Brian Grossman continues the Chico legacy out in the Blue Ridges.
The Sierra Nevada origin story is a pillar in the craft beer canon: A 1970s vintage Ken Grossman MacGyvers a small, start-up brewery in Chico, Calif., converting found dairy equipment into tanks while learning everything from welding to refrigeration to hop sourcing. But the recent launch of Sierra Nevada’s newest brewery in Mills River, N.C., 20 minutes south of beer-soaked Asheville, is the story of craft beer’s future, one that sheds the patina of DIY nostalgia for progress and innovation. It’s going to be big.
“We got to take 30 years of brewing knowledge and have a fresh start,” says Brian Grossman, Ken’s son and the man in charge out east. “There’s energy technology that’s cutting-edge, and a lot of automation. Chico has a lot of twists and turns, and hopefully this will be a lot more efficient.”
The numbers are staggering—the new facility has the potential to add an extra 800,000 barrels to Chico’s maxed-out output, focusing primarily on Pale Ale, Torpedo and seasonals. A 44,000-sq.-ft. space will house a gift shop, jazz club and brewpub (the latter opening in December), complete with a 20-barrel pilot brewery that will explore open- fermentation and barrel-aging. Surrounding the operation is a garden, live music venue and more than 1,500 acres of land cut with walking and biking trails—a major reason the outdoorsy Sierra Nevada crew landed in North Carolina. An ad taken out by the Asheville Brewers Association in a local paper imploring the company to come to the Blue Ridges helped, too.
Sierra Nevada’s part of the vanguard of westerners moving east—with the likes of New Belgium, Green Flash and Stone in the process of opening East Coast facilities. But success boils down to one simple measure: “That the beer is as good as the beer that comes out of Chico,” says Grossman. Visit this fall and taste for yourself.
On growing up with the pale ale: Grossman, now 29, has never known a world without Sierra Nevada, a large, beer-filled office where, as a kid, he’d visit his father during working hours. “Pale Ale has always been part of our life,” he says. “I don’t know when I had my first Pale Ale—do you remember the first time you had apple pie?”