week to go over new ideas and discuss results. For instance,
there might be a new bottle-cap lining material we want to try.
Most liners are made out of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which
is banned in many European countries. Ours are not—we use
a blend of food-safe plastics. We’ve been working to find the
Holy Grail of bottle-cap liners—something that doesn’t impart
any flavor or odor while preventing oxygen from migrating
back through the plastic into the beer. A lot of our research has
been done around finding material that doesn’t scalp, or absorb
the aromas from the beer. I’m techy, and finding the Holy Grail
of bottle-cap linings is really important to me.
y cFo and i talk every day, but I
probably don’t spend as much
time poring over books as some
CEOs might. I do review financials and am involved in those
decisions, but I’d much rather be
playing with brewing ingredients than crunching numbers.
We do track our key performance indicators, and we have
screens throughout the brewery
so everyone can see them. One of the most important is beer loss.
On average, we lose around 8 percent
during the brewing process, because
of all the liquid transfers. If it’s higher
than that, we need to figure out what’s
going wrong. We also track and analyze things such as overtime hours,
consumer comments, and energy
and water use.
I spend more time now thinking
about our brand than I did in the
early days. When I started, 10,000
barrels a year was my dream. Then, I
wanted to get to 60,000 barrels. Now,
we’re up to a million barrels. I had
my head down for years and years,
just focused on how to grow the
company and make more beer. I
didn’t have to think about the market. Back then, there were only 35
brewers. Now, there are more than
2,000. So I think a lot more about
how to connect with our customers.
We do more tours of the brewery,
and we go to lots of festivals and
events. We also have a much larger
sales force. We used to have one
salesperson for every 10 states; now
we have an army of 100 people out
there telling the Sierra Nevada story.
I also spend a lot of time thinking about ways we could be
more energy efficient. We use a lot of resources, so to feel relatively good about what we do, I think it’s important to use those
resources as wisely and efficiently as we can. We have more than
10,000 solar panels on-site. It’s one of the largest privately owned
solar installations in the country. That allows us to generate up
to 80 percent of our own electricity.
We have a restaurant and pub at the brewery, and that’s
where I usually eat lunch. We have subsidized lunch plans: All
employees get a tab, which increases with the number of years
worked. Steve Dresler, who has been here 30 years, gets $300 a
month to spend at the pub. We also have subsidized day care
and an on-site health clinic that’s free to employees and their
family members. I think it’s important to show our employees
that we care about their well-being. Beer is a product people
can abuse, so we try to help people lead balanced lives.
Every other week, I take a few of my employees out for lunch
to a restaurant of their choosing. It might be up to three people
that I pick out of a hat. Those lunches help me get to know
people better on a personal level. I also try to walk around the
plant and talk to people every day. I want our employees to
think like owners. And I find that making a connection to as
many people as I can helps with that mission.
After work, I have a beer at our pub a few days a week. I try
to leave the office by 6 p.m. I
make dinner often, usually a
simple roast chicken or stir-fry.
Nothing fancy. Our evenings are
generally quiet. We’ll play cards
and watch movies. I may jump
on the computer and do a little
work, but that’s rare.
My wife and I like to sail, so
we recently rented a sailboat with
friends in Belize. Every year, we
go somewhere. We usually try to
go scuba diving. We just bought
another house on the coast in
California, and my plan is to
spend more time in the ocean. If
I have a day off, I usually go on a
long hike with my dogs.
But even then, I’m thinking
about work, how we can get
bigger and maintain quality. That
is what drives me. When I first
started this company, American
beer was a joke. Today, we are
regarded as one of the great beer
makers. We went from getting no
respect to having German brewers come visit us to see the way we
brew. That’s pretty awesome.
why he expanded to north carolina
“The final choice came
down to lifestyle. Work is
important, but so is a life
outside of work.”
why he bought 10,000 solar panels
“we use a lot of resources, so to
feel relatively good about what
we do, i think it’s important to
use those resources as wisely
and efficiently as we can.
why he has a small marketing budget
“We never really advertised
much, and we still don’t. I’ve
always thought it was better
to focus on our beer. ”
why he takes employees to lunch
“i want our employees to think like
owners. and i find that making a
connection to as many people as
i can helps with that mission.”