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The Brewmasters: Steven Dresler - Sierra Nevada

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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is America's prototypical pale ale, the BJCP's first example of the style, and a beer that Steven Dresler has been brewing for thirty years. Steven is the brewmaster of Sierra Nevada. He's been there nearly since its inception, one of their first employees, moving from bottling their beers by hand to brewmaster. Here's his story, a story that starts in the beginning of the craft beer movement, when there was no predicate for such a brewery.
We contacted this icon of the brewing world, and he happily offered this interview. Have a look and read why Steven plays with dolls, what he thinks about brewing with marijuana, how Sierra Nevada is prepared for the next big quake, and why they are one of the finest breweries in the world.
NOTE: This was an audio interview. The following is an edited transcript of that interview. If you'd like to listen to the original unedited interview, maybe while you drive, it's at the end. It's almost an hour long.

Steve Dresler, Brewmaster, Sierra Nevada Brewing

Andrew: How long have you been with Sierra Nevada?
Steven: 32 years and 28 days.
Andrew: 32 years! So what do you get when you've been at a company like Sierra Nevada for 32 years, a golden boot stein?
Steven: For my 30th anniversary I got an action figure that's a replica of me.
Andrew: Like a bobble-head?
Steven: No, it's like a GI Joe.
Andrew: How'd they do?
Steven: It's great! He's done some travels with me. His last sighting was in a Packer's uniform at Lambeau Field in November.

