When it came time to choose a second location beyond California, Sierra Nevada Brewery searched long and hard for the right fit. After exploring more than 200 potential sites across the country, Brian Grossman and his team discovered the 215-acre woodlands property in Mills River, NC that they have proudly called home since 2012.
“It was a pretty natural fit,” said Brian, co-owner of the family owned and operated business and General Manager of the Mills River location. “Our first priorities were water quality and supply, but beyond that–we wanted to find a place with great outdoor recreation and quality of life.”
Those ideals are rooted in the company’s beginnings. Brian, along with his sister Sierra, will inherit the company from father Ken Grossman, who started homebrewing in his garage in the 70’s. Inspired by the beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Ken founded the Chico, CA brewery in the 80’s, at a time when producing craft beer was still an uphill battle.
“When my father started out, craft breweries were an unfamiliar idea that needed an explanation and a fight. We had to create our own marketplace and be efficient as possible to survive. Our sustainability was born from necessity,” Brian said.
Now at the forefront of a craft beer revolution, the Grossmans are proud to see their hard work pay off. Sierra Nevada is the seventh-largest brewing company in the country, and in the last ten years, the industry pioneer has faced steep demand from beer drinkers across the globe, spurring the need for an eastern expansion.
“We saw it as a way to streamline our connection with the east coast and also cut out wasteful shipping practices,” said Brian, a living and breathing advocate for world-class beer.
Thus, the Mills River property entered the equation.
While exploring the area, Brian linked up with the Asheville Brewers Alliance (ABA) to ensure Sierra Nevada would have the local brewers’ blessing. Alliance members graciously welcomed the brewery into the industry and provided an easy avenue into the community.
“I reached out to other brewers to learn the lay of the land and find out about local pediatricians,” said Brian, whose son was one month old at the time. “Within minutes, my inbox was flooded with suggestions and support.”
Sierra Nevada has embraced this southern hospitality and enjoys returning the favor.
“When a brewer runs into a technical issue, we open our labs to them and help them out,” said Brian. “It’s our ultimate goal as a community to have more craft beer drinkers. We’re all in this together.”
Sierra Nevada also gives back through environmental stewardship.
“We work hard to minimize our impact on the environment in whatever ways we can. Anything we’ve had to cut down for construction, we’ve replaced with new trees, wildflowers, and other species that work into the natural landscape organically,” Brian said. “We also make sure that we maximize our usage of any resource available.”
In 2016, the Mills River location earned the distinction of becoming the first production brewery in the country with a platinum LEED certification. The brewery prides itself on the clean energy initiatives, water efficiency, and sustainable construction that made this achievement possible.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle has been our business model from the beginning,” said Brian. “Our sustainability department crossfunctions with our engineering department on a regular basis.”
A striking example is the brewery’s water reduction. The average production center has a water retention ratio of 8:1. Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada has a remarkable 3:1.
While the art of sustainable brewing isn’t simple, Sierra Nevada has perfected it to the same calibre as its hallmark pale ale.
Luckily for our community (and taste buds), these brewers make it look easy.