10 of the Country’s Most Interesting Breweries
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, California, and Mills River, North Carolina
You can’t just pull up to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Mills River location. But that’s the point.
Each visitor needs to drive three-quarters of a mile on a winding road, passing a large copper kettle, stone walls and greenscape full of North Carolina native trees and flowers. The anticipation builds. Up a hill, the parking lot offers a direct sightline into the brewery, thanks to a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. The whole process is purposeful.
“I like to give two analogies for the experience,” explains Brian Grossman, second-generation brewer for Sierra. “First, it’s like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Meandering through the trees is going down. Then as you reach the brewery up this steep hill, it feels like Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ when she opens the door after the twister and everything goes from black-and-white to color. It’s all part of this big unveiling.”
No wonder the space has earned the nickname “Malt Disney World.”
The 300,000-square-foot brewery is a destination for beer lovers visiting North Carolina and a connection to the culture Sierra Nevada originally created in Chico, California. Along with guided tours and educational tastings, visitors can grab food at an on-site restaurant or enjoy nature on a back porch. There’s also a beer garden with fire pit, a 6,500-square-foot herb and vegetable garden, and an amphitheater for musical performances. To top it off, it’s the first production brewery in the country to receive a LEED platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
That’s aside from 23 beers on tap, including specialty release bottles available at the brewery’s gift shop.
“A lot of breweries are places you have a beer after work and go home,” says Grossman. “We wanted to create a place where you could spend a whole day.” –Bryan Roth