To some degree, we've heard Ken Grossman's story before. It starts with the taste of better beer or, more accurately, the revelatory experience of drinking a beer that actually has taste. From there the entrepreneurial spirit takes over and, as they say, the rest is history.
Yet, Beyond the Pale: The Story of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. isn't just about building a brand on a shoestring budget with a cobbled together brewing system, it's about learning what has gone into making Sierra Nevada one of the most respected brands in the craft beer industry today.
For his part, Grossman is immersed in the subject to say the least. Besides being the president and owner of Sierra Nevada, he's acted as engineer, designer and fabricator for the Chico, California-based brewery as it has expanded and evolved over the past 33 years. A tinkerer from an early age, as he describes various projects you get the impression he could tell you size of every nut, bolt and fastener he's ever used when installing a piece of equipment. Such attention to detail has likely played no small part in the quality and consistency of Sierra Nevada's products over the years.
Something else that factors into the quality and consistency of the brand is that Grossman is always looking for things that can be improved. He says himself that "a big factor in our continuous success and sustained growth is that we have never been satisfied with the status quo." Indeed, no material or process goes overlooked, even down to what goes into making the bottle cap liner used in their packaging flow.
It's a remarkable journey, especially considering that for the better part of three decades Sierra Nevada operated with no sales or marketing department and no help from the financial sector. This no frills approach, as Grossman describes it, extends to his storytelling style as well. He wastes little time with asides and never strays far from topic. Instead, he focuses on telling the reader what he did, why he did it and what impact he expected it to have. Likely, he didn't have time to do much else. If you haven't figured it out already, this is one busy man. He's also one who re-committed himself just in time to build Sierra Nevada's fifth brewing system, this time in North Carolina.
Review copy furnished courtesy of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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