No, the brewery doesn’t brew green beer, although it could, along with their flagship brew, Pale Ale, and Celebration Ale, Porter, Stout, Kellerweiss, Bigfoot, as well as many other award winning brews. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California, sixth largest brewery in the nation, is the perfect entrepreneurial model for the progressive push of “Made in America ” and at the same time, concern for the environment and self-sustainability.
Ken Grossman, founder, CEO, and owner of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Sierra Nevada is probably the only brewer with a future goal of becoming totally environmentally self-sustaining.
Professor Emeritus Michael J. Lewis at the University of California, Davis, recognized for establishing a brewing science program widely regarded as the best in the nation, made the following comment about Sierra Nevada Brewery: “The most perfect brewery on the planet.”
The Sierra Nevada mission statement is quite simple: “Quality, craftsmanship, and flavor in everything we do.” The mission continues: “In every aspect of the brewery, we strive to be as environmentally responsible as possible. From recycling and composting, to water treatment, bio-fuel production, and water conservation we work hard to minimize our impact on the environment.”
As an avowed backpacker in his early days in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Ken has kept his abiding respect for the great outdoors and our Earth. People and Strategy said the following about Ken: “He believes a company should pursue sustainable business practices because they benefit the social and natural environment, and because they drive the success of a company. To him, focusing on people and the planet as an integrated, strategic center improves profitability.”
In 2005, Sierra Nevada received California’s top environmental award for sustainable practices of waste reduction and recycling and every year since 2001, Sierra Nevada has received the prestigious WRAP (Waste Reduction Awards Program) award from California. However, marketing-wise, Sierra Nevada doesn’t push their sustainability, since their beer is based on its evident quality and taste.
- Solar Power: In 2008 the brewery installed the largest privately owned solar arrays in the nation. Currently there are over 10,800 individual photovoltaic panels and an elevated, three-acre tracking system, providing about a third of the brewery's total energy needs. In the near future, more photovoltaic panels will be added.
- Fuel Cells: In 2005, Sierra Nevada was the first brewery in the nation to install hydrogen fuel cells. Direct fuel cell technology allows the brewery to produce electricity utilizing a highly efficient and extremely low-emission process. Co-generation boilers recover exhaust heat energy, providing steam for brewing operations. The combination of solar and fuel cell energy production allows the brewery to produce more than half of all energy needs on-site.
- Carbon Dioxide Recovery: Sierra Nevada installed a recovery plant to recover and reuse CO2. Carbon dioxide is produced naturally in beer fermentation and is usually vented into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. The brewery's state-of-the-art system allows them to capture, purify, and reuse the gas, producing CO2 of much higher purity than available gas for the brewing process, while reducing climate change impacts.
- Organic Recovery: Spent grain, hops, and yeast are sold locally to cattle farmers. The brewery maintains its own herd of naturally raised cattle, along with a little beer - to be used in the restaurant and taproom. In 2010 Sierra Nevada installed the first HotRot composting system in the country. HotRot quickly turns the brewery's organic waste products into a rich compost for use in the hops fields and restaurant garden.
- Biogas Recovery: The anaerobic digestion of wastewater treatment sludge produces a methane-rich biogas that the brewery recovers and uses as a fuel source for their boilers.
- Water Treatment: Beer is over 90% water. Traditionally, breweries are notoriously wasteful of precious water. Sierra Nevada, through simple conservation, mindfulness, engineering efforts, water recycling, flow meters, and drip irrigation, is able to reduce water consumption to historic lows in the brewing industry.
- Efficient Shipping: In 2009 Sierra Nevada purchased the first Peterbilt Hybrid diesel-electric vehicle. Sierra Nevada is a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency's Smartway Program, a voluntary way to score rule efficiency for their fleet and shippers.
Jerry Drucker is a member of the Democratic Club of Camarillo and is the proud uncle of Ken Grossman, founder and CEO of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Ken's older brother Steve, who serves as the company's Beer Ambassador. Jerry is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and political progressive letterwriter. He was recognized as the 41st Assembly District Man of the Year for 2008 by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.