Author: Malin Norman

Sierra Nevada is one of the most successful independent craft breweries in the USA and known for its great, consistent line-up of beers. This year, the brewery celebrates 40 years in business and the birth of its legendary Pale Ale.

Homebrewer Ken Grossman started his brewery Sierra Nevada in Chico, California, with a hand-built brewhouse. The goal was simple, to make incredible beer and yes, he certainly succeeded with the mission as Sierra Nevada set the standard for craft brewers around the world.

In an interview with Gear Patrol, Grossman recalls the early days of brewing. “There were right around 40 breweries in the whole country at that point, and almost all of them were producing a pretty similar style of beer,” he says. “We had to educate the consumer certainly, but also the retailers and the wholesalers, because they didn’t know what a craft brewery was, or microbrewery as we were called back then.”

From humble beginnings, 40 years later and the wild card is seen as a pioneer in American craft brewing. To celebrate the big anniversary and as a tribute to craft beer’s long, strange journey, Sierra Nevada has launched Hoppy Anniversary Ale (6% ABV). According to the brewery, this limited edition IPA showcases the bold flavours and aromas of a classic West Coast IPA, with intense pine and citrus.

© Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
© Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Beer for explorers

But for Sierra Nevada it has never been just about the beer. From early on, Grossman has been an advocate for spending time in the great outdoors. The Sierra Nevada mountain range in western North America inspired the name of the brewery and the famous Pale Ale is referred to as “the official beer of camping”.

The crew keeps pushing the boundaries whilst brewing responsibly and with sustainability at the core, and Sierra Nevada won the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Business of the Year award a few years ago. And in April this year, the brewery launched the Take Back Our Trails program, to help restore and upkeep hiking trails and rivers. No doubt, Sierra Nevada is a source of inspiration, and not just for its beers.

© Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Three iconic Sierra Nevada beers to try:

Pale Ale (5.6% ABV): the award-winning beer that started it all, sparked the craft beer revolution, and still remains one of the brewery’s most popular beers. Cascade hops gives it intense aromas of pine and citrus.

© Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2% ABV): a big American IPA, aggressive yet balanced with complex citrus, pine and herbs. Called ”an absolute blinder” by the beery boys at The Craft Beer Channel. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Sierra Nevada released Barrel-Aged Torpedo in 2019, with notes of bourbon and vanilla – sounds gorgeous!

Bigfoot Barleywine-style Ale (9.6% ABV): introduced back in 1983, this is a true beast packed with malt and hops. A strong and robust award-winning beer, great for aging in cellars. And if you happen to stumble upon Vintage Bigfoot, don’t miss the opportunity to try it too.

Are you curious to hear more about this fascinating brewery? Take a look at Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which chronicles Ken Grossman’s journey from homebrewer to founder of one of the most successful craft breweries in the USA.

Pictures: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company