7 facts about Sierra Nevada
A “craft beer pioneer”, the “seventh-largest brewery in the USA”, located in “sunny California” – all these and more form the background of the Sierra Nevada Brewery, whose two production sites are located in Chico (California) and Mills River (North Carolina). Enough reason, then, to take a closer look at the American brewery – with 7 exciting facts about its history, quality and sustainability.
#1 It all started with a passion – from hobby brewer to beer revolutionary
It all started with the visionary idea of Ken Grossman to brew a beer that exactly suited his tastes. This vision grew into one of the most innovative breweries in the USA, bringing new creative beer specialties onto the market every year. But despite today’s success, everything started out small. Grossman learnt the basics of brewing from the father of a friend – and found immediate joy in this traditional craft. To turn his passion into a career, in 1976 he opened a shop in downtown Chico, California, selling everything needed for home brewing: The Home Brew Shop. For three years he swapped tips with other brewers, learnt more about ingredients and set off to find the best types of hops. This was the basis for his later success –already in 1980, Grossman took the decisive step of founding the Sierra Nevada Brewery. In the early 80s, however, the number of beer producers in southern California was vanishingly small, as was the market for brew kettles and equipment. Necessity is the mother of invention: Grossman built his first facility himself using various milk production machines. A true pioneer!
#2 A piece of Germany in the USA
In 1984, the young brewery grew under Ken Grossman’s leadership and was soon unable to meet demand with its equipment as it was. A new brew kettle was needed. And where is it best to look for high-quality brewing equipment? Correct, in Germany of course! As luck would have it, Grossman found a perfect one for sale and set off to Germany spontaneously with his high school friend Dave Sheetz to help in the disassembly of the bronze-colored, hand-made kettle. The German workers didn’t believe that the American could ever rebuild the brew kettle once dismantled into its many separate parts. But Grossman, well versed in craftsmanship, proved them wrong, and reassembled the kettle in his brewery in Chico, southern California.
#3 Put good things in, get good things out
Good results come only from good raw materials – a philosophy that is lived by at Sierra Nevada. Already at the start, when Ken Grossman still ran the Home Brew Shop, the pioneer placed great importance on high-quality hops and traveled for his customers across most of the country to purchase for them from the best hop growers. Today too, the selection of brewing ingredients takes place to the strictest standards; the brewery only works with select hops to produce a very special hoppy flavor – unique, pure and unclouded. The water they use is also subject to high quality standards and has been naturally filtered by passing through various rock strata over thousands of years. And there’s more: In the 90s, Sierra Nevada used fresh hops for the first time in its Holidaybrew – creating a real sensation among craft beer enthusiasts. From the field to the brew kettle – a trend that has continued to this day. Because in the meantime, these wet hops beers have become a constant presence in the brewery’s range, exciting hops fans around the world.
#4 Tradition meets innovation – when small ideas make big ones
When traditional brewing craft meets innovative ideas, the creations that result are the delight of all beer connoisseurs. Taking great steps towards the future, but never losing sight of tradition, Sierra Nevada is always setting new benchmarks. Whether it’s bottle conditioning, open fermentation, dry hops processes or whole cone hops – as a family firm with a storied history, what was once a one-man show has now become one of the best-known and most recognized American craft beer breweries worldwide, one that has never stopped following its passion for brewing.
#5 Anything but ordinary – Sierra Nevada stands for special flavor
A beer with the sweet flavor of sticky maple syrup, recalling the snow-covered expanses of Canada. A session beer, whose dark roasted coffee flavors set the taste buds quivering. Simply unusual, simply different. This traditional company does not rest on its laurels but is always adding new creations to its beloved classics. Modern types of hops, reminiscent in their tropical sweetness of mango and papaya; beer matured in tequila casks with hints of lime and agave – this is brewing reimagined. Sierra Nevada proved in 2011 that even initially bizarre combinations can create a harmonious whole, with one of their legendary, infamous limited editions: Pink, made of Jelly Belly Beans, the Saison De Haricot is the explicit proof that great flavor can be made even from unusual ingredients.
#6 Sierra Nevada – an inspiration for many young brewing talents
Innovative techniques, carefully selected raw materials and a sustainable working method – in all conceivable ways, Sierra Nevada keeps pace with the times, developing further every day. Staying still is not an option for these passionate beer enthusiasts. So, it is not surprising that the company is an inspiration for many young brewing talents. Whether it’s using fresh hops or developing a modern dry hopping mechanism, the Hop Torpedo – Sierra Nevada was and is still part of the American craft beer revolution. And rightly so: After all, at the heart of the tranquil Mills River site is a pilot brewery where experts not only think up new flavor combinations but also make their ideas reality. Added to this, the real fans call the brewery “Malt Disney” – true appreciation!
#7 Brewing beer with the power of the sun
Only through the sustainable handling of nature can long-term success be achieved. Sierra Nevada is as innovative in its treatment of our planet’s resources as it is creative with its specialty beers. Already in 2004, Ken Grossman had 250-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cells installed on the company site; in 2007, the first solar-panels went up on the roof. As we know, the sun shines with great regularity in California, and Grossman is now owner of one of the largest solar parks in the state. More than 10,000 panels provide over 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The second company location, in North Carolina, even received “Leadership in Energy and Environment Design Platinum Status” for its resource-conserving working methods in 2016. Today, ultra-modern Tesla batteries store the energy produced, in order to use it for the production of the company’s unusual beers. Sustainability at its best!