So during our last brewer interview tour, we went up to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and visited their brewpub. I had never been there and it was time to find out all of the great things I have been hearing about it. It was worth it. Here we go:
The brewpub itself is occupies a corner of what looks to be their main building. I don’t mean to make the pub sound small, the building is their “main” building that houses the brew systems and fermentation tanks located on the frontage of their property. Funny, if you look at google maps and survey the area while you are up there, you realize the Sierra bought their property at a time when it was probably the edge or outside of the town of Chico. Today, it is surrounded by the standard outlying and freeway access fare…there are a couple hotels and the typical chain type foods joints (applebees, etc) and all the big stores (home depot, target, etc). It looks like if Sierra want to expand further, they are either getting a different property or they are going up. Fortunately, it looks like they had great vision and everything they have today fits well on their large property, including some fairly large acreage of hops.
We checked into the Oxford Inn which is about a 10 minute walk from the brewpub, perfect location right on the other side of highway 99. After dropping off our stuff and downing a growler of an excellent rye beer from Blue Frog, we headed over to the pub. At 5:30 on a Friday (a beautiful night weather-wise, by the way…about 70 degrees) the pub was hopping and we had about a 20 minute wait for a table. We proceed to the bar and were overwhelmed to see about 16 of their beers on tap (wait….they don’t have that many bottled beers). The brewpub itself, I would call “large brewpub” in size. It is not huge, which Sierra Nevada could have easily done but they kept it as a pub atmosphere and size does have something to do with that. OK back to those beers. Where to start? I love brown ales and they happened to have one so I ordered that. They also had a Brown Saison which Mike ordered. The brown was excellent and I stuck with it most of the night. Malty, balanced, and luscious…exactly what I expect from a brewery of Sierra’s caliber. The brown saison was very basically the brown but with a Belgian yeast. I’m sure there is more to it than that but it worked. Generally, I am not a fan of “throw Belgian yeast into a non-belgian beer” but this one is a winner and does what others don’t: it gelled, melded, coalesced well. While were enjoying this first round, our little coaster/buzzer thing start going off and we were led to our seats on the patio. Another round was ordered and I either got another brown or their bock which I loved as well. I’m pretty new to the bock style so one of the great things that can happen is finding an example of said style that really does the trick for you. I love this beer, very drinkable. Pilsner malt aroma, great body, and a nice hint of toast. Fortunately, they had six packs of this beer in their gift shop so we grabbed a couple the next morning. What other beers did they have? I suggest looking at the photo gallery since there is a great shot of the sampler tray with names and also a shot of the beer list. There was a kellerbier that I would have invested more time in if we were there for another night. Couple of weizen beers, a blonde, and more.
I was happy to finally understand and dispel one myth while I was up there. The going phrase I knew was “you gotta go to the brewpub because the Pale Ale is different up there”. The real story is that Sierra Nevada has different recipes for their draft pale ale and the bottled version. The nice thing about their pub is not only do they have the draft version (of course) but they had the bottled version on draft as well so you can do them side by side. Unfortunately I didn’t do a comparison since I was so enamored with their other beers that are not available anywhere else. Our server said , I believe, that the draft version is higher ABV but I could have it backwards. Anyway, if I was dying to try it, I could set up that side by side back at home.
The food? Standard pub fare plus. I went for the plus and got the fillet mignon tips in fettuccini. The sauce was a light white sauce. Oh baby was it good. Ended up splattering a bunch of it on my new, white brewers association t-shirt. There were other shirts in my travel duffel so good to go.
So Sierra Nevada brewpub? Do it. Pay homage to America’s original craft brewery. I would recommend that if you are a beer lover, that you do two nights up there. You could take the 2pm tour the next day and hit the pub again the next night to finish out what you couldn’t the night before.
Oh and don’t forget to check out the photo gallery.
We wanted to interview Brewmaster, Brian Ford but he had surgery earlier in the week and couldn’t make it. We managed to stop at his brewpub (he is also the founder) on the way to an interview later that day. The Alehouse is easy access from the freeway and would actually make a great place to stay as it looks to be in the “old town” area right south of interstate 80. We sampled a few of the beers and the nitro stout and his porter were our favorites. The porter was on the side of coffee, chocolate with good fullness (as opposed to clean, roasty porter). Food was good and we had a couple appetizers while we were there.
Would definitely like to spend more time at this pub in the future so we’ll get back to it one day but wanted to note that it looks like a good stop for a pint. I have a couple shots of the pub at the end of the photo gallery for this entry.