The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a beer company that truly has the American spirit. What started with two home brewers from California back in 1980 has grown to be the 7th largest brewing company, as well as the third top craft brewer, in the entire country.
With achievements like this, of course, you would want to show off the fruits of your labor. Sierra Nevada is always finding to do things differently and is not your typical beer tour. Here, we’ll cover the tours available at the original Chico, California brewery, but you can also take a tour of their second location in Mills River, North Carolina.
Multiple Tour Types
The company has a ton to see and do on site, which is refreshing; most brewing or distilling companies only offer a tiny glimpse into their operations. From the surrounding gardens to the cooling systems, almost everything is available to tour.
Whatever your interests in the company may be, you can find a very good time. Reservations for any and all tours are highly recommended, even if you are planning on visiting the public areas yourself.
The tours offered are:
- Brewhouse Tour
- Sustainability Tour
- Beer Geek Tour
- Engineering Tour
- Guided Educational Tastings
- And a Self-Guided Tour.
Although this tours quickly devolve from beers-with-friends to educational, it’s a very good idea to offer so many. When you’re limited to just one, even the best tour can quickly grow stale.
The Brewhouse Tour is a free 90-minute presentation that offers a hands-on look at the process and the West Brewhouse, while the Self-Guided Tour is more of a history museum experience. The Sustainability Tour provides a look at the surrounding fields where they grow most, if not all, of their own ingredients, as well as California’s largest solar panel system.
Beer Geek Tour
For a more in-depth look into the brewing process, the Beer Geek Tour is for you. This tour is $45 and includes a three hour-presentation of the history of craft beer, as well as the fermentation room, the East Brewhouse, the cellar, and so much more.
If the Beer Geek Tour has left more burning question than answers, there is also the more technical Engineering Tour. For an admission price of $15 and lasting two hours, groups have the opportunity to go through areas that other tours do not enter. Here, guests are shown the unsung mechanical heroes that help Sierra Nevada Brewing Company make the perfect batch every time.
Guided Educational Tasting
Finally, if you’re only visiting to try the company’s products, and let’s be honest, that would be most of us, there’s the Guided Educational Tasting. This presentation is short, sweet, and to the point. Visitors have the opportunity to sample eight different beers while hearing about the history and specific details. This is also ideal for anyone short on time, as it only takes half an hour and costs $10.
Commitment to Sustainability
One thing California-based companies have always done well at is remaining sustainable, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company certainly takes the cake. Relying on alternative fuel sources and automated composting, as well as growing on-site efforts, the company seemingly wastes next to nothing.
These efforts aren’t just for show, either. With continued efforts and the evolution of solar and other energy sources, we can expect continued dedication to staying green.
Finally, farming is an important aspect to the company’s success, and the Sustainability Tour proves this point. Grown on the property and on an impressive eight acres of land are all of the hops. In addition, other vegetables, like the ones used in the Taproom’s menu, are grown on a separate two-acre plot.
Whereas many craft breweries only offer baked pretzels and nuts, Sierra Nevada has a full-fledged sustainable restaurant. The concepts at Taproom are incredible and it’s the best way to end any tour.
The company offers 19 beers on tap, which rotate out seasonally. Depending on when you visit, you can look forward to sampling everything from light lagers to hoppy double IPAs. Whatever poison you prefer, you know it’s going to go down smooth.
Of course, beer is best when it’s washing down a good meal, and it doesn’t get much fresher here. Almost everything on the menu is grown on site or baked from in-house bakers. The cheeses and meats offered are artisanal, and even the beef is raised by the company. Open daily from 11 to 9, and Friday and Saturday nights open until 10 pm is the Taproom.
Is it really a tour if you don’t exit through the gift shop? The upside is the shop is less tourist kitsch and more brand fan enthusiasm.
Here, you can find typical purchasing choices such as t-shirts, glasses, and bottle openers. However, you can also find plenty of beverages for sale, and it isn’t your typical beer run. Year-round beers, seasonal brews, and even Chico, California, exclusive beers can be purchased, as well as gift packages. If you have a hard to buy for person in your life, this may be the souvenir for you.
Being sustainable, next to nothing goes to waste, and you can even find unique gift ideas that use some of the ingredients that Sierra Nevada Brewing Company depends on. Items such as soaps made from hops, crunchy beer brittle, and even specialty mustards are available.