Steve Dresler, Man of Barley Action Figure, w/Kung Fu Grip!
Andrew: You're originally a Californian. Are you really a Packers fan?
Steven: My family is originally from Wisconsin. I was born there. We moved when I was a little over three. My dad was always a fan; it's kind of a generational thing. My wife is a convert, she's from there, and my son is a rabid fan. We try to make a game every year.
Andrew: You're good with Aaron Rodgers?
Steven: I met him once! In order to get my tickets to the game I have to "sing for my supper". So, I do a beer event in Green Bay on the Friday night before the game, and then our distributor gives me an envelope with some tickets in it. It's very, very cool. He's a very nice guy and a big fan of the beer. Anyway, a few years ago Aaron actually came to my beer event on the Friday night and we had a beer together and chatted. Unfortunately, I missed the phone call this summer. He and his brother were in town and his dad is a chiropractor here in Chico and they wanted a VIP tour. I didn't get the message. I was on vacation trying to ignore my phone and piss my wife off - so I missed the boat on that one.
Andrew: I read your bio and see you were a homebrewer and joined Ken Grossman at the brewery back in '83?
Steven: Yea, I started in January of 1983. I was actually working at the homebrew shop that Ken had sold to get the money to start the brewery - he was the original homebrew shop owner here in Chico. I was between jobs, so I was selling hombrewing goods over the counter. I heard, through the grapevine, that they [Sierra Nevada Brewing] were looking for people to help with hand labor for packaging. Everything was done by hand back then so I went in and left a sticky note with my info on it and got a call that night that asked if I could work tomorrow. For my first day I would put 4 bottles of beer in a box while drinking a fifth and got $4 per hour, under the table, for it. The rest is history.
Andrew: So it was a pretty small operation back then?
Steven: Oh, totally. There was Ken and his partner, and then there were 3 or 4 people on the payroll full time. The rest of us were part-timers. The most labor-intensive work was bottling. We would probably bottle 30-40 bottles per minute back then. You had to hand-load the bottles into the bottle washer, you hand-loaded the cases, you hand-carted them into a warehouse then hand-stacked them. Everything was done that way back then. We didn't even put our beer on pallets back then, we were so small. All of our orders were like five cases here, six cases there. When we ended up going into the [San Francisco] Bay area, we would consolidate a pallet and ship that. We were doing 5-7 barrel batches of beer.
Andrew: Were you kegging back then?
Steven: When I started, we bottled exclusively. We were pretty unique in that way. Later, we were able to get some local draft accounts so we started delivering the pale ale in draft form. So yea, later, draft became part of our product offering.
Andrew: Did you hand-cap them also?
Steven: Oh yea, everything. It was pretty funny. There was not a lot of equipment back then for our scale, and there wasn't a lot of money to go around either, so everything was used. Ken cobbled together so much stuff. Everybody on the staff could put together stuff that way. It was a lot of sweat equity.
We stacked the beer on the floor. I remember coming into work on a Saturday and learned a terrible lesson. We'd broken a water pipe and all the bottom cases were wet because they were on the floor. The next week we started putting them up on pallets. That was a moment of genius.
I remember hand-loading trucks on their way to the distributors. We didn't have a fork lift, so we would run down the end of the cul-de-sac - the brewery at the time was at the end of a cul-de-sac named Gilman Way - we'd go down the road and borrow equipment just to be able to put a pallet on a truck. We had no way ourselves to do anything like that.
Andrew: Do you have other breweries nearby that now borrow equipment from you?
Steven: No [laughs]. We're the only show in Chico. The brewery now is quite the entity. It's a beautiful production facility, and we've got more equipment now ... it's mind boggling for me.
Andrew: You mention sweat equity in the early days. I've heard this story a lot with now-successful brewers. You all have grown to have huge reputations and operations. Do you think that's still possible now, or is the whole craft beer market saturated?
Steven: We're all expanding. We've just expanded to the east coast, Stone, Oscar Blues, New Belgium, we're all still expanding and moving eastward. You realize what you're spending on freight, particularly for a west coast brewery, to continue to operate solely out of Chico was not a sustainable business model.
I think growth like that for small breweries is still possible because it's still happening. But it all depends on what kind of a business model you have. We made the decision to expand and cross over that million-barrel brewery production size. Vinnie [Cilurzo, Russian River] and Natalie [Cilurzo], on the other hand, decided they are more comfortable at the size they are and distribution levels that they have. They make fantastic beers that are highly coveted - so that's the business model that they've opted for. It just depends on what you want to do and how you want to go about it.
So yea, I do think growth is still possible. When we moved from our Gilman Way brewery to 20th Street, where the brewery sits now, 1988 or '89, at that time we thought a 70,000, maybe 80,000 barrel brewery would be a fantastic thing. As you looked around the brewing environment, there wasn't a hell of a lot for us to model ourselves after. We were looking at Anchor for one, and we were thinking that would be a very successful business model for us.
Andrew: Sierra Nevada had the benefit of starting out at the beginning of the craft beer revolution, when most places in the country had no choices for craft beer.
Steven: That's a good point, us being on the cutting edge. I see where you're going with that. We had the ability to grow into that. But then, by the same token, there were a lot of up-and-coming breweries, particularly in the Pacific Northwest that didn't succeed. Breweries like Bert Grant [Yakima Brewing], and Pyramid. It was the mid- to late-80's, and the opportunity was there if they wanted to take it. For whatever reason, they it didn't go in the same direction as it did for us in Chico. I think for us - and I can only speak for us at Sierra Nevada because to do otherwise would be inappropriate - we really focused on making the best quality beer that we could. We had very good quality standards. We always shipped our beers refrigerated. As we stretched out our marketing area, we made every effort and spent whatever was necessary to get our beer to the consumer the best way we possibly could, regardless of the expense that it took. When people experienced Sierra Nevada - and, yeah, maybe there wasn't a lot out there on a competitive level - they were really getting a good quality beer every time, and I think that's part of what really got us going. We do that to this day.
Part of the reason for building a brewery on the east coast was shipping refrigerated in the summer it was costing us $4-$5 to get a case of beer to North Carolina.
Andrew: Your pale ale still has yeast at the bottom of the bottle.
Steven: That's right. It's a wonderful anti-oxidant that helps a lot with the shelf life of the beer.
Andrew: So if you were to ship that same beer and it got hot, could you have problems with the yeast autolysing and producing off-flavors?
Steven: Oh yea, you would. It would be terrible for the beer, and hence the reason we always ship the beer in a refrigerated container. We ship refrigerated to Hawaii, the European Union, the United Kingdom. We just will not take the chance of having our beer damaged in freight, even for you, on the east coast. Getting a bad beer, that's just unconscionable.
Andrew: For the record, I love the pale ale. It's something I've always tried to clone. It's so "digestible", as the Belgians say.
Steven: I think it's the best beer on the planet - I'm sure I'm chauvinistic. It's the perfect beer for any occasion; it drinks well, all the way to the bottom of the glass. It's great at room temperature. It's got the best flavor and balance of any beer I've ever experienced, the perfect malt beverage in my mind. It's a heritage beer for us and a historic beer for the craft beer industry.
The biggest compliment I get is from someone like you, trying to emulate that beer because they like it so much. That's why, early on, when we had more yeast in the bottle (we hadn't quite fine-tuned our processes), I'd get calls from homebrewers wanting techniques to get the yeast out of the bottles for their homebrews. We would readily tell them how to culture it. Sierra Nevada has a really good relationship with the homebrewing community because Ken was originally a homebrewer, and I was a homebrewer. I love it when homebrewers want to make our beer because I know the first thing they're going to do is go down to the store and get a six-pack.

