Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Coordinates: 39°43′24″N 121°48′57″W / 39.72333°N 121.81583°W / 39.72333; -121.81583
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
LocationChico, California,
United States
OpenedNovember 1980; 43 years ago (1980-11)
Annual production volume1,250,000 US beer barrels (1,470,000 hl)
Owned byKen Grossman

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was established in 1979 by homebrewers Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi in Chico, California, United States.[1] The brewery produced 786,000 US bbl (922,000 hl) in 2010,[2] and as of 2016, Sierra Nevada Brewing is the seventh-largest brewing company in the United States and is the third largest privately owned brewery in the United States.[3]

The brewery was named "Green Business of the Year" by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 for its practices in sustainability.[4]


Headquarters in Chico, CA

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was founded in 1979, with founders Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi expanding their homebrewing hobby into a brewery in Chico, California. Along with the brewery's location, Grossman says the company's name comes from his love of hiking in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada.[5] With $50,000 in loans from friends and family, Grossman and Camusi rented a 3,000 sq ft (280 m2) warehouse and pieced together discarded dairy equipment and scrapyard metal to create their brewing equipment.[6][7] They later were able to acquire second-hand copper brewing kettles from Germany before moving to their larger, current brewing facility in 1989.[8]

The first batch brewed on premises was its Pale Ale,[9] in November 1980.[5] The following year, the brewery introduced Celebration, an IPA, which continues to be released as a winter seasonal. The company sold 950 US beer barrels (1,110 hl) of beer in its first year and doubled that amount in the second.[6]

The company's first employee was Steve Harrison, who was put in charge of marketing and sales.[10] Head brewer Steve Dresler was hired in 1983, when its output was 25 to 30 barrels per week, and retired in 2017.[11]

Interior of Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico

The company distributed the beer itself in the early 1980s, struggling with financial and marketing problems. A 1982 article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting the brewery, as well as having its beer sold in prominent restaurants such as Berkeley's Chez Panisse, helped establish a market for Sierra Nevada's beer.[12]

By 1987, the brewery was distributing to seven states and production had reached 12,000 US beer barrels (14,000 hl) per year, causing the company to pursue building a new brewery.[10] In 1988, the brewery moved into a 100-barrel brewhouse, with four open fermenters, and eleven 200 US bbl (230 hl) secondary fermenters. A year later, Grossman and Camusi added the Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner and includes a giftshop. In 2000, the brewery opened "The Big Room", a live-music venue located inside the brewery's facilities, featuring a variety of acts including country, bluegrass, folk, rock, blues, and other musical genres.[10]

Camusi retired in 1998 and sold his share in the company to Grossman.[10]

In 2010, Sierra Nevada Brewing partnered with the Abbey of New Clairvaux, with the monastery beginning production of Trappist-style beers in 2011. The Abbey has not yet been sanctioned by the International Trappist Association, and therefore the monastery will not be brewing official Trappist beer.[13]

The brewery employed about 450 people in 2011.[14]

Entrance to Mills River brewery

In January 2012, Sierra Nevada announced it would build a second brewing facility with an attached restaurant in Mills River, North Carolina.[15] The LEED-Platinum-certified building opened in early 2014 on a forested tract adjacent to Asheville Regional Airport, re-using the cut-down trees as lumber both in the building and for the rainwater cisterns that flush the toilets.

In 2013, the company opened the "Torpedo Room" in Berkeley, their first tasting room outside of Chico.[16]

In January 2017, Sierra Nevada issued a voluntary recall of certain 12-ounce bottles of different beers in 36 states due to a manufacturing defect that had possibly introduced chipped pieces of glass into the bottle.[17]


Along with Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and the now-defunct New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma, whose owners offered Grossman and Camusi early guidance in their venture, Sierra Nevada is considered one of the earliest and most influential breweries which spawned the craft beer movement of the 1980s-90s.[6][9] Grossman has been dubbed a "pioneer" by fellow craft brewers in the United States.[12]

Whereas many of the newly spawned microbreweries of the 1980s went out of business, Sierra Nevada Brewing endured to become one of the largest independent brewers in the country, whose beers were noted for their "character and complexity".[6][7] Grossman believed many microbrewers of the early 1980s had put out an inferior product due to lack of preparation for the financial and mechanical realities of commercial brewing, which were a "much different process" from homebrewing.[6]

