This is where I will try to post, as often as I can, on beer topics that are related to my beer, the beer I drink, and my beer education.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Day 34, Field Trip to Chico

Today we visited Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. They produce just over 600,000 barrels a year. It was a blast. Terrance Sullivan, the asst. brewer gave us the tour. It lasted nearly four hours. It seemed like we visited every last part of the brewery. The hop room was awesome, though a little cold at 26 degrees F. There were many huge bins of different varieties of whole hops, and there were even more showing up out back in bale form. We were encouraged to play with the hops, rub them between our fingers to release the lupulin glands. My hands were sticky for hours, but they smelled lovely. They have an aromatic grain mill. Their mill raises the moisture of the malt a bit with steam just prior to grinding it. This makes the husk more pliable, allowing the rollers to be very close together, finely crushing the malt endosperm, but leaving the husk intact. The more intact the husk, the more efficiently the lauter tun will work. We sampled the wort on its path from the lauter tun to the kettle. We also sampled the Summerfest, which has not yet been released, right off the filter. They recently installed a pilot brewery, to do smaller batches for experimentation and quality control.
I was very impressed with their environmental practices. The owner, Ken Grossman, is very conscious of sustainable methods and is constantly looking for more ways to save money and resources. They capture the CO2 from the fermenting vessels and use it around the brewery. They are about to start capturing the CO2 from the yeast propagators. Then they will have more CO2 than they need, and will begin to sell it to local businesses. They have their own waste treatment plant. The anaerobic part gives off huge quantities of methane, which they capture in fuel cells. On weekdays, with the brewery in full swing, the fuel cells power the brewery. On weekends, they sell energy to the power company.
Afterwards, we had lunch, and the head brewer bought our class 4 pitchers of beer to sample. Two of them were recently released seasonals that I have never had, a Swartz and a Pilsner; very good stuff.


Blogger Andy said...

Is the Pilsner different than their Summerfest? I love when summerfest starts showing up.

You mention the environmental aspects of the operation. My suspicion is that this is possible for Sierra because they have been fantastically successful at what they do - which has afforded them the ability to move to more long-term benefits like the methane cells. Very cool, and something I think should be part of more business plans.

9:58 PM


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