieber hopes to eventually expand to a second location in one of Colorado’s mountain towns, bringing Goldspot’s magical space to places outside of Denver.
But for now, Hieber says the all-important vibe at Goldspot boils down to a simple statement: “As long as you’re not an asshole, you have a place here,” she says. “If you’re cool, beers for you; just don’t be a f**king dick, that’s the policy.”