Now a household name among beer drinkers, Sierra Nevada Brewing was once a one-man show. Its founder, Ken Grossman, is still a star, and his brewery, founded in Chico, Calif., in 1980, is now the No. 3 craft brewery in the U.S.
Sierra Nevada pioneered ultra-hoppy ales, sustainable brewing practices, and an enviable dry-hopping mechanism called the Hop Torpedo. Here are 10 more things you should know about Sierra Nevada Brewing.
Sierra Nevada tastes like American ingenuity.
When Ken Grossman founded Sierra Nevada in 1980, small-scale brewing equipment wasn’t exactly easy to come by. So Grossman did what many craft brewers would do over the next three decades: He retrofitted unused dairy equipment into a functioning brewhouse. Sierra Nevada now brews more than 1 million barrels of beer per year at two locations. Oh, and it’s named after the Sierra Nevada mountains.
‘Malt Disney’ is real.
Sierra Nevada has been in its current Chico, Calif., location since 1987. In 2014, the brewery debuted an East Coast production facility in Mills River, N.C., about 20 minutes outside craft-beer-amorous Asheville. A year later, the new brewery unveiled its taproom and restaurant there. According to the company history, locals and visitors “lovingly” refer to the state-of-the-art brewery campus as “Malt Disney.”
It’s brewed for Hoptimum enjoyment.
Sierra Nevada rolls out more than a dozen year-round releases, five speciality brews, three seasonal beers, and three “high altitude” heavy-hitters every year. Hops are this brewery’s specialty, as showcased in classics like its flagship Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and new innovations like Hazy Little Thing IPA. Hoptimum, a triple IPA brewed with Crystal, Ekuanot, Strata, Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic, and Loral hops, is its “hoppiest beer yet,” according to the brewery.
How hath thy pioneered beer?
Let us count the ways… In 1977, Ken Grossman was an early advocate of getting whole-cone hops straight from the source: hop farms in the Yakima Valley. He sold them in his homebrew supply store, the Home Brew Shop in Chico in the 1970s.
In 1980, he brewed Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, one of the nation’s first hop-forward yet consistent and shelf-stable beers. In 1983, Sierra Nevada released Bigfoot, one of the first American barleywines. And in 1993, the brewery debuted the nation’s first commercial wet hop harvest ale.
Its simple-sounding ‘Pale Ale’ inspired the country’s best brewers.
Sierra Nevada’s first beer was a stout, but the brewery became famous for hop-forward ales like its eponymous flagship, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This beer helped fuel the American craft beer revolution. Brewers like Jeremy Kosmicki, brewmaster of Founders Brewing, Steve Luke, founder and head Brewer of Cloudburst Brewing, and Sara Nelson, co-founder and co-owner of Fremont Brewing, cite Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as inspiration.
Sierra Nevada’s sustainability efforts have other brewers green with envy.
Sierra Nevada began its carbon footprint-erasing path to clean energy in 2004, when it installed four 250-kilowatt co-generation hydrogen fuel cells at its Chico brewery. In 2007, the brewery installed its first solar panels. It is now owner of the nation’s largest private solar array. The brewery is powered by more than 10,000 individual panels creating over 1.5 megawatts of AC electricity.
In 2016, Sierra Nevada’s second location in North Carolina became the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status-certified production brewery in the country.
Sierra Nevada camps (and parties) across America.
In 2014, Sierra Nevada launched Beer Camp Across America, a traveling beer festival. It’s pretty epic: The festival began in California and ended in North Carolina, and invited every brewery in the country to participate. More than 700 breweries poured at the Beer Camp fest. A tie-in mixed 12-pack includes beers brewed in collaboration with 12 breweries. In 2017, Sierra Nevada went global with Beer Camp Across the World, an international Beer Camp tour and collaboration.
Sierra Nevada dry-hops like a storm.
In 2009, Sierra Nevada unveiled what would become a brewery staple and industry envy: the Hop Torpedo. The hop delivery system is a mechanism that enables brewers to amplify aromas when dry-hopping with whole-cone hops. The mechanism is the namesake of Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA.
Every year is a celebration.
Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale debuted in 1981. It’s considered one of the first American IPAs, as well as one of the first beers brewed specially for the holiday season. Unlike most winter brews, this one features the first fresh hops from the year’s harvest, yielding a floral, bitter, balanced brew that beer nerds still go gaga over each holiday season.
It gives back with beer.
The brewery recently aided efforts to help those affected by California’s Camp Fire, creating a fundraiser, donating food and clothing, and spearheading an industry-wide collaboration beer, Resistance IPA, for which all sales will go to relief efforts.