Very rarely does one have the opportunity to hear, firsthand, the history behind one of the pioneers and most influential breweries in the craft brewing movement in the United States. And when the person doing the talking is Steve Grossman, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Beer Ambassador (and older brother of the co-founder Ken Grossman), while you are tasting some of his creations, the only thing you need to do is sit back and enjoy the experience to the fullest.
There was a recent agreement between Agora Group (owner of Ambar and Moritz, among other brands) and Sierra Nevada to distribute and include their beers in its portfolio. Together with Barna Brew, a brewpub located in the neighborhood of Sant Antoni, they organised a meet-up last Saturday for ten beer enthusiasts who had the opportunity to share a table and some beers with Steve. In addition to being very friendly and down to earth, he also introduced us to the origins of the mythical brewery in Chico (California). He shared what is the living history of the American craft beer revolution.
He explained the details of the evolution of the sector in his country (in the US craft beer already holds 14% of the market), collaborations with other breweries, sustainability and recycling projects in which they are very active (solar energy panels, water treatment, organic hop farming, etc.), and highlighted some of the challenges they face to allow continued innovation and growth in new markets.
Steve and his brother Ken began to make beer at home when they were fifteen and thirteen years respectively, until 1979 when they decided to start the brewery with the financial help of friends and family. The history of Sierra Nevada began in a small rented industrial building, until it became what it is today: a company that employs more than 600 people.
The first time they made their well-known (and so inspiring!) Pale Ale was in 1980, and almost forty years later, it is still going strong. According to Steve, to obtain the best results and a perfect balance of the ingredients, they had to produce more than ten batches until they gradually refined the recipe: a classic Pale Ale that is bottle-conditioned, amber colored, fruity and with citrus notes, very easy to drink and loaded with Cascade hops.
Another one of the beers that we tasted (besides the Torpedo Extra IPA) was the Tropical Torpedo, an India Pale Ale that as the name indicates is characterised both in aroma and flavour by an intense tropical fruit character (pineapple, mango, passionfruit), perfectly balanced with a nice bitter finish.
In a nutshell: this was a magnificent craft beer experience in the splendid setting that is Barna Brew, a must-visit on Calle Parlament.