Ken Grossman

A Clever, Beer-Themed April Fool’s Prank

Today, reported that the heads of four craft-brewing pioneers–Kim Jordan (New Belgium), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery) and Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head)–will be chipped out of Half Dome, the 9,000-foot-tall granite formation in Yosemite National Park. It also reported that the landmark will be named “Craft Dome”.

It gets better:

[I]t all started with a call from Leslie Knope a few weeks ago. Grossman says the Pawnee, Indiana, native who rose to the top of the ranks of the National Park Service was looking for a way the government could give props to the rise of small and independent brewing in America.

“She said she wanted to put a project together to honor the founding of craft brewing…Since California is the birthplace they wanted to do it at Half Dome.”

There’s also a video from Sierra Nevada’s Facebook page in which the four honorees explain the Craft Dome plan.

Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Well done.

Wet Hop Beer Year-Round?

Last fall, one of the local breweries released a fresh-hop ale. I had several growlers, and pronounced it the best beer the brewery has made in its ten-year history. Now I learned that fresh-hop ale might become available year-round.

Ken Grossman, the founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, has dealt directly with hops farmers in Washington State. One of the farmers also grows mint, and he built a device that extracts oil from the mint leaves. Grossman asked the farmer whether that device works for hops oil as will. It does.

Grossman asked the farmer friend to build him a similar device, and now he has a supply of fresh hops oil. That’s the good news.

The better news is Sierra Nevada has made a new beer, Hop Hunter IPA, with the fresh hops oil. Aaron Goldfarb of Esquire magazine, who got to review the beer, gave it a rave review: “Like most wet hop beers, Hop Hunter is extraordinarily floral and aromatic, like sticking your nose into a freshly-picked plant or flower bouquet. It’s not really bitter-tasting either, certainly not as bitter as your typical IPAs.”

Hop Hunter will be released on February 1. Mark your calendar.

Ken Grossman: Tips From the Top

Ken Grossman, the founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, is out with a new book titled Beyond the Pale. It goes without saying that he’s been successful–can you believe Sierra Nevada turns 33 years old this fall?–and that he’s being sought out for his advice to entrepreneurs. In a recent interview with Dan Schawbel of Forbes magazine, Grossman offered these three tips:

1. Gut check the path you’re paving. I encountered some huge hurdles when first building the brewery, and the outcome may have been different if my passion for beer wasn’t resolute.

2. To piggyback number one, always carry around a big helping of optimism. Challenges will be that much more bearable.

3. Be mindful of those helping you succeed, and let them know you value them—often. It’s hard to give up some of the steering of the ship as a driven entrepreneur, but we don’t last 33 years as a brewery—with no end in sight—without our loyal employees.

Brewing and Rocket Science

If you ever belonged to a homebrewing club, someone probably told you, “brewing isn’t rocket science.” However, rocket science played a role in the creation of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder, explained the connection to Tom Rotunno of’s Consumer Nation:

When I was growing up in Southern California I had a neighbor that was actually a rocket scientist, he was an accomplished homebrewer and home winemaker. His son and I were best buddies going through elementary school, junior high, and high school. His dad would be brewing something on his stove every weekend and had rows of carboys fermenting away. I was just intrigued by all of that and think it sort of stuck.

Grossman also talked about the 1957 Chevy truck he used to haul supplies to his brewery, his intention to keep his business in the family, and which Sierra Nevada beer he likes best. Actually, he punted on the last question, telling Rotunno, “I would never publicly say I have a favorite child, so I’m not going to tell you my favorite beer!”

Location, Location, Location

Nowadays, you can find a variety of high-quality beer almost anywhere in the country. According to Ken Grossman, the co-founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, you can thank northern California. In an interview with Will Hawkes of the Independent, Grossman credited the region’s free-thinking culture, which give birth to both the Summer of Love and Silicon Valley, for good American beer. Grossman explains:

“It was an advantage for us to be here. I’ve often wondered, you know, if Anchor hadn’t been in San Francisco, and New Albion hadn’t started in Sonoma, and if we hadn’t started here, would the craft world have got as much traction as it did? In Northern California, with the culture of good wine and food and things that are not mainstream–I think that helped kick-start things. I don’t think if we’d have been in Kansas, for example, it would have been the same. That’s not to say craft beer wouldn’t be here today, but it probably wouldn’t have happened as fast.”

Jim Koch Reigns Supreme

For the first time, a craft brewing figure is at the top of Beer Business Daily’s Power 20. He’s Jim Koch, CEO of the Boston Beer Company. Other craft brewing people on the list: Kim Jordan (New Belgium Brewing Company), at #9; and Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) and Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery), tied at #15.

EPA Honors Sierra Nevada

It’s been a great year for Sierra Nevada Brewing Company CEO Ken Grossman. His company turned 30 years old, and gained the beer world’s attention with a series of high-gravity beers made in collaboration with craft brewing legends.

Now comes news that Grossman’s company has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which named it the Pacific Western Division’s Green Business of the Year. Sierra Nevada keeps 99.5 percent of its solid waste out of landfills through such means as recycling and composting, and gets 85 percent of its electricity from renewable power.

The Making of Jack and Ken’s Ale

“Jack,” of course, is Jack McAuliffe, and “Ken” is Ken Grossman. Take a trip down Memory Lane with these two craft brew pioneers.

Don’t forget: the video is free, but you’ll have to provide your own popcorn.

Hey! What Happened to the Hops?

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company CEO Ken Grossman comments on the disappearance of hops from macrobrewed beer (hat tip: Jeff Alworth of Beervana):

Fun fact: Coors, once the hoppiest national-brand beer, is down to a puny 6.5 IBUs.

Do You Know Jack?

John Holl, writing in, profiles an underappreciated brewing pioneer, Jack McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s New Albion Brewery turned out a mere 450 barrels in its heyday, and closed its doors in late 1982. But his brewery was a success simply for coming into existence. Holl quotes beer historian Maureen Ogle, who says: “He demonstrated that the new brewing model could work and despite the fact that it didn’t last long and failed spectacularly, his influence played a significant role for the first successful batch of microbrewers.”

Even more remarkably, New Albion lasted long enough to inspire the likes of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Ken Grossman, who returned the favor by collaborating with McAuliffe to brew one of Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary beers. It’s an American barleywine.

McAuliffe was so obscure for so long because after New Albion’s closure (and a brief stint at Mendocino Brewing Company, which inherited his equipment), he left the brewing industry to resume his career in engineering. Fortunately, Jack is not only still around but has reintroduced himself to the craft brewing industry which, some can argue, he created.

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