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We’re charmed by the site of our Mills River brewery. It’s a beautiful piece of land that rolls with hills, rises with majestic trees, and flows with numerous creeks and springs destined for the French Broad River.
The thing is, building a brewery amid this beauty has difficulties. We want to showcase those very creeks, but we need to get folks across them. In our case, small streams were a big challenge.
Our new brewery sits high atop the landscape, and to get there on the main road you follow a winding path through the trees to reach the apex. Standing in the way: two small-ish streams. Sunny weather? You can simply hop over them. After a good downpour (e.g. nearly 30 inches of rain this summer) they turn from gentle into something much, much bigger.
The solution, of course, is to build bridges. But what started small on paper soon mushroomed and took on a life of its own on the site. (All told, 10 months from beginning to end.) Initial construction began last winter with basic excavation near the streams, but the pitch of the hillside and the curve of the path required a redesign of the initial plans. In typical Sierra Nevada fashion—quality above all else—we went back to work and the bridge plans were adapted from a single span into two with a pleasing arc of roadway urging visitors onward up the hill.
Massive abutments were bolstered against the hillside and set to absorb the weight of the road decks. Hefty box girders, like beams on steroids, support the bridge spans, and custom textured concrete is a great aesthetic for the bridge roadways themselves. Our contractors completed all of this despite the seemingly nonstop rainfall that plagued this summer’s construction. The bridges are part of our visitor road, and will be some of the first things you see on your way up to the brewery. Today, they are as beautiful as they are functional—a theme running through the entire Mills River project. With texture and sweep, they blend seamlessly into the forested natural environment that surrounds them.
Bridges are a convenient metaphor for progress. They literally close the gap from where you are to where you’re headed. Though our bridges are a small piece of a very large puzzle of work yet to be done at the brewery, their place in the larger picture is important. To walk the spans and truly feel their strength is encouraging. They mean the road to the top is getting just a little bit easier.