For its 30th anniversary in 2010, the company released a series of collaborative beers with the assistance of those Grossman considered an early influence on his brewing: Charlie Papazian, Fred Eckhardt, Fritz Maytag (Anchor) and Jack McAuliffe (New Albion).[12]

In November 2010, Stansbury Publishing released Hops and Dreams: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, written by California State University, Chico professor Rob Burton, who researched the company for three years.[18]

The company has claimed to be neutral on political issues, and reiterated this stance in 2010 when it was erroneously linked by a beer industry group to opposing the California Proposition 19 of that year, which would have legalized marijuana in the state.[19]

Environmental record[edit]

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. won the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Green Business of the Year" award for 2010.[20]

The brewery is powered by solar energy, having 10,000 photovoltaic modules covering its rooftops and parking lot.[21] In all, the brewery uses 2.6 megawatts of solar electricity on premises.[22] It also has built a charging station for electric vehicles on its premises.[1]

The company uses a small-scale BioPro™[23] biodiesel processor to convert the used cooking oil from its restaurant for biodiesel use in its delivery trucks. In 2009, it reached an agreement with a local ethanol company to produce high-grade ethanol fuel from its discarded yeast.[24] Spent grain is sold to local cattle ranchers for livestock feed; spent water is sent to the brewery's own water treatment plant, where it is reused, mainly as drip irrigation for its fields.[25] Over 99.5% of the brewery plant's solid waste is diverted from landfill.[25]

The company owns one mile of railway in Chico for use in intermodal freight transport, which aids in reducing the brewery's carbon footprint. Each rail car can hold the equivalent of four semi-trailers of grain;[26] rail transport is more fuel efficient than road transport.

Sierra Nevada is the largest buyer of organic hops in the United States.[20] It also farms its own organic hops and barley for use in its annual Chico Estate Harvest Ale release.[27]

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Mills River, NC facility earned a LEED Platinum certification in June 2016 [28] Sierra Nevada's Mills River brewery is the only LEED Platinum certified brewery in the USA. The Mills River brewery is also a Platinum Zero Waste facility, certified by the US Zero Waste Business Council.


Sierra Nevada Classics[edit]

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Ale label, from a bottle purchased in Chico, California.
Sierra Nevada Chico News & Review Special Edition 1993
Sierra Nevada Chico News & Review Special Edition 1993

The brewery's year-round offerings include its Pale Ale, Porter, Stout, Torpedo 'Extra' IPA, Kellerweis Hefeweizen, and Hazy Little Thing.

Sierra's flagship Pale Ale has been described as "a balance between aggressive hops and hearty malt flavor", with its Cascade hops offering a grapefruit aroma and fruity palate.[29] Like several other Sierra Nevada offerings, it is bottle-conditioned.[30] It is the best-selling pale ale in the United States as of 2012.[8][31][32]

Sierra Nevada's Porter, along with its heavier Stout version, have been described by writer Michael Jackson as "gently coffeish" and "beautifully roasty" examples of their respective styles.[33] The two offerings have been brewed since the company's first year of operation.[12]

Torpedo is an American India Pale Ale, and Kellerweis is a traditional Bavarian hefeweizen. Both were introduced as nationwide offerings in 2009.[34][35]


The brewery's current lineup of seasonals include Beer Camp Hoppy Lager, Summerfest Lager, Oktoberfest, and Celebration Ale.

Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale has been brewed as a winter seasonal since 1981. While it has won medals under the IPA category,[36] it has also been described as a hoppy, malty amber ale,[37] as well as a "bigger version" of the company's pale ale.[38]

Previous Autumn seasonal Tumbler Brown Ale has been described as a full-bodied, malt-heavy brown ale[39] and is sold for the autumn months.

Previous Spring seasonal Ruthless Rye IPA is an IPA brewed with rye and whole-cone hops for the spring, while Summerfest is a pilsner brewed in the Czech tradition.[40]

Special release[edit]

Sierra Nevada Chico News & Review 1986
Sierra Nevada Chico News & Review 1986
Bigfoot, 2006 Edition
Narwhal Imperial Stout 2018

Annual "Special Release" beers produced by Sierra Nevada include Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, Hemisphere Harvest Ales and Chico Harvest Estate Ale.

Bigfoot is brewed with two types of malt and three differing hops, and tops out at 9.6%ABV. It is a barleywine, but due to alcohol laws in the U.S. it must be marketed as a "barleywine style ale". Only alcohols derived from fruits, not grains, can be marketed as wine.[41] It first won medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 1987.[42] It is generally released January–February of each year.