SNPA, "The Best Beer in the World"
Andrew: Has Sierra Nevada considered opening a brewery in Europe?
Steven: No, it hasn't been part of any discussions I've been a part of. But what we can do now with our east coast operation is redo our export logistics and have the beer come out of the east coast so we can save quite a bit of shipping time and freight. I do read about, and find interesting, breweries that are opening brew houses in, say, Berlin. How fun. But that's not within our current business model. Being a family-owned and operated brewery, that decision would be something entirely up to the Grossman family. We did just open up a new brewery in North Carolina.
We are looking to open up more tasting rooms - we have a tasting room in Berkeley, outside of the bay area. We have discussed having more tasting rooms like that in other areas in California, as well as the rest of the country. That would be the way for us to become more of a neighborhood or local presence without putting a brewery there. I like that business model because the customers in those areas get our really unique offerings that are too small to go into a large distribution stream - it's a real treat for them.
Andrew: Have you been to the Mills River, North Carolina brewery near Asheville?
Steven: I have! I'm dying to go back now - I was there in August. It was the culmination of our Beer Camp Across America project. The first beer camp festival was here, in Chico, and the last of seven was in Asheville. I went out for that. The new Sierra Nevada brewery was running, though there were still parts that needed to be completed. They are now very close to opening up their tap room / pub, so I really want to go back in the spring.
It's an absolutely spectacular brewery. The brewery here in Chico, according to people much more traveled than I, has often been referred to as the most beautiful, quality-oriented brewery that they've ever been in. It's a work of art. The one in Asheville has taken that to the next level - it's just spectacular. So, I really want to go back and see the finished product.
Andrew: You have a QC/yeast lab in Chico. Do you have the same in Asheville?
Steven: In Chico, we have a quality lab and a packaging lab. In Mills River [Asheville], they have both of those. Chico also has a state-of-the-art R&D lab. Asheville doesn't have that.
Andrew: Cool. I really like the science side of brewing.
Steven: Yea, that's what Ken was interested in too. Going back to your question of growth, and how to accomplish it; one of the key ways to succeed is to be constantly innovative and challenge ourselves as brewers, and as a company, to expand and improve on what we are doing. That was the reason Ken decided to put in an R&D lab - so that we could truly get into the science of beer, the process and raw materials and all the other parts of brewing. For me, as the brewmaster, it's a phenomenal resource that I can use. We've got talented people and great instrumentation; we sit around and discuss things - there are no boundaries on what we can do to make different and better beer.
Andrew: I assume your lab is specifically involved in yeast analysis. Where do you get your yeast from?
Steven: When I ran the quality department, which I no longer do, I would bring in a slant from Siebel in Chicago and I would work it up through propagation to brewing quantities. Seibel held the culture for us. Back at that time, it was a yeast strain that Ken had selected from their yeast catalog. It was Slant #96. I'd call up Maureen at Seibel and say I needed a couple of slants of #96 and she would take them off of their master slant, and she would ship them to me overnight, and I would get them going. After we put in our lab, we then could keep the yeast slants in our cryo freezer, on site. We do have a secondary storage facility and yeast lab where we keep backups, just in case something horrific happened or your cryo fridge blew up. Over the years, as we've used this strain in larger and larger tanks, it has taken on more "house character". The yeast is our yeast now, for all intents and purposes. We maintain the strain completely in-house now.
Andrew: Is that the same strain used for bottle and can conditioning of the Pale Ale?
Steven: Yes. For our ale strain, the bottling yeast is the same as what is used for fermentation.
Andrew: You say it's yours, but the entire world is enjoying it daily!
Steven: Yeah. There's not nearly the yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle as there once was, but you can still see it, especially if you set the bottle tilted in the fridge overnight. You'll see a little bit of a yeast plug the next day. If you do that with six bottles, gently decanting the beer out of the bottles, and work in a sterile environment, and get that yeast into a starter, you could probably get that sucker running.
Andrew: Yep. I don't think I've scavenged Sierra Nevada. I have done that before with other beers, but I don't anymore. It's ended up being more work than it was worth for a homebrewer.
