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The densely wooded mountains of western North Carolina provide a beautiful backdrop for our new brewery, but those same forested hills presented a problem for construction.
We were drawn to our brewery site because of its location: about 17 miles south of downtown Asheville on a quiet, quasi-rural hillside with access to the French Broad River and beautiful scenery.
Sierra Nevada has always been ecologically minded, and it pained us to know that trees would inevitably have to be removed to accommodate the brewery. That knowledge, though, inspired us to build the brewery in the best, most sustainable way we could. In particular, to ensure that for every part of the forest we touched, we would work to reuse it or improve another part to preserve the special character of this place we love so much.
As the first ground was stirred and trees withdrawn, we committed to harvesting what we could and displaying the trees’ beauty in our brewery. Our construction crews were careful to collect the trees and handle them with respect. We harvested the viable timber and used a local mill to break down the wood into usable lumber.
Today, nearly two years after construction began, we have thousands of pieces of gorgeous wood that will showcase the elegance of this resource. Long, distinctive planks of poplar, black oak, Spanish oak and white oak are destined for use around the brewery.
Years ago, we hired woodworker Vaughn Zellick to work on projects in our Chico brewery, including the rich wood paneling in the brewery from our Big Room concert venue and Pub to our offices. Now, Vaughn spends his days in our off-site warehouse carefully selecting unique boards and pieces of our locally harvested lumber to make doors, tables, desks and bar tops to add more deeply accented character to our brewery.
For us, using wood in the brewery harkens back to an earlier time in brewing which fits nicely with our traditional philosophy of beer making. Not so long ago, woodworkers and coopers were a staple in every brewery, and brewers relied on the wooden casks and vessels for the storage and preservation of their trade. Today, most of those woodcrafts have been replaced by sanitary stainless steel, but the look and feel of well-worn wood reminds us of our past and helps us stay rooted in the traditions of our profession.
We are in the business of brewing great beer, but business at the expense of the environment is short-sighted and foolhardy. We work hard to minimize our impact on our environment in whatever ways we can. We’re not perfect, but we take steps every day to improve little-by-little. Our property is 185 of woodland and meadow; of that, less than 30 acres have been developed. The remaining forest is tended and cared for by our permanent staff of Natural Resource Specialists who work on improving the health of the existing ecosystems. We’ve re-planted hundreds of trees and shrubs to balance the effect we’ve had on our location.
For us, everything is balance. In the environment, in our beer, and in life.