The brewery releases both a Northern and Southern Hemisphere Harvest "wet hop" ale. Introduced in 1996 as Harvest Ale, Northern Hemisphere utilizes wet (undried) hops from eastern Washington for its "fresh harvest" ale. It was the first fresh-hop ale brewed in the United States.[43] The brewery later introduced Southern Hemisphere which features wet hops from New Zealand.

The Chico Estate Harvest Ale is brewed with organic wet hops and barley grown on the brewery's premises.[25]

Old Chico Crystal Wheat, a wheat beer, is named in memory of the Chico Brewery which operated in the town during the 19th century.[18] Old Chico brand beers are only distributed in the northern California area around Chico.

The "Resilience Butte County Proud IPA" is a limited edition IPA, released to benefit recovery efforts for the Camp Fire, which impacted areas nearby Sierra Nevada's Chico brewery in 2018; about 50 Sierra Nevada employees lost their homes in the fire.[44] Resilience IPA is brewed at the Chico and Mills River, North Carolina breweries, and over 1,500 other breweries signed up to brew and sell the beer.[45]


Name Style Awards
Year Event Award
Barrel-Aged Narwhal Wood-Aged Strong Stout 2013 Great American Beer Festival Silver
Bigfoot Barley Wine 2012 World Beer Cup Silver
2005 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1997 Great American Beer Festival Silver
1995 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1992 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1988 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1987 Great American Beer Festival Gold
Celebration India Pale Ale 1994 Great American Beer Festival Silver
1990 Great American Beer Festival Bronze
Estate Homegrown Ale Fresh Hop Ale 2012 Great American Beer Festival Gold
2010 Great American Beer Festival Silver
Imperial Stout Imperial Stout 2012 Great American Beer Festival Silver
IPA India Pale Ale 2005 Great American Beer Festival Gold
Kellerweis Hefeweizen 2012 World Beer Cup Silver
Kolsch Kölsch 2009 Great American Beer Festival Gold
2008 Great American Beer Festival Silver
Ovila Dubbel Dubbel 2012 World Beer Cup Bronze
Pilsner Pilsner 2010 World Beer Cup Gold
Porter Porter 2009 U.S. Open Beer Championship Bronze
2000 Great American Beer Festival Bronze
1983 Great American Beer Festival Silver
Ruthless Rye PA Rye Ale 2012 World Beer Cup Gold
Sierra 30 Jack and Ken's Ale Barley Wine 2010 Great American Beer Festival Gold
Pale Ale Pale Ale 1995 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1993 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1992 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1990 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1989 Great American Beer Festival Gold
1987 Great American Beer Festival Bronze
1983 Great American Beer Festival Gold
Stout Stout 2004 World Beer Cup Bronze
1989 Great American Beer Festival Silver
1988 Great American Beer Festival Silver
1987 Great American Beer Festival Bronze
Summerfest Lager 2004 Great American Beer Festival Bronze
1991 Great American Beer Festival Silver
Weizenbock Wheat Ale 2011 Great American Beer Festival Silver
Wheat Wheat Ale 1998 Great American Beer Festival Bronze