Steven: Back when I was homebrewing in '80 or '81, there wasn't any of the quality brewing ingredients that you can get now. We used dehydrated yeast packets. You couldn't get live yeast in these packs that you get now. So, for a homebrewer to get real good, fresh yeast out of a bottle was a real treat.
Andrew: Yep, but there's a good chance you'll get something else in the process, as you grow it. You have a biology background, you know you don't have to try very hard to infect something.
Steven: No, especially in your kitchen!
Andrew: OK, let's get back to Steven Dresler. Tell me something I can't read about you on Wikipedia.
Steven: I've never looked for myself on Wikipedia [laughs].
Andrew: You know, weird hobbies, six toes on each foot, you're more of a wine drinker than a beer drinker...
Steven: Ah, OK, well I'm actually known for being a pretty voracious gin drinker. I really love beer, it's the passion of my life, but when I bike out the Sierra Nevada gates at the end of the workday, the guys will ask me if it's gin-thirty yet.
Andrew: How do you take your gin?
Steven: If I am in a gin mood, I'll do a gin and tonic before dinner, and after I'll have a gin on the rocks with a twist of lime. I also have affection for good quality bourbon.
Andrew: There are a lot of bourbon-barrel beers out there. It gives a rich, fireside flavor to a holiday beers, bigger beers. Is Sierra Nevada doing anything like that?
Steven: Yea, bourbon gives lovely layers of flavor to beers. We've expanded our barrel program considerably over the last two years. Just in the last couple of weeks, we've completed our barrel-aged offering of Bigfoot. That's going to be shipping out in very limited amounts to limited markets. We also barrel age our Narwhal Stout in bourbon. I'm working on a project now with my barrel team in which we take our Ovila Dubbel and barrel age it in a combination of bourbon and red wine barrels and then blend. We've also got a number of very small barrel-aged projects in our barrel room. Those will be packaged and offered in our gift shops here and Mills River, and also in our tasting room in Berkeley. One of those projects, for example, is a bourbon-barrel-aged smoked porter that we blend with a Scotch Ale - delicious beer!
Andrew: Now that's a lot of layers!
Steven: Oh yea, fantastic stuff. I was chatting with one of my barrel guys earlier today. They brewed a Scotch Ale with maple syrup that we had from some other project. They do some whacky ****. They've got stuff going in tequila barrels. We've got dry-hopping of our Torpedo IPA in rye barrels - crazy stuff, great flavors. We're trying to expand the program enough where we can get it out to select consumers.
It's a lot of fun; I'm having a blast with it. I love coming back into my office and I've got a little plastic cup on my desk - no note - and they've been pulling barrel samples and they want me to try it. It's a real treat to get three or four ounces of something incredibly delicious on your desk when you come in.
Andrew: We don't all have jobs like that.
Steven: Life sucks [sarcastic laugh].
Andrew: You mentioned getting red wine barrels. Where from?
Steven: We get them from a broker. Finding wine barrels in California is no issue. Wine is a limited wood that we use, so I like to work directly with a vintner. I'd love to partner up with someone at some point.
Now, distilled spirits barrels are still very available, but the pricing has gone up considerably with so many barrels going to Scotland for Scotch aging. Oh, and I love the spice from a rye barrel.
Andrew: How do you treat the barrels before you use them? Steam?
Steven: Nope, no steam or sulfur or sterilization of any kind. We do rinse them to remove any particulate or cork. We like to maintain the barrel and its original spirit for flavoring the beer. A lot of time the barrels come with quite a bit of liquor in them, so we do drain that out since we don't want to incorporate an aggressive boozy note into the beer. In the end, you do get a really nice marriage of the distilled spirits note and the beer. You control that note by how long you age the beer in the barrel, as well as what type of base beer you put in there.
Andrew: Have you used Brettanomyces in your beers?
Steven: We did one Brett beer with Vinnie over at Russian River.
Andrew: How did you handle the Brett in the brewery?
Steven: Very carefully. When we do our corked bottles, we use this little injection device to add a small droplet of liquid nitrogen into the neck of each bottle. When that volatilizes, it purges the oxygen out of the head space. We bought a second one of these devices to use with our Brett program. We made a Brett culture in a keg and put it on a big stir plate to keep it agitated, then fed a droplet of Brettanymyces into each bottle. So, we kept the Brett out of our system because it's a nasty thing to try to get rid of. It'll be on earth when people are gone, for sure. When we finished with the bottling run, we gave that equipment to Vinnie to play with in his house.
