What began as a cobbled-together home-brewing operation grew up to become Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of America’s first modern microbreweries, and the producer of one of California’s most beloved beers: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Founder Ken Grossman started out as a young home brewer, making beer in five-gallon batches with homemade equipment. After studying chemistry in college, he opened a home-brewing shop in Chico for like-minded brewing fanatics.
Two years later, he took the plunge into commercial brewing. Having limited funds, Grossman outfitted his operation with used dairy tanks, a soft-drink bottler, and equipment salvaged from defunct breweries.
In 1980, he brewed his first bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The bold, piney beer was an instant hit—so much so that Grossman had to expand the brewery twice to keep up with demand.
In the decades since that first auspicious batch of its namesake pale ale, Sierra Nevada’s lineup has grown to include many other fascinating brews, such as the Hop Hunter IPA, Kellerweis, Beer Camp IPA, and the intense “High Altitude” series.
At Sierra Nevada’s taproom and restaurant in Chico, visitors can sample 19 draft beers and nosh on seasonal, farm-to-table fare. Those interested in observing up close how it all happens can select from a range of brewery tours, each of varying length. The restaurant makes bread from spent brewers’ grain and even offers a good kids’ menu, with organic peanut butter, golden raisins, and fresh fruit on crunchy flatbread. The brewery also has a 350-seat live music venue, so be prepared to stay a while.