A rainy day seemed like a great time to tour the east coast branch of Edward’s favorite beer, Sierra Nevada. The facility is in Mills River, just ten minutes from camp. The tour got off to a great start – a glass of Pale Ale while we learn the history of the Sierra Nevada brewery. Ken Grossman was another of the extremely gifted youth of the late 60’s who didn’t enjoy school. Imagine that? What he did enjoy was hiking & biking in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mts. He moved to Chico, CA as soon as he graduated from high school. Ken used his mechanical skills to work in bike repair shops so he could stay in his beloved mountains. Ken's real fascination was with the home brewery scene that was just beginning in the US. All the American beer being produced was a light lager. When he finally opened the first Sierra Nevada plant in 1980, 90% of the tasters hated it! But 10% loved it & that was enough for Ken.
The first factory was made using old dairy equipment, powered by car wash heaters! Now that’s an entrepreneur! His signature taste of the citrus pine hops of WA gathered a following & by 1983 he was ready to expand. Ken discovered a defunct brewery in Germany selling their copper setup at scrap metal prices, $15K. What he didn’t know was, he would have to dismantle & crate it by himself and spend over $45K to ship it to CA. The Germans laughed, saying he would never be able to reassemble it! It took over four to make enough money to implement the new equipment!
Construction began on the current Chico site in 1987 eventually producing 100,000 barrels of beer! That’s a staggering 31,000,000 bottles of beer by 1993! Demand eventually created a second brew house in Chico. By 2014, another site was needed & NC was chosen! Yahoo! Sierra Nevada is now selling 1,000,000 barrels or 31,000,000 bottles. Not bad for a kid in junior high learning to brew beer in the garage!
The tour ended with, what else, more beer!! We sampled eight brews & discussed the characteristics of each. Way over my head, but sure was fun.