Home' Brewers Guardian Digital Magazine : May 2014 Contents There is infrastructure in place to allow doubling of
capacity as and when the need arises. Sierra Nevada
Pale Ale, the company's flagship beer, Torpedo IPA
and seasonal beers will be brewed. Mills River will
also produce small-batch beers, specifically for the
western North Carolina market.
There are similarities between the new and existing
breweries. While most fermenters are closed tanks,
there are open fermenters at both breweries for
the production of big beers such as hefeweizens
and barleywines. The difference is that Mills River's
fermenters are state of the art, 200 barrel tanks
manufactured by Gresser in Germany with built-in
CIP and skimming chutes along the top third for
easier top cropping.
Sierra Nevada's commitment to sustainability is
evident. Among the highlights is a solar energy
initiative with around 2,000 solar panels, covering
the equivalent of two acres, installed over the
packaging hall and warehouse roofs. While output is
weather dependant, the installation is expected to
generate 650 kilowatts of DC power. Additional solar
panels to be installed over the parking lot will boost
potential energy production to 710 kilowatts.
The expansion of Sierra Nevada
Grossman acknowledges the North Carolina site
brings the company closer to its existing European
markets. But world domination remains far from his
"We're not attempting to be a larger exporter at this
point," he says. "We get approached almost daily
from foreign markets, but we've been fairly slow
and cautious about expanding, just because of the
challenges over managing quality. There's a huge
amount of interest from Asia and Central and South
American countries, as well as Europe. There's a lot
of opportunity, but we've just chosen at this point
not to be very aggressive."
YOUR NEW BREWERY
GEA Brewery Systems was awarded the
contract for the Mills River brewhouse,
marking the third instance in which Sierra
Nevada has chosen a 'Huppman' solution.
Many of the vessels have been delivered
with copper cladding to lend a classic look,
one that mimics that of Chico. The brewlength
is 200 barrels with a cycle time of two hours,
allowing potentially 12 brews per day.
"That's theoretical production capacity;
we're not running at that clip," said Grossman.
"We still have some fine tuning of the
commissioning to do to get up to that speed.
So we're more like a two and a half hour
The initial 350,000 capacity can be doubled
by expanding the tank farm. Grossman notes
that the infrastructure for such an expansion
is already in place. He anticipates that Mills
River will be adding tanks probably in the
next year, or two.
In addition a Kaspar Schulz supplied 20
barrel brewery is being built adjacent to the
main brewery. It will be installed by the end
of this year. Grossman explained, "We've
got a multitude of brewhouses at the Chico
facility and we wanted some smaller brewing
capacity at Mills River to experiment as well."
"We've actually been brewing there
(Mills River) since December, but
taking it slow, Small amounts have
been hitting the market since late
The reluctance has been in part over capacity
concerns. With Chico at or near capacity, Grossman
adds that "it didn't make sense" to spend time,
energy and resources to move beyond the
company's existing footprint.
However, exports to Japan, which will be Sierra
Nevada's first Asian market, are expected to start
On an accelerating expansionist footprint -- the
new brewery cements Sierra Nevada's presence as
a brewer with national reach - the question arises
as to where it positions itself in the competitive
American brewing universe.
Grossman explains, "We have a lot of peers in the
industry who we compete with - everyone from
Boston Beer to the smallest nano-brewery who
has three tap handles. But on the one hand they're
competition and, on the other, they're the reason
we're doing collectively so well as an industry."
Moreover, the brewing stalwart seems in no hurry
to wrest the crown of America's biggest craft brewer
from the Boston Beer Company.
"That's not necessarily a goal for us," says
Grossman. "Their business model is a lot different to
ours. They're always been heavy on marketing, they
run commercials on national TV. A big part of their
business is flavoured malt beverages and hard cider
and hard tea, which is close to half their business
now. We haven't gone there. We are brewers and we
love to make beer. I'm not sure we would have the
same passion towards making [hard] tea or FMBs."
He does not hold back when it comes to issue of
big brewers being "crafty" with the labelling of their
artisan-like brands. Grossman, a senior figure at the
Brewers Association, is resigned to the fact that in
America "these kinds of things" are legal. For him, it
is more of an ethical issue:
"We would like more transparency. There are some
marketplace advantages they have just by the sheer
size of their entities. They can introduce a new
brand or buy up a small brewery and within a matter
of months have that beer in every single outlet in
the US, whereas a small brewer has to really scrap
to get a small foothold."
As far as consumers are concerned, he adds,
"They are getting smarter and smarter and there
are plenty now who knows what brands are owned
by what big breweries and that does affect some of
their buying decisions." But he acknowledges, "There
are some people out there who say if the beer taste
good, I'm going to buy it."
Grossman clearly has plenty to keep him occupied,
not least the new brewery. But as he is turning 60
years-old this year, does he have any plans to scale
down his involvement, or even retire?
"It's time to start slowing down a little bit," he
admits. "I've got two children involved in the
business now. My son's out in North Carolina, as
part of the management team, and my daughter
works here in Chico. I'd like to work less, but that's
all I can hope for right now."
James Wilmore is deputy editor
"We started planning this project
around five years ago," says
Grossman. "The company ships a lot
of beer from the (US) west to the east
coast. And it didn't make business,
or environmental, sense to be
transporting beer that far."
Tanks being lowered into position at Mills River: cellar can
be expanded to double capacity
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