Imagine having the opportunity to sit down with Ken Grossman, founder of perhaps America’s greatest craft beer company. As you sip one of his many brews, he tells you how, in 1980, he started a company that would eventually produce a million barrels of beer a year. As he tells his story, though, you sense that he is trying not to sound like he is betraying his humble nature. That is what it is like to read Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
With his bare hands, ingenuity and unflagging commitment, the longtime backpacker and bicyclist, now in his 60s, overcame obstacles that would sink mere mortals. He built a company with quality and sustainability as his guideposts; his brewery in Chico, California has become the city’s biggest tourist attraction. Sierra Nevada added an even more impressive facility near Asheville, North Carolina.
Ken Grossman’s story is remarkable in many ways. And his book came out before 2018’s fire that destroyed Paradise, just up the road from Ken’s brewery. His (and Sierra Nevada’s) response to that disaster reminded me of his dogged determination that created Sierra Nevada nearly four decades ago. He called a special brew Resilience and is donating all sales (not just the profits) of the beer to the Paradise recovery. And he convinced breweries across America to join the effort.
Beyond the Pale is an inspiring story and you can shop for the book by clicking on the cover above.
(In the interest of disclosure, my son works for Sierra Nevada in Chico.)