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Ken Grossman - Founder/Owner, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Butte College

Ken Grossman learned about beer as a young man. A neighborhood friend’s father taught him how to homebrew at an early age, and his life has never been the same.

After skipping out on his high school graduation to join friends on a bicycle trip, Grossman ended up in Chico, CA. In 1976 at 21-years-old, he turned his mechanical and brewing skills toward opening a home brew shop. After years of intensive home brewing and recipe development, Grossman began Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.—one of the nation’s first “micro” breweries.

Grossman began the design for Sierra Nevada in 1978, with little resources and no business models to follow. Small-scale breweries were unheard of, and Grossman had to rely on his mechanical skill to get started. He scoured junkyards for scrap stainless steel and used dairy equipment for the parts to build his brewery. His tiny, hand-built brewery finally began producing beer in 1980.

As a home brewer, Grossman was never satisfied with the shabby and often poorly handled ingredients available to him—especially hops. Grossman began to travel straight to the source in Yakima, WA to get new fresh and flavorful hops straight from farmers. One of these hops was a newly developed variety called Cascade. This American hop was filled with pungent citrus and pine flavors. He used a hearty dose of Cascade hops in his iconic Pale Ale and revolutionized the “American” style of brewing.

Over the past three decades, Sierra Nevada has grown from that tiny hand-built brewhouse into the 6th largest brewery in America, distributing to all 50 states and several foreign countries. This astounding growth was built solely by generous word-of-mouth and the brewery’s constant dedication to top-quality ingredients and interesting beers. Grossman’s passions for hops and grassroots business skills have helped change the drinking taste of millions.

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