On Location: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room
BERKELEY, Calif.—There are obvious nods to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s heritage and culture at the Torpedo Room.
Decades-old kegs, converted into light fixtures, glow overhead. A mural of brew kettles covers one wall. A steel carving of the brewery’s logo, the width of a big-screen TV, hangs above the bar, which is framed by replica torpedoes, the stainless steel dry-hopping devices invented by the brewery.
Some of those nods are more subtle. The wood bar is part of a fallen walnut tree from Chico, where Sierra Nevada is based. Then there’s the tile floor. Sierra Grossman, the brewery’s director of customer experience and daughter of founder Ken Grossman, called it her favorite feature of the tasting room. “We have this in our brewery in Chico and North Carolina,” said Grossman during a January visit, glancing down at an irregular pattern of industrial-strength tiles in three shades of gray. “If you tour our brewery, you’ll notice that they’re in patterns but they’re very set, sterile patterns, and I love random.”
Random as it may seem to set up an outpost sans brewery on a quiet street here rather than nearby San Francisco, Ken Grossman cites Berkeley-based restaurant Chez Panisse as Sierra Nevada’s first key account. More than one year after opening, the Torpedo Room (2031 Fourth St.) is a fixture in the neighborhood and a center for beer education. It has hosted special events, including a science-focused evening with Tom Nielsen (the brewery’s technical lead on flavor and raw ingredients research) and a beer tasting with Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Co.
On a recent Friday night, the 16 draft beers included regular standbys, seasonal releases, offerings from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp program and several vintages (dating back to 2009) of Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale. Bartenders guided newcomers in choosing 4-ounce samples and offered recommendations to regulars stopping by to fill growlers. With so many options, it would be easy to linger, but the small pours (the Torpedo Room doesn’t offer pints) promote tasting and keep visitors moving in and out of the intimate space.
“We wanted it to be an educational spot … a place where people could come and learn about beer, science and brewing,” said Sierra Grossman. “We obviously have a passion for all of that—[this is a place] to share that passion through a glass of beer.”
This story first appeared in the July 2015 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here to subscribe.