Sierra Nevada Brewery
It’s been a good few of years for Sierra Nevada. The 37-year- old brewery has rung up more than $200 million in sales, watched CEO Ken Grossman break the Forbes World's Billionaires list in 2014, and celebrated the opening of their
second location in Mills River, N.C. But in an industry that rakes in
$100 billion a year, and has seen a sharp increase in new competition,
keeping an eye on the future success of the company means always
looking to expand and strengthen a brand. For Sierra Nevada, that has
entailed embracing the past through historical ties to both the industry
and community, and the future through sustainable building techniques.
Both elements are evident in the Mills River brewery.
While their Chico, Calif., location has been a staple on the West
Coast since Grossman began brewing in 1978, when peak production
met with growing transportation costs, the search was on for the next
spot where Sierra Nevada could settle down and take root.
The 185-acre parcel in Mills River proved to be the perfect spot.
Located in the burgeoning Asheville metro aea, the outdoorsy township welcomed the brewery with open arms, partially due to Sierra
Nevada’s strong sustainability focus. “We went into the jobsite saying
we were going to be a LEED Silver Certified-building, and the community
really embraced that,” said Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager for
“Sustainability is always the focus for Sierra Nevada,” added Matt
Gallaway, principal architect at Russel Gallaway Associates, Inc. (RGA),
which designed the facility. While the California facility has provided plenty
of learning experiences in retrofitting an existing facility with new sustainable
technologies, starting from the ground up in Mills River allowed the team
to take sustainability into consideration from the start.
Probably the most impressive element of their sustainability efforts is
the use of reclaimed wood. “We did have to clear a bit of the site for the
brewery, and one of the things that Ken requested was to save most of
the timber that was on that site,” explained Chastain. “We had it milled
and till-dried, and then it was reintegrated into the entire design.”
“All of the wood you see in the taproom and restaurant is wood
that was reclaimed,” said Gallaway. To ensure no lumber went to
waste, Sierra Nevada hired Californian woodworker Vaughn Zellick to
oversee the careful removal of the trees, which were milled and treated
locally. The poplar, black oak, Spanish oak, and white oak planks were
then crafted into the décor. “Tabletops, ceiling, trim, bar—all of the
wood came from the site,” explained Gallaway.
The overall effect is inviting. Mixed with copper—reminiscent of
historic brewing practices as well as Sierra Nevada’s own history of having
cobbled together their first brewery in the 1980s with copper saved from
a defunct German brewer—the taproom and restaurant exudes warmth.
Oak barrels work as lighting and décor, reminding visitors of brewing history when beer was fermented in wooden casks. The process is
proudly on display with the vats viewable through surrounding windows
and behind the bar.
In all, the restaurant can hold up to 300 patrons at both community
bar-height tables and more intimate two-person spots, and 80 around
the curved bar. But the wide space and minimalistic wooden furniture
gives plenty of room to breathe.
The importance of space continues to the exterior landscape as
well. Of the 185 acres, less than 30 were developed. The remaining