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schwartz, Ariel (April 27, 2009). "Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Gets Electric Vehicle Charging Stations". FastCompany. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  2. ^ Orr, Patrick (February 4, 2011). "Sierra Nevada Brewing is a true innovator". Idaho Statesman.
  3. ^ "Brewers Association Releases Top 50 Breweries of 2016". Brewers Association. March 15, 2017. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  4. ^ "Sierra Nevada Brewing named EPA Green Business of the Year". Beer News. December 28, 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Irving, Alexandra (February 22, 2011). "Sierra Nevada founder talks beer with students". State Press (Arizona). Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e Ogle, Maureen (2006). Ambitious Brew: the story of American beer. Orlando: Harcourt. pp. 300–306. ISBN 0-15-101012-9.
  7. ^ a b Jackson, Michael (2000). Michael Jackson's great beer guide. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 428. ISBN 0-7894-5156-5.
  8. ^ a b Jackson, Michael (1993). Michael Jackson's Beer Companion. Philadelphia: Running Press. p. 88. ISBN 1-56138-288-4.
  9. ^ a b Kolesar, Bryan. (November 15, 2010). "Sierra Nevada turns 30". The Washington Times. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d "Sierra Nevada Brewing Company". Reference for Business. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  11. ^ Robertson, Blair (May 25, 2017). "Sierra Nevada's revered and influential brewmaster calls it a career". The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento, CA. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d Calagione, Sam (March–April 2010). "Sierra Nevada Turns 30: An Interview with Ken Grossman". Brewers Association. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  13. ^ Brooks, Jay R. (October 6, 2010). "Sierra Nevada Partners With The Abbey of New Clairvaux". Ale Street News. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  14. ^ Grossman, Brian (May 29, 2010). "Growing Up With the Family Brewery". The New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
  15. ^ "Sierra Nevada beer plans eastward expansion with N.C. brewery". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. January 25, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  16. ^ "Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Room opens in Berkeley". Inside Scoop. November 26, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  17. ^ "Sierra Nevada Brewery Issues 36-State Recall of Select Beers". NBC News. January 22, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Wills, Joe (Fall 2010). "Chico's Brew Turns 30". Chico Statements. CSU Chico. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  19. ^ "Sierra Nevada's Stance on Proposition 19 (CA Marijuana Law)". The Full Pint. September 20, 2010. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  20. ^ a b Arcuate, Francisco (December 2, 2010). "EPA Turns 40, Honors Environmental Heroes". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  21. ^ "Hops and Dreams: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co". Rocklin & Roseville Today. Rocklin, California. November 5, 2010. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  22. ^ Demont-Heinrich, Christof (March 6, 2011). "Solar brews beer, charges EVs at Sierra Nevada". Solar Charged Driving. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  23. ^ "Testimonials from BioPro™ Owners".
  24. ^ "Sierra Nevada to turn beer yeast into fuel". The Full Pint. February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  25. ^ a b c Underwood, Kristin (August 6, 2009). "It's Harvest Time at the Sierra Nevada Brewery". Treehugger. Archived from the original on September 13, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  26. ^ Feder, Mandy (February 26, 2009). "On the right track". 2016 CHICO COMMUNITY PUBLISHING, INC. Chico News & Review. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  27. ^ Foyston, John (October 2, 2009). "Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Ale on tap at the Basement Pub". The Oregonian. Oregon Live. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  28. ^ "Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | U.S. Green Building Council".
  29. ^ Harper, Timothy; Oliver, Garrett (1997). The Good Beer Book. New York: Berkley. p. 128. ISBN 0-425-15614-1.
  30. ^ Rhodes, Christine P. (1995). The Encyclopedia of Beer. New York: Henry Holt & Co. p. 214. ISBN 0-8050-3799-3.
  31. ^ Cizmar, Martin (September 25, 2012). "President of Beers: #18 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale". Willamette Week. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  32. ^ "Top 10 craft beers". Gayot. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  33. ^ Jackson, Michael (1993). Michael Jackson's Beer Companion. Philadelphia: Running Press. pp. 174, 183. ISBN 1-56138-288-4.
  34. ^ "Sierra Nevada Introduces Kellerweis as Newest Year-Round Beer" (Press release). Sierra Nevada. March 6, 2009. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  35. ^ "Sierra Nevada Introduces Year-Round Extra IPA" (Press release). Sierra Nevada. January 5, 2009. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  36. ^ "Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale". Sierra Nevada. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  37. ^ Fabricant, Florence (December 18, 1991). "Brews From Near and Far". The New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  38. ^ Sawyer, Christopher (January 16, 2003). "Ales with extra kick for winter". San Francisco Chronicle. p. 3.
  39. ^ Goble, Steve. (October 13, 2010). "Brewologist: Sierra Nevada Tumbler brown ale". Mansfield News Journal. Mansfield, Ohio. Archived from the original on January 4, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  40. ^ "Sierra Nevada Summerfest". Beer Advocate.
  41. ^ "Barleywine Style". December 20, 2009.
  42. ^ "Sierra Nevada Bigfoot". Sierra Nevada.
  43. ^ Brooks, Jay R. (November 2, 2007). "Fresh hop brews now on tap". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  44. ^ Shoot, Brittany (December 20, 2018). "1,400 U.S. Breweries Agreed to Make Sierra Nevada's 'Resilience IPA' to Benefit Camp Fire Survivors. Here's Where to Buy It". Fortune. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  45. ^ Snider, Mike (January 4, 2019). "With help from 1,500 breweries, Sierra Nevada Resilience IPA set to raise $15 million for Camp Fire relief". USA Today. Retrieved January 9, 2019.

External links and further reading[edit]

39°43′24″N 121°48′57″W / 39.72333°N 121.81583°W / 39.72333; -121.81583