Why We Brew

  • Why We Brew
    Inspired by the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains, our beers are designed to be as bold, wild and unwavering as those storied granite peaks. With respect to tradition and an unbridled passion for innovation, Sierra Nevada beers are inspired by the philosophy that anything is possible. We are committed to pushing the boundaries of craft beer and we look forward to the day that flavorful beers are the standard throughout the world.
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  • Purest Ingredients
    Put good in and good will come out. We believe that the best results are born from the best possible ingredients. We insist on the highest quality and freshest ingredients for every beer we brew, with an eye toward the environment, responsible farming and our agricultural future.
  • Whole-Cone Hops
    Sierra Nevada uses only whole-cone hops for all of our ales and lagers. Whole-cone hops are the flowers of the hop plant in their most natural state, maintaining the precious aromatic oils and resins inside. Whole-cone hops preserve the pure, unique and individual flavors of hops, which creates a clean, bold and pure hop character in the finished beer. Despite our relatively small size, Sierra Nevada uses more whole-cone hops than any brewer in the world!
  • Water
    Of the four main ingredients in beer—water, malt, hops and yeast—water makes up more than 90% of the liquid, but is the most often overlooked. At Sierra Nevada, we’re fortunate to have access to some of the greatest water on earth. At both of our brewery sites (California and North Carolina), our principal water source comes from abundant pure mountain water filtered over decades through stone and into deep-well aquifers.
  • Estate Agriculture
    At our brewery in Chico we have a working and vibrant farm. On it we have eight acres of organic hop yards, 30 acres of organic barley, and two acres of vegetables. These estate-grown ingredients provide food for our restaurant and ingredients for a very special handmade beer: Estate® Homegrown Ale.
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  • Traditional Techniques
    As one of the craft brewing pioneers, we stay true to the long and proud history of brewing, but tirelessly push the boundaries of conventional wisdom. We’re tinkerers and experimenters, constantly looking for a new spin on traditional techniques. We maintain time-honored, labor-intensive techniques including the use of only whole-cone hops, open fermentation and bottle conditioning, while operating a state-of-the-art, modern brewery. We march toward the future, but our soul stays true to brewing heritage, tradition and the art of making beer.
  • Kettles
    Our original 100-barrel brewhouse helped define Sierra Nevada. This solid copper brewhouse was built in the 1960s, and installed in the brewery in 1987. It heats the wort, caramelizing the natural malt-based sugars. Many of our small-batch and limited beers run through this traditional system and, after all these years, the character of those original copper kettles still shines through in our favorite beers.
  • Open Fermentation
    Some beers just can’t be confined to closed-tank fermenters. Beers that feature unique yeast character just won’t behave like the others. These beers thrive in traditional open fermenters—steel tanks, open at the top to allow the yeast to breathe, live and be happy. The yeast reacts differently when given this free-range alternative, producing depth, character and flavor in beers like Kellerweis®, Bigfoot® and the Ovila® Abbey Ales series.
  • Bottle Conditioning
    Pale Ale is a bottle-conditioned beer. This traditional technique of adding yeast and a small amount of sugar to each bottle is used to produce carbonation naturally, enhance shelf life, and create dynamic and complex flavors that change in the bottle. The small swirl of yeast at the bottom of each of our bottles is evidence of this time-honored technique. Other bottle-conditioned beers include: Porter, Stout, Celebration® and Bigfoot®.
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  • Hop Torpedo
    A new method we created to add hop aroma to beer, the “Hop Torpedo” is a stainless steel device packed with whole-cone hops. Fermenting beer is circulated out of a fermenter, through the column of whole-cone hops, and back into the fermentation tank. This new method has revolutionized how we dry hop our beers, adding intense hop flavor and aroma with no additional bitterness.
  • On the Wild Side
    In 2012, Sierra Nevada took its first cautious steps into working with a yeast called Brettanomyces bruxellensis. Brettanomyces is dangerous because it is a voracious consumer of all things fermentable and imparts a distinctive flavor to beer. To handle this “wild” yeast, we utilized a pharmaceutical grade dosing device to transfer the yeast from airtight kegs directly into the bottle without allowing it to come in contact with any piece of brewing or bottling equipment.
