In Chico, a Craft Beer Pioneer Turns 30

Nov. 15, 1980: Twenty-six-year-old Ken Grossman brews his first commercial beer.

Last night, Grossman briefly took the stage at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s 30th anniversary party in Chico where it all began. Thirty different beers ― most of which have never been poured outside of Chico ― were tapped.

From modest beginnings on a 10-barrel brew system, Grossman now owns and operates the largest independent brewery in America ― Sierra Nevada will produce 700,000 barrels this year. When Sierra Nevada Pale Ale debuted, it boasted 36 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), at least thrice as high as, say, Bud Light. Back in 1980, there were roughly 40 American breweries. Compare that to the 1,600-plus we have today. Numbers like these show why each and every brewery owner has Grossman to thank and why Sierra Nevada remains the blueprint ambitious brewers follow.

The party capped a year-long buildup, during which Sierra Nevada released a series of 30th anniversary beers collaboratively brewed with fellow industry pioneers including Fritz and Ken's Pioneers Stout, brewed with Fritz Maytag, who salvaged Anchor Brewing in 1965 and sold it 45 years later.

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