Beyond the Pale

Like all good stories, Ken Grossman’s begins at the beginning when he describes how, as a little kid, he wondered how things worked—electrical outlets, toasters, etc.—and so immediately set about investigating and deconstructing them. His hands-on urge finally found an acceptable outlet in junior-high shop classes which, coupled with a kindly neighbor’s lessons in brewing beer, ultimately resulted in one of the craft-brewing industry’s greatest success stories. Reading about the struggles he and co-founder Paul Camusi faced—and eventually surmounted—was an eye-opener. In 1979, they started to acquire equipment that, thanks to numerous Butte College courses that Grossman took (e.g., refrigeration, welding), enabled them to build the brewery and produce their first beer the next year. Recounting the decades between that first 1,000-barrel year and their most recent (nearly 1 million barrels in 2012), Grossman pulls no punches, especially regarding the contentious negotiations that led to the 1998 split with Camusi. The amount of detail Grossman provides is staggering—starting with beer’s basic elements (hops, malted barley, yeast) and on to the lab processes that enable the brewers to analyze, monitor and improve the beers. A fascinating, well-told story that definitely makes one much more aware of the dedication and professionalism the brewery’s employees bring to their tasks.