Most of the breweries I know of have dedicated equipment for doing Brett beers and sour beers. Also, like a lot of other breweries, we have a small flash-pasteurizer so when we bottle our barrel beers we can sterilize before the filler. We don't want to get anything of a bacterial nature in there and take a chance on contaminating our filler. You know, you get some of these aggressive wild yeasts and bacteria from these barrels. Breweries have had problems with that, where they've had to do a recall. We did a lot of studies and we know we are doing enough to kill the microbials but not doing too much to damage the flavor of the beer.
Andrew: Is the Pale Ale flash-pasteurized before it's bottled?
Steven: No, not at all.
Andrew: It could be though, right, since it's bottle conditioned?
Steven: Oh yea, sure, it could be. If we hadn't gotten into the barrel-aged projects, we never would have bought the pasteurizer. We know from conversation with some of our friends in the brewing industry that there were issues possible there when you bring in these barrel-aged and wild beers. We made the decision to use the pasteurization process only on that line of beers. None of our other products will ever get near that thing.
Andrew: Do you use any odd ingredients besides things like barrels and bourbon?
Steven: [Laughs] Yep. Today we are corking an Ovila-series beer, a saison, that we used white peppercorn and whole organic mandarin oranges. Those Ovila beers are done in collaboration with a Cistercian monastery in Vina, about twenty miles north of us. They try to be self-sustaining and grow foods that we can use, including those mandarins. They also grow sugar plums which we incorporate in the kettle for our Belgian quad.
In our barrel program we use cocoa nibs and vanilla. In our Beer Camp program we bring in guests to formulate a beer. A lot of times they are bar owners or publicans: the sky's the limit for these guys. They'll but anything in a beer.
Andrew: I've put a few things in that were mistakes for sure. I've got a weird plan to make a glow-in-the-dark beer with Cinchona bark - it's bound to be another one of those mistakes in the near future.
Steven: Cool. I judge a lot of beers in the GABF competitions. A couple of my favorite categories that I always ask for is Herb and Spice Beers and Experimental Beers. You're served these beers, and you're looking at them thinking "just because you could, you shouldn't". [Laughs] Then again, there's nothing the matter with that. It speaks to the amount of incredible creativity that people have. Yeah, that's one of the beautiful things about beer, about creating beer: they sky's the limit. So, your idea, even if it ends up not being a good idea, you should still give it a whirl.
I judged a wasabi beer. I did one that had Indian masala spice in it - it was like eating masala. Sometimes you get all these herbs, and you know the guy was thinking "I've got all this **** in my cupboard, I'm going to put it all in the same batch of beer", and the beer is phenomenally confused.
Andrew: Speaking of herbs, with marijuana becoming legalized in places, and given its close relationship to the hop plant, do you see it being used in beer in the future?
Steven: It's an interesting thought. I don't know if we would do it here at Sierra Nevada. But if I'm a brewer in Colorado right now, I'm thinking about it. I know there are marijuana-infused foods obviously, so it's only a matter of time before it's in different beverages. Now for the regulation on an alcohol / THC combo, that would be kinda whacky to get passed.
I've known homebrewers over my career that have brewed with marijuana and had fun with it. It tends to lead to some gushing issues, depending on how you use it.
Andrew: Why is that?
Steven: I've had friends who would put the marijuana in the bottle and let the alcohol leach out the THC. THC is fat soluble rather than alcohol soluble, so if you open it, it kinda gushes on you. Back when I was a partaker, I would just tell them to have a beer and quit wasting a nice joint. Why **** up them both, you know?
Andrew: Hey, odd question here. A few years ago, when Japan had a strong earthquake and tsunami, one of their large breweries, Kirin, was devastated. Many of their storage tanks toppled. Is that a fear in your part of California?
Steven: Yea. But California has very stringent earthquake standards. Our largest tank is 800 barrels, which is a good-sized tank, but not in the overall industry. Still, it's a big structure. When we are pouring concrete for one of these structures, during construction of the cellar - you'd be blown away by the amount of rebar in one of these things and the thickness of the walls. Everything here is built to those standards, and is dependent on your proximity to the predominant fault lines. We might get a few tremors here in Butte County, but it's nothing compared to what you might get in the bay and coastal areas, next to the San Andreas fault. We all have our own regional standards. The standards used during the construction in North Carolina, with our new brewery there, work perfectly for that region but wouldn't fly in California.

