“Finding the Holy Grail of bottle-cap
linings is really important to me.”
on goat’s milk. We like living off the land.
I usually have a couple shots of espresso
and sit and chat with Katie for a while
before heading to the brewery. The first
four miles are dirt road, so I drive slowly.
That’s good thinking time.
I’m in the office by around 7 a.m. I usually start my day with a videoconference with
my team in North Carolina. For the last two
years, I’ve dedicated at least 20 hours per
week to this expansion. At first, I was resistant to the idea of opening a second brewery
on the East Coast, because I like to walk
around the place every day to see what’s
going on. But, as our business has grown out
east, expanding has become necessary from
both a business and an ecological standpoint. Beer is heavy and expensive to truck,
and I care deeply about our company’s environmental impact.
Plus, we have been growing so fast that we’re about to reach
maximum capacity in Chico.
We settled on Mills River, North Carolina, after analyzing our
current distribution and projected growth in different markets.
We whittled the search down to a dozen potential communities,
all of which I visited in 2011. We looked at shipping, energy, and
infrastructure costs, as well as water quality and local taxes. But
the final choice came down to lifestyle: We wanted a place with
plenty of outdoor activities—mountain biking, climbing, river
rafting—like we have around Chico. I’ve always been active, and
most of my employees enjoy the outdoors as well. Work is important, but so is a life outside of work.
In the last year, I’ve spent one week a month in North Carolina. My 28-year-old son, Brian, already moved there. He’s going
to be one of the plant managers. After we open the plant this fall,
my plan is to visit every other week. So far, I’ve been sleeping in
a 26-foot trailer on the construction site.
Once my son and his family are settled, I’ll
stay with them.
After the videoconference, I spend the
rest of my day in meetings or walking
around. On Tuesday, I meet with my plant
manager, who runs the facility. For a long
time, everybody at the company reported to
me. But I wasn’t always doing a great job of
guiding or mentoring folks. The brewers
and the R&D folks still report to me, and
that will always be the case. I love beer and
brewing, and I don’t want to give that up.
Hopped Up Each day, Sierra
Nevada goes through about 2,000
pounds of hops.
SIERRA NEVADA, AT A GLANCE
Headquarters: Chico, California
Year founded: 1980
Gallons of beer produced
each year: 31 million
Beers: 18 available nationwide,
including a stout, a brown
ale, and an IPA. The company
also makes seasonal and