Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is honored to announce the release of Estate Ale—one of the world’s only estate-made beers brewed with 100% all-natural, locally-grown hops and barley, which are produced at the brewery in Chico, California. Inspired by the renowned winemaking region of its Napa and Sonoma neighbors, Sierra Nevada is the first brewery to develop its own terroir. This beer is brewed with ingredients that reflect the flavors of the environment and the seasonal rhythms of nature.
The wine industry is fond of speaking about the individual flavor characteristics that it takes from its environment. This terroir is present in all growing things that are tended with passion and care. The environment that builds flavor is more than simply the soil or the climate: it is also the passion and commitment of the grower. Sierra Nevada’s location near the convergence of the mighty Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges—and its roots in the heart of California’s fertile Central Valley—offer an environment unique in the world. This volcanic backdrop and productive earth each lend character to the water, hops, barley, and yeast.
Chico Estate Ale is the product of years of tending the soil, building an environment around the brewery, and even more years of planning. It began in 2003, with the planting of the first experimental hop yard in the field adjacent to the brewery. Over the years the field grew, and the hops along with it. The quality improved: the rhythm of planting, tending, and harvesting was established. In 2008, the brewery released Chico Estate Harvest Ale for the first time, utilizing the fresh-green flavors of these homegrown hops. The brewery was so pleased with the result that it decided to take it further than anyone else and produce a 100% estate-made beer.
That fall, the brewery made the decision to expand the hop field and plant a test plot of barley on-site. The goal to make an estate beer seemed far-fetched. Countless times, the brewery heard that growing malting barley in the hot, dry Chico climate was impossible. Despite the objections, 26 acres of two-row barley went into the soil in January of 2009. By May, the waist-high green barley was waving in the Northern California wind, and by June, a healthy harvest was a foregone conclusion. The brewery never intended to release a 100% estate-made beer in 2009, but as in all things, Mother Nature dictates and we react. The brewery found itself with thousands of pounds of the finest malting barley and acres of the world’s freshest wet hops: Estate Ale was born.
Sierra Nevada’s estate-made beer is a decades-long dream finally seeing reality. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. prides itself on environmental stewardship and responsible brewing practices. This “Hop Harmony” philosophy is part of a larger movement toward creating a natural and sustainable brewery. Efforts include recycling and composting, water treatment, bio-fuel production, and water conservation. In 2009, a recently completed solar array (one of the largest private installations in the country) combined with four fuel cell generators to produce between 80 and 90 percent of the brewery’s total energy needs on-site.