On November 15, thirty years ago, two friends mixed 300 pounds of pale malt and roasted barley, then added six pounds of hops. A week later they pried open their bottles of beer and poured it all down the drainÑit had an unwelcome astringent taste. Ten batches later, after seeking advice internationally and experimenting, Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi created their first marketable batch of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Today, the brewery they grew is producing more beer than any other craft brewery in the United States (The Boston Beer Company produces more but it contracts out some of its brewing).
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., located in Chico, California, is holding a nationwide toast to celebrate its anniversary. Grossman, who bought out his partner, is sole owner of the company. The rise to this companyÕs and GrossmanÕs success is described in Hops and Dreams: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Stansbury Publishing, $19.95, 224 pp.).
Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi moved to Chico from separate hometowns in Southern California. Introduced at GrossmanÕs Chico Home Brew Shop, which sold ingredients for homebrewing, the two decided to open their own microbrewery, just as the Bay Area
microbrewery pioneers had done recently.
Grossman is an innovative mechanic. He and Camusi scrounged for used equipment from dairies, scap yards, and bottlers, then Grossman rebuilt it into usable machinery. They took their small savings, received some money from relatives and a friend,and started producing. Their plan was to be selling 1,500 cases a month.
Author Rob Burton tells how they made their first sales, got picked up by a supermarket chain,received publicity, and began to develop a cult-like following of beer aficionados.
The company moved from its original rented warehouse to a building developed from the ground up; influenced in appearance by the defunct German Aschaffenburg brauerie from which they purchased two large copper vessels to adorn their new entrance.
Since then, Grossman has added a building to bring the breweryÕs capacity to 800,000 barrels per annum. To power the brewery, 10,000 solar arrarys cover its rooftops and parking lot, outputting 1.5 megawatts of electricity plus four hydrogen fuel cells producing 1 megawatt – enough for 2,500 families for a year. The brewery processes spent cooking oil from its restaurant into biodiesel fuel for use in delivery trucks. The company strives for 100 percent sustainability. It recycles its waste and uses it for production, growing hops, and a garden.
Employees receive many perks including a profit sharing retirement program, a self-funded group health plan subsidized over 80 percent by the company, an on-site medical clinic and wellness program with free access six days a week, a child care center, and subsidized public transportation.
Hops and Dreams author Rob Burton compares U.S. craft beer to his native EnglandÕs, discusses the craft beer movement in the U.S., and laces the book with tales from Sierra NevadaÕs Taproom. For those visiting the brewery he describes its tours and the 350-seat Big Room where national artists perform for the community on a high-tech stage set up for broadcasting. Chef Micheal Iles offers his pairings of favorite beers with menu choices and Brewmaster Steve Dresler narrates the history behind the companyÕs best-known beers. Hops and Dreams is the only book written about Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Title: Hops and Dreams: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Author: Rob Burton
Availability: Available now from BN.com and Amazon.com. After November 10 available
through all bookstores, library jobbers, and the publisher.