In late March I was fortunate enough to be invited to visit the fabulous Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico California, with an assist from Bill Rauner – local representative for our area from the brewery.
With few expectations other than a tour and a tasting, I was really excited (and surprised frankly) to find that I was to be taken on a personal tour with Charlie Kyle, the communications manger for the entire operation. As it turned out the tour took me through the brewing area (PICTURE), past the solar and chemical cell power units and all over the compound. At Sierra they take sustainability very seriously – even for California – in 2005 they received the State’s Top Environmental Honor for Sustainable Practices. We went through the bottling area and even the loading docs (where I briefly met Ken Grossman, the visionary founder and owner). I was in the hop room, it was really very hard to leave.
A true highlight of the 90 minute tour was a visit to the “pilot brewery” where I was favored with a sampling of test recipes of potential future Sierra Nevada beers and special one-off brews. I met some of the brewers (Mark and Isaiah) and we sampled some great stuff. How about a Sierra Nevada dark Saison? YES!
Charlie told me about how they had finally abandoned their trademark screw off caps, for quality reasons. He said they found a better screw off cap, but when they tried it – it was so hard to remove that most people had to use a bottle opener anyway. So, they said screw the screw off, and went with normal capping.
I was completely blown away by the consistent attention to quality and detail throughout the brewery – from the bottling lines to the hop back – everything was spotless and efficient. The artwork and use of natural stone, as well as interesting design details were really impressive. Home in a true American brewing palace, it’s hard to believe that Sierra is the 7th (or 6th?) largest brewery in the country. If you are anywhere near the area (it’s about 90 minutes north of San Diego) all Beer Appreciators MUST to go there – if just to see it from the outside and eat and drink at their memorable on premise restaurant.
At the end of the day they bought me a great dinner (grain fed steaks made from cattle raised on spent Sierra Nevada beer grains), and even gave me a discount in the gift shop. Unbelievable. I really can’t thank them enough for the time and attention that Charlie and the staff in Chico gave to me. Along with all the rest of the seasonal and special brews I was really into their Pale Bock, not having seen it out east at the time.Count me in as a Sierra Nevada Beer Appreciator!