The beautiful mountains of North Carolina offer hiking, biking, trout fishing, and gorgeous views. Besides all this, the clear mountain streams and the numerous apple orchards, make this area very conducive for the making of craft beer and ciders.
There are somewhere around 40 craft breweries in the Asheville North Carolina area but the largest of the craft breweries is the Sierra Nevada brewery. With arrangements made by my daughter in law, Dave and I, our son and one of our granddaughters got to go on one of their tours.
As I remember from the tour and from the brochure I picked up, Sierra Nevada was started in Chico California in 1979 by Ken Grossman. I believe, from what the tour guide told us, Mr. Grossman finished high school and left before his graduation ceremony for the mountains of Northern California. He opened The Home Brew Shop in Chico California. Years later with innovation and ingenuity, he fashioned equipment from items such as a hot water heater, dairy equipment and a hand-built-10-barrel brewing system he later founded his own brewery. He named it after his favorite hiking grounds and called it the Sierra Nevada Brewery Company.
That was in 1979. By 1984 he’d outgrown his original location. He then purchased a property in Chico Calif to build a new brewery large enough to house a salvaged 100- barrel brewhouse he had shipped from Germany. A couple of years later they added online sales.
In 2012, demand outpaced supply, and the Chico location was at capacity. This time they looked east and in 2012 they opened the new brewery in Mills River North Carolina. Mills River is just a few miles from Asheville, North Carolina.
The Asheville area already had somewhere around 40 small craft breweries. I believe our tour guide said this was the reason Sierra Nevada almost decided not to locate here. They did not want to be the biggest brewery in the area and ruin the other businesses. He said the local craft beer association got together and invited Sierra Nevada to come. Sierra Nevada provides some support to the other breweries by allowing them some access to their lab.
With a 200 barrel production brewhouse and a 20 barrel small batch pilot system, a tour program, tastings, a full-service taproom, and restaurant, the Mills River location opened in 2014. The property is beautiful. As well as the inside amenities, there’s an outdoor activity area with picnic tables and a stage.
Very impressive is the care they took in construction and the amount of reclamation of resources they use. The timber that was cut on the property was used in the construction of the building. Concrete walkways and driveways allow rain to penetrate. The reclaimed water is used for irrigation. CO2 captured from the yeast fermentation is used for carbonation in the drinks. They use solar panels and microturbines for as much energy as possible. Any left-over vegetation from the hops they donate for feed to area farmers.
The floors are made from cork. The cork comes from a tree in another country. The bark is stripped off the tree to make the cork and it grows back again and can be used to make more cork.
At the end of the tour, we arrive in the sampling room and are offered four of the most popular beers to sample.
You can get more information about them and their care for the environment by visiting their website at http://sierranevada.com
I’ll write about our visit to the hard cider brewery tour in the next post.
Here’s a few pictures of the inside, outside and the chandelier made from beer bottles.