Kirin, Post Earthquake/Tsunami

Andrew: Let me ask you about Ruthless Rye. What a great beer. Do you have any issues lautering with all the rye?
Steven: Yes. When we make that beer, rye is about 8.5% of the grist bill. When we've tried to run higher than that, in some of our beers, you get into some real issues, same with wheat and black malt. We do use rice hulls in our mash and try to open up the grain bed that way.
Andrew: Heh, I didn't realize that large breweries used rice hulls. I thought there might be some kind of technique to avoid that.
Steven: Nope. We'll use whatever it takes to get the beer out of the brewhouse. Rice hulls are great for doing that. A lot of these beers come out of our 100-barrel brewhouse and lot of our grists are bigger than it was designed to handle in the lauter tun, so we end up with a pretty thick, deep grain bed. In those conditions, rice hulls are a good technique.
Andrew: Regarding hops, what's a good way to maximize hop aroma in Pale Ales and IPAs?
Steven: It depends on what type of process you are doing. You get a great aroma from dry-hopping. I favor whole-cone hops, but in many ways pellets are better at the homebrew level. What I would do is really heavy hop additions as the last hop additions during the boil, so you don't volatilize too much. Then, if you have a hopback, run the hot wort through a bed of hop cones before the chiller. Then, after about 80% of primary fermentation is complete, add more hops to the fermentor.
Andrew: Would you recommend adding all the dry hops at the same time, or do think there's an advantage in adding in increments.
Steven: That's an interesting question. You can get very different effects by adding the hops at different times. So, if you add some hops half way through the fermentation, then add more after fermentation, particularly when the beer is cold, you'll get markedly different effects from each addition between the warm and cold hoppings. So, if you're looking to maximize hop flavor and aroma, use an aggressive late hopping in the kettle, run the wort through a hopback, and then do a warm dryhop, and then a cold dryhop. That pretty much maximizes your hops, other than putting them in your bottle.
Andrew: What about agitation during dryhopping?
Steven: I don't think that's necessary, especially when using pelletized hops - they're going to disperse really well through the beer. When we are doing our traditional dryhopping, it's just like a teabag soak. With our torpedo process, though, we do circulate the beer through the torpedo, but that's because the hops are external to the fermentor.

The "Torpedo"; beer from fermentor is pumped through this to get that giant hop aroma!
Andrew: Harvest. What's the deal with this beer? It seems like every time I see it on the shelf there's different hops in it.
Steven: With the wet hops beers, you're going straight from vine to brewhouse. So, depending on the lot of hops that you can get your hands on and that picking window, that's going to dictate the beer. The beer, aroma, and flavor are 100% agronomically dependent. If you get some really bitching Centennials - our Northern Hemisphere is a combination of Cascade and Centennial - you're going through the top of the roof with rose and geraniol aromas. If you get a really dominant Cascade you're going to be more in the piney/citrus range. It just swings with the hops that I can get delivery of.