  • Whole Hops the Whole Time
    Because we use only whole-cone hops and work directly with hop growers, brokers and breeders, we work with hop varietals that are still in development. These unique cutting-edge hops often offer new and interesting aromas and flavors that have never been tested before in beer. We’re proud to be at the forefront of this research and excited to see what the next years will bring.
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  • Beer Camp®
    Our Beer Camp® brewhouse is where our best ideas are born. Here, we develop recipes, try new techniques and turn fun concepts into crazy new beers. At Beer Camp®, nothing is too far out. Nothing is out of bounds. We work with thousands of ingredients from the hop yard and the orchard to the kitchen cupboard to make these beers truly unique.
  • Pilot Brewhouse
    Our small, 10-barrel R&D brewery is where new Sierra Nevada beers come to life. From concept to finished product, we taste, trial and test new beers every day that may one day become regular Sierra Nevada brews. The pilot brewery invents a steady stream of new beers that are only available in limited draught, with the occasional bottle available at the brewery.
  • Collaboration
    One of the greatest things about the craft brewing industry is the companionship and camaraderie between brewers. From time to time, we partner up with our colleagues in brewing to work on a new beer together. These unique and often limited edition beers bring something great from each brewery that combine to make a truly one-of-a-kind new beer.
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  • Sensory
    Every day, a panel of trained Sierra Nevada sensory experts taste every lot of beer scheduled to go into the market. They evaluate the flavors to ensure that every bottle meets our rigorous standards of quality at every step of the process from ingredient harvest all the way through bottling.
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  • Commitment to Environment
    In the early days, there was no such thing as small-scale brewing equipment. Everything we used was built or repurposed for the brewery. Back then, “reduce, reuse, recycle” wasn’t a catchphrase, but a business model. This hardscrabble ethos and our roots in Northern California built a deeply felt belief toward stewardship and helped solidify our commitment to the environment.
  • From Grain To Glass
    We take care in how we handle our raw materials. We work to ensure the ingredients we’re getting are top quality, but also transported in the most environmentally responsible ways. We use rail for malt delivery, drastically reducing emissions from truck-based transportation. After brewing, our spent grain, hops and yeast are emptied out of the brewhouse and used for cattle feed on local farms.
  • Energy
    It’s no secret that making beer uses a lot of energy. We work to minimize demand by creating energy of our own. Relying on one of the nation’s largest private solar arrays with over 10,000 individual panels and four 250 kilowatt co-generation hydrogen fuel cells, we’re able to produce over half of our total electricity needs right here on site.
  • Water
    As one of the primary ingredients in beer, and a vitally important resource, water is always on our minds. We’re working to bring our water usage down to historic lows in the brewing industry. We built an on-site water purification facility that takes effluent water from the brewery and pre-treats it before sending it to the municipal water treatment facility. In turn we collect the biogas that is produced during purification and use that as energy for the boilers used in the brewing process.
  • Packaging
    Whenever possible we work with local vendors for our packaging needs. We source packaging containing the highest amount of recyclable content while still meeting our high standards for quality. Kegs are infinitely reusable and refillable without degrading beer quality.
  • Resource Recovery
    Sierra Nevada works to close the loop wherever possible. This includes resource recovery such as heat and water, but also applies to carbon dioxide. CO2 is a natural byproduct of fermentation. We capture, filter, and compress it for reuse around the brewery in applications such as propelling beer through draught systems, pressurizing tanks and to preparing bottles for filling. We also recycle and compost 99.8% of our total solid waste.
  • Transportation
    Getting beer from our brewery onto store shelves is no small feat. We recognize the toll it takes on the environment and we’re doing what we can to minimize our impact. The completion of our second brewery in Mills River, NC, will drastically reduce our transportation impact. Sierra Nevada also participates in the voluntary US EPA Smartway Program, which aims to reduce fuel consumption and improve efficiency in truck fleets.
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  • Community
    “It takes a village to raise a brewery.” At Sierra Nevada, we consider the community surrounding our breweries in both California and North Carolina to be extensions of our family. We could never hope to have the success we have today without the generous support of the communities around us. Sierra Nevada is proud to support various agencies and organizations with the goal of bettering our society from sustainable agriculture, clean water and wild-land protection to bicycle-related activities and events and a myriad of other outlets.
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