Interview: Ken Grossman, Founder and President of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Ken Grossman sierra nevadaFor our very first interview here on Farbrew, we had the honor of interviewing the founder and president of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Ken Grossman. Ken opened up the brewery back in 1980 in Chico, CA and has now grown the company into one of the most respected craft breweries in the United States.

Ken studied chemistry and physics at Butte Community College as well as Chico State University. He also opened up a store in Chico called The Home Brew Shop, which supplied breweries with supplies, materials, and equipment. On November 15, 1980 Ken brewed the first batch of Sierra Nevada Co. beer which is now regarded as one of the top beers in the country: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Ken took the time to answer some of our own questions for our readers to learn more about Sierra Nevada as well as the creator. Thanks Ken!

Can you please introduce yourself and your role at brewery?

My name is Ken Grossman and I am the founder and president of Sierra Nevada.

Going back to the beginning of your personal brewing career, do you remember the first beer you brewed and where?

I first learned to home brew from the parent of a childhood friend. We were pretty young at the time, and my friend’s dad was tired of us stealing all his brew, so instead he taught us how to brew our own.

Where do you look for inspiration in the beer that you brew?

I wouldn’t say there is one single place I look for inspiration. We brew the kinds of beer that we like to drink, no matter the style or the origin, if we like it, it’s fair game! Lately we’ve been experimenting with a lot of Belgian-inspired styles, and that’s been fun for us.

When did the brewery start and what is the inspriation for the name and it’s logo?

I started building the brewery in 1979, and got it up and running a year later. We brewed our first batch on November 15th 1980. The name came for my love of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When I was growing up in southern California I used to love to set out on bike tours, and hikes, and backpack trips into the Sierras. When I settled here in Chico, in the foothills of the Sierras it seemed obvious to me to look toward that as the name for the brewery. The original banner logo was drawn by an artist friend of ours and we still use that logo today. (granted, it’s been update a bit.)

How would you best describe your brewing style?

We’re famous for being an American brewery. We were arguably one of the inventors of the “American style” beer…(hop forward, dry, clean yeast flavors.) That said, we love to make beers in any style we can. We’ve had a lot of success with our traditional German and English style beers, and now we’ve been playing with some barrel-aged projects, and more experimental Belgian styles. At the end of the day, though, we live hops and lots of ‘em.

Sierra Nevada logoIn what states and markets can our readers find you beer and is there a plan for expansion?

Right now, our beer is available in all 50 states. We’re getting close to capacity at our brewery here in Chico, so we’re looking into the possibility of building another brewery somewhere east of the Mississippi River. No final plans have been made, yet, but it is an option on the table.

Does the brewery have any new projects or beer coming down the pipeline to share with our readers?

We’re always coming up with new beer and new projects. We’re setting up a new canning line, as we speak, so that will be an adventure for us moving forward.

What can visitors expect when coming to visit the brewery?

We love having visitors come to visit us here in Chico. We’re proud of our brewery and we want as many people as possible to come here to see it. We’re especially proud of showing off some of the more traditional techniques we use in making our beer. We still use only whole-cone hops, we rely on open fermentation for several of our beers, and bottle condition most of our products. There aren’t too many breweries doing those sorts of things anymore. In addition, we like to show people our estate hops and barely fields. Right now, we have about 9 acres of hops, and 30 acres of barley growing on-site here in Chico. We use these organic products to make our Estate Homegrown Ale, which is one of the few estate made beers available anywhere in the world! We’re also really proud of some of our sustainability efforts. We have the nation’s largest private solar array and currently produce more than 80% of our energy needs, on site.

Does the brewery have a Facebook or Twitter page for our readers to check out? If so, have you seen an impact on your brewery from these social networks?

We have a pretty active following via social media. Our Facebook page has over 100,00 followers, and I think Twitter is upwards of 20,000. We’re lucky to have such a loyal and vocal group of fans, specifically without any large-scale advertising or marketing. To see the amount of activity and support for our brewery and our beer is humbling, especially after all these years.

Where can our readers find additional information about your brewery, beer festivals, new beers, tour info?

Facebook is a great place to hear about what’s coming next. We try and post a few times a day just to keep people updated with what’s going on here at the brewery. In addition, we’re in the process of overhauling our brewery website,, and that will be updated with news and info as well.

Okay, here’s a tough open ended question for ya, if you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I can’t answer that! There are too many to choose from! Historically, if I could go back in time and pick one of my own from the past, I would choose the stout I brewed for my wedding. That was over 30 years ago and I still remember it, so it must have been really good!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions Ken and we look forward to drinking more of your beer!

Thanks for taking the time to reach out to us!

Make sure to check out Sierra Nevada on FacebookTwitter, and their official site.

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