Steve, w/Harvest

Andrew: Do you use any smoke malt in Tumbler?
Steven: Yeah, we have a really small amount of smoked malt in there, less than 1%, to give it a little dryness and complexity.
Andrew: Final question: Do you have a beard?
Steven: Only in the winter. I stop shaving in November, and then take it off in April. It's not a foot and a half long, though.
Andrew: On behalf of HomeBrewTalk, I'd like to thank you for the time speaking with me.
Steven: Great. Thanks for thinking about Sierra Nevada, and enjoy the beer. Take care.
***
I sure wish I could have a beer with this guy. He's so easy to chat with, and with that great history and his ability to effortlessly tell stories of his past, he's the drinking buddy you would love to have. The details of the Sierra Nevada beers really give the homebrewer an appreciation for what's in them. It makes me want to run out and grab some of the latest Harvest to see which fresh hops are making their way into Chico. Hmmm... gotta go...
Here's the unedited audio interview in its entirety. There was a connection problem resulting in some clicking noise when Steve was talking. Sorry about that.



 
Love SN ... one of my favorite breweries. I've cloned the PA and am cloning their coffee stout. Thank you SN for being awesome!
 
Fantastic article about my Neighborhood brewery. These are those little bits you always wanted to know, but never got the whole story.
 
This is the article I've been waiting for. SN Pale Ale is what got me interested in craft beer and brewing. Only recently have I found the Harvest, and have absolutely loved them both.
Thanks again!
 
SN Pale Ale is the beer that introduced me to great beer. Big Foot is the barleywine that introduced me to barleywines. This brewery has done more to inspire my home brewing than any other.
 
Massive brewery by British standards but still good. I still remember that the first time I saw their beer on draft was on a visit to Italy.
 
Not been around for all that long here, but this is by far the most interesting and engrossing interview I've yet read on HBT. I love the fact you have made the whole conversation available - plan on listening to it tonight!
 
Great interview, with lots of information to digest. Thank you Andrew (and Steve) for bringing it to us!
 
My first SNPA was in Santa Cruz, CA with my sis. I was the ripe age of 18, and it was the summer of 1990. I turned 18 in San Francisco a few days later, and for the three weeks I was there I never got carded once (despite appearing 13, even at 18). I remember it like it was yesterday.
That beer will always have a special place in my heart.
 
I love Sierra Nevada's take on ales. Always good when you've had enough lagers, porters, etc. Lot's of good info, like dry hopping. And of course, telling stories from the past. I wanna drink some beers with this guy! We have some history to discuss!
 
Great beer (I love Torpedo) and cool people. I love to see regular guys succeed and grow without losing the small family business feel. Bravo!
 
SN is certainly a leading player in the Craft scene. Great interview / great questions!
I can't imagine SN getting 5-6 case orders, something a homebrewer could fulfill.
Such a positive attitude, with respect for homebrewing, yet crafting sophisticated, scientific, world-class beers, what a great organization. A trip to SN is a bucket list item, surely.
 
If you are planning on coming to Sierra Nevada, make sure you book a tour a week in advance (at least). They are fantastic: fun, informative, technologically amazing, and if you're lucky, after they prime you with 6-7 generous free samples afterward, you will see Steve hanging out at the bar. He is very friendly and of course loves to talk beer with people. I've lived in Chico for a long time and seen and spoken with him occasionally on my trips (2 mile bike or drive) to the brewery.
 
Fantastic interview. SNPA is a household staple for me, when I'm not drinking homebrew. I've read Ken Grossman's book and this just fuels the energy for me! Steven's super humble for making such great beer. Thanks Andrew and Steven for putting this together!
 
Thanks so much for sharing! Still one of my favorite breweries. SN collaborations are always my favorites. Keep up the good work there!
 
Great interview! Oddly enough I had one of the other brewers from Sierra Nevada in the store today. Brian was a kick to get to know. He was setting up a new home brew system so we got to spend quite a bit of time together. Great guy. Anyhow..I got to tell him about the interview here on HBT and I think he said he was going to come over and check it out.
 
Thank you HBT, Ken Grossman is proof that you can be a billionaire and not be a d*ck, he cares about what is in the bottle or keg, invests in the business, is good to his people, and keeps the ball moving forward. Also you asked great questions, never knew smoke malt added to dryness.
 
I never tried Sierra Nevada before reading this article. Maybe it was the label that never attracted me, (marketing guys take note), after trying it, it is great beer!
 
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