Craft beer behemoth

I’ve lived in Chico, the home of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., since 1972. I vividly remember seeing Ken Grossman, the prime mover behind the company, pulling up at a downtown bar in a funky old pickup and rolling a keg of Pale Ale into the establishment. The year was 1980, and Grossman was just getting started.

Little did we know then that Sierra Nevada would become the craft-brewing behemoth it is today. What we did know, beyond any doubt, was that Pale Ale was far better than any beer then available in Chico.

For quite a while Chico was the only place in the world where you could get Sierra Nevada beers. Grossman, who’d taken welding classes so he could build his brewery himself, couldn’t afford to expand beyond his hometown. He’s said many times since then that if Chico’s beer drinkers hadn’t bought his Pale Ale, the brewery would have gone belly up.

But buy it they did. Hell, they loved the stuff. So this is what beer can be, they marveled.

Since then the company has steadily expanded, adding new lines of beer, experimenting with styles and ingredients, and joining with other brewers in spreading the word through its annual Beer Camp Across America. And it’s never advertised, relying instead on quality and word of mouth to sell its products.

Grossman also has built two new state-of-the-art breweries, one in Chico and the other in Mills River, N.C. The Chico brewery, which has a popular taproom and restaurant as well as a gorgeous music venue, has become a mecca for beer nerds and the most popular tourist spot in town.

Such is the power of a commitment to excellence—and good beer.