The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was established in 1980 by homebrewers Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi. Camusi retired in 1998 and sold his share in the company to Grossman. Located in Chico, California, Sierra Nevada Brewing is one of the most popular craft breweries currently operating in the United States. Their Pale Ale is world renowned, and the brewery produces almost 700,000 barrels of beer per year. Their specialty brews include the winter Seasonal Celebration, like the pale ale only hoppier with hints of oak and cinnamon, and Summerfest, which is citrusy and sunny. Their beer is consistently rated high in BeerAdvocate.com's Top 25 list, and has been featured on many television shows, including Friends and Sex and the City. In 1989, after moving the brewery to its current location, Ken added The Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner. More recently the brewery opened "The Big Room", a live music venue located inside the brewery's facilities, and featuring world-class acts from country, bluegrass, folk, rock, blues and other musical genres.
The brewmaster is Steve Dresler who has been with the brewery since 1983 when their output was 25 to 30 barrels a week. While commonly referred to as a microbrewery, their production has outgrown that label and they are more properly called a craft brewery.
1,000 kW Co-Generation Hydrogen Fuel Cells
In March 2005, SNBC installed one of the largest fuel cell projects in the US with a 1 MW power plant consisting of four 250-kilowatt Direct FuelCell® (DFC®) power plants from FuelCell Energy, Inc. Its waste heat is harvested in the form of steam and used for the brewing process as well as other heating needs. Anaerobic digestion of the brewery wastewater produces methane rich biogas which is recovered and burned with a blend of natural gas in the fuel cells. One MW of electricity is the equivalent to the power needed to support approximately 500-1000 homes for a year. With this power plant, Sierra Nevada not only lowers its overall energy costs but also eliminates air pollutant emissions equivalent to removing 500 gasoline-powered cars from the road every year.
Solar Powered Brewery
SNBC has installed a 500 kW tracking solar array shade structure covering the brewery parking lot and a 1.26 MW solar electric system on the roof of its factory in Chico, making this one of the largest privately owned solar systems in the United States. The solar electric system was installed by Chico Electric and uses 6,800 Mitsubishi Electric 185Wp high-strength, corrosion-resistant solar panels. The brewery's renewable energy systems will produce 8,877,000 kWh of electricity annually and will provide 73 percent of the brewery's power. This is enough electricity to power 833 average US homes. By choosing solar and fuel-cell energy, the brewery will offset 4,678 metric tons of carbon every year that would have otherwise been emitted into the environment.
Greenhouse Gas Registry
In 2007 SNBC became the first brewery to join the California Climate Action Registry, a distinguished group of organizations demonstrating leadership by voluntarily taking action on climate change. Sierra Nevada works with the Registry to annually track, report, and certify its greenhouse gas emissions, the main drivers of global warming. In 2007 SNBC received the Climate Action Champion Award from the Registry. The results are posted for the public at www.climateregistry.org and are certified by independent third parties to ensure compliance with Registry protocols and standardization across participants and sectors. The Registry has been widely recognized as a gold standard for public reporting of greenhouse gases.
At every stage in the brewing and packaging process, the company attempts to reduce waste generation. This includes recycling cardboard, plastics, metals and other materials, utilizing spent brewing grains, hops, and yeast for cattle feed, reducing water use, operating its own water purification plant, reusing boxes and packaging materials as much as possible, reducing the amount of materials that comes into the facility, finding alternative uses for materials that can not be recycled, donating used materials and byproducts to local non profits, and reusing all materials as much as possible. From January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006 SNBC diverted 97.8% (33,738.5 tons of material) of brewery's waste and byproducts from the landfill. In this same time period the brewery saved approximately $1 million in landfill disposal fees and brought in approximately $20,000 in recycling income.
Energy Efficiency & CO2 Reduction
SNBC has installed modern high-tech equipment to increase energy efficiency. Fixtures have been retrofitted with electronic ballast lights and motion sensors; air compressors have been replaced with ultra-efficient, speed-controlled drives; high-efficiency motors and refrigeration systems are in use and energy efficient electronics and appliances are in place throughout the brewery. All employees are encouraged and advised to help the brewery maintain as many energy efficient practices as possible and are also encouraged to take these energy efficient practices home with them. CO2 and heat recovery systems were installed in 2004. CO2 is a by-product of the fermentation process and is often released directly into the atmosphere. SNBC installed CO2 recovery devices that allow the capture of this important greenhouse gas. After it is captured it is piped over to the packaging line where it is reused in the bottling process. The heat recovery system serves a similar function in that it captures fugitive heat and cycles it back into the boiling process. Transportation is one of the largest GHG-causing industries within the state of California. With this in mind, SNBC decided to begin bringing in grains from Canada by rail instead of by truck. This greatly increases the efficiency of the transportation process while lowering emissions. SNBC is currently leasing a rail spur less than 15 miles from the brewery where grains are brought in by rail and then to the brewery by truck. SNBC has recently purchased land within 2 miles of the brewery, where it will build its own rail spur.
Water Conservation & Purification
Sierra Nevada focuses on minimizing water usage and continually audits the process to minimize wasteful practices. They have been able to reduce their water usage to almost half of the historical value typically used by breweries in this country Sierra Nevada made the commitment several years ago to treat all production waste- water. They installed a European-designed, two-step anaerobic and aerobic treatment plant that reprocesses and purifies all water produced from brewing operations. The methane generated from the anaerobic digestion of the wastewater contents is used in boiler and electrical generation equipment. Additionally, water used for truck washing is collected and purified through their onsite wastewater purifying facility.
SNBC also understands the impact that agriculture has on the environment. Therefore, the company makes several efforts to ensure the food it uses in its restaurant - as well as the grains and hops used in its beer - are grown in a sustainable fashion. Every week, the head chef at the restaurant makes a trip to the local farmer’s market to purchase locally grown, in-season produce for use in the dishes prepared. SNBC purchased a herd of cattle that is pasture-raised organically - with no hormones or shots of any kind. SNBC has partnered with the local university, CSU, Chico, to have the cattle finished and processed just a few miles from the restaurant. This not only ensures that the beef served in the restaurant is chemical-free, but also the freshest meat possible.
SNBC’s long history of environmentally sustainable practices has gained it many awards and recognition. SNBC has won the WRAP award every year since 2001, for waste reduction and even received the California Integrated Waste Management’s Board Waste Reduction Awards Program “WRAP of the Year” award for 2002.
In 2005 Sierra Nevada was presented with the prestigious Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for Sustainable Practices in Waste Reduction and Recycling.