@SierraNevada Here’s to Hops!

October 24, 2011

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company will soon be launching its Pale Ale in a can – an innovation for a craft beer pioneer. With the goal of “making quality beer with the finest ingredients available,” Sierra Nevada http://www.sierranevada.com/ has become a leading innovator in the brewing industry thanks to founder Ken Grossman’s passion and vision. The tradition of using wholecone hops and age-old brewing techniques was revived during the company’s start in 1978, followed by the renaissance/resurgence of craft beer with this tiny brewery’s beer sales in 1981. Hops give beer its signature flavor and aroma.
In October, we had a rare opportunity to visit Chico, CA and tour the Sierra Nevada (SN) Plant. It was a terrific, educational, and taste-enlightening experience, especially for someone like me who likes beer but doesn’t have the enthusiasm of a home brewer (or home brew wannabe).
If you love beer, you absolutely must go for an in-depth tour and see how SN preserves and teaches about the ancient and noble art of beer brewing. Contact 530/893-3520 for more information. They cannot accommodate any parties with children under the age of 12. Guests must be 21 or older to enjoy the tasting room.

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A commitment to sustainability is a leading distinction of the way in which the company is operated. Being sustainable impacts everything from recycling, composting, conservation, CO2 recovery to water treatments, ingredients, energy sources and human labor needs.
Rare is the employer that offers day care and health care on site. But SN does. Green practices also include constructing a rail spur which connects directly to the Union Pacific Railway main line, which SN uses to transport grains to the plant and later ship out fresh beer by rail. They can do this while keeping costs down and dramatically reducing the need for trucking and fossil fuels.
Although Chico does not enjoy sunshine all year round, SN boasts the largest privately owned solar arrays (panels) which cover the majority of buildings on campus and generate enough energy to meet clean energy goals, ultimately providing 25% of energy needs. More green practices are detailed on the website http://www.sierranevada.com/.
As a result of their commitment, SN has been recognized with awards for sustainable business practices from the State of California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the CA Resource Recovery Association, among others.
We ended our tour with a beer sampling: Old Chico Crystal Wheat, Kellerweis, Northern Hemisphere Harvest, Pale Ale (the signature SN beer), Ovila Abbey Saison, Porter, Tumbler, and Torpedo. Because of the strong influence of hops on taste, we tasted beers from low to stronger hop content. It wasn’t the full Beer Camp (offered as a think-tank for beer brewers), but we enjoyed and sampled.
At this point, I fell in love in the newly completed tasting room! There I met a glass of special release, Ovila Abbey Ale, Saison. In collaboration with Sierra Nevada, the monks at the Abbey of New Clairveaux have helped bring Cistercian style brews to America. Thank William Randolph Hearst who in 1931 who shipped the 12th century Spanish medieval Santa de Maria chapter house stone by stone to northern California, then turned his attentions elsewhere. In 1984, the monks at the Abbey of New Clairveaux began rebuilding. Proceeds from sales of Ovila ales benefit the reconstruction efforts. See www.sacredstones.org
“This Saison farmhouse ale is in honor of the noble labor in which the monks engage. Hazy blonde in color, these rustic ales are designed to be complex and contemplative but also refreshing and drinkable after a day in the fields. With earthy and spicy aromas this Saison has notes of green grass, and a faint citrus tang. The body is light and layered with fruit and spice accents and a dry, peppery, and refreshing finish.” Absolute champagne of ale!
But I digress. I started the post with a claim that we would soon be able to enjoy Pale Ale in a can. Yes, this development is happening. With the move into canning, SN beer must be can-conditioned; previously SN brews were only bottle- or keg-conditioned. To guard against a loss of taste, there is some work and beta-testing at hand to ensure quality standards.
Although we in the tour had missed the official Oktoberfest celebration, our tour guide proudly shared that there would be cause for celebration when new line of canned Sierra Nevada was projected for distribution in Spring 2012. The introduction of canning marks an exciting development in distribution and availability of Sierra Nevada products. According to Bill Manley, “There are so many places where you can’t or won’t bring glass…up here in the foothills it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to bring a bunch of bottles with you in your backpack! Cans will only be a small part of our output, but we’re excited to see how they’re received.”
Here’s to Sierra Nevada for great taste from product to practices to vision and innovation. Cheers!

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