Touring Sierra Nevada Brewing: Learning About Another Kind of Green Beer
Story and photos by Carmel L. Mooney, correspondent
Though I remember standing in line for green beer on St. Paddy’s Day while attending California State University-Chico in the 80’s, I now have an appreciation for a greener beer, a better beer …one that is better for me and better for the planet.
Rarely does one find such outstanding beer with such a unique history, vision and success story. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has not only proven itself as a superior product but it also strives to leave the planet a better place in the process.
We recently had the pleasure of touring the facility, and this brewery tour stands out as the most interesting we had ever experienced. The tasting at the end was not only enjoyable from a beer lover’s perspective but the history, craft, and education behind the experience was unforgettable.
I thought I knew a lot about beer. I’ve toured breweries in more than half the states in our country and have even tried a little home brewing but I learned a great deal and most importantly a deep appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes at Sierra Nevada. I will never look at a Pale Ale the same again.
Sierra Nevada’s commitment to green and sustainable brewing is much more than just a vision or a mission but rather a daily part of every single thing they do. They have won as many awards for their sustainable business practices as they have for their brew. Green Business of the Year, Zero Waste Management, Climate Action Champion, Environmental Awareness and Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership for Sustainable Practices, are just a few of the prestigious recognitions they have received.
The amazing part is that their beers have become famous the world over while being such amazing stewards of their resources. Recycling, composting ,water treatment, solar, bio-fuel production, water conservation, organic gardening, sustainable farming, carbon dioxide recovery, vehicle charging stations, estate agriculture, rail shipping, and more. They don’t just talk about it, they do it and they did most of it first. With the first HotRot Composting System in the US in 2010 to the 1997 equipping of vapor condensers to utilize heat recovery, they have set the stage and raised the bar for everyone else in the industry.
The food in the restaurant features fresh, sustainable, locally sourced meats and produce through relationships with local farmers and ranchers to ensure the highest quality. They also maintain a two-acre garden to supply the restaurant and taproom kitchen. Home-baked breads are produced with brewer’s grain. Beef is produced from a cooperative effort with CSUC’s College of Agriculture and is raised naturally and free of added hormones, and best of all fed on spent grains and yeast used in the brewing process. Everything on the tables is repurposed or composted back into the gardens in a completely closed loop system.
Let’s not forget the beer. It’s not actually green in color, except for the Pale Ale label, but it’s better for the planet and better for you. Estate hops grown on the largest hop field in the state of California is just one tiny facet of these gems. Sierra Nevada is one of the only breweries in the world to produce a 100 percent estate-made ale thanks to 26 acres of estate grown barley and organic wet hops.
Because of its location at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, its brewing water is supplied by a deep snow fed aquifer. Sierra Nevada leads the way in artisan ales, lagers, stout, seasonal beers, draught-only specialties. Each offering has its own fascinating story, flavor and presence. The beers’ quality equals the experience and mission of this remarkable operation.
The next time your travels take you anywhere near Northern California, a tour of Sierra Nevada is in order. Make plans to stay for lunch. It can be a family affair or a wonderful way to relax away an afternoon for a couple on a road trip. With great food, great beer, and terrific vision, Sierra Nevada Brewing offers anyone on a road trip a thoroughly wonderful and inspiring experience.
Carmel L. Mooney is editor of our sister site Road Trips for Couples.
You might also enjoy reading “Road Trip for Beer: Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary.”