Monday 10 June 2024

Sierra Nevada

I rise at 8:30 again. I need to be up quite early as Doug Piper is picking me up at ten.

Doug rolls around as arranged. I climb into his truck and we head off to Mills River. And Sierra Nevada. Where we have an appointment with brewer Seth Hewett at 11:00.

The approach to the brewery is dead impressive. A winding road through wooded hills. We park in front of the brewery and, as we're a little early for our appointment, I snap a few photos of the exterior.

Seth arrives and guides us inside. Where we start at the water room. I'm surprised to discover that there are three wells which are used for brewing water. And that it's only when these are low that city water is used.

Most of the malt is stored outside in massive silos. The grain arrives by rail at their own siding a few miles away and then is trucked up to the brewery. Malt which is used in smaller quantities is kept in the malt room. It comes from a variety of sources, including Simpsons and Weyerman.

Also in the malt room are the salts used for water treatment, which varies according to the stye of the beer. There's also pectin for their hazy IPA.

Immediately on entering the chilled hop room my nose is assaulted by wonderful aromas. Stainless steel bins contain compressed bales of whole leaf hops. I'm impressed that they've stuck with hop cones. Though they do also use some lupulin.

The brewhouse is so impressive. It's a six-vessel system, mostly of dazzling copper. Though, inside the copper cladding, stainless steel vessels are concealed. The copper skins were all bought from German breweries.

The fermentation room is surprisingly uncluttered, as the conical fermenters rest on a ceiling rather than having legs. All operations such as cleaning and venting are performed via a series of fancy valves, each fermenter having their own set

Walking through the control room, we get to the plate filter, which is used for draught Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the Lagers in order to get them crystal clear. The other beers only go through a centrifuge.

Finally, we get to look at the two open fermenters, which are currently empty.

Tour done, we go to the taproom for lunch. It's pretty busy, but we find two seats at the end of a long table. I order a Maibock and a crispy pork belly sandwich. Both are pretty good.

I notice that there's what looks like a brewhouse in one corner. Doug explains that it's a 20-barrel brewhouse to supply the taproom. Beer from the main brewery would need to go through a distributor. What crazy rules they have in the US.

Fed, it's time for videoing. Where Doug and I discuss the development of IPA. While sampling a few Sierra Nevada beers and Orval.

We have another brewery appointment. At Burning Blush, which isn't far away. It's in a big, boxy warehouse, brewery at the rear, taproom at the front. We enter through the brewery, where we meet Whit, the brewer. Chris P is waiting for us in the taproom.

On the brewer's suggestion, I start with an Altbier. Which is dark and malty.

We chat about various topics. As you do over beers. My second being a Doppelbock. Which is dead good. My third is an English IPA, which I'm not so wild about. But I'm given a sample of a Hazy IPA to go with it. Which I'm shocked to discover I actually quite like. Tropical fruit aromas leap from the glass. And it has a reasonable degree of bitterness. Extremely drinkable.

Mmm. What's happening? I really liked the Hazy Little Thing at Sierra Nevada, too. I'm becoming what I despise. I suppose that happens to us all, eventually.

Whit studied brewing in Sunderland. And went to the Stadium of Shite. Then again, so did I. I won’t hold it against him.

We can't stay too long as I want to get to Zebulon before it closes at 7.

Arriving at a couple of minutes after seven, it's still pretty busy and they are still serving. I get myself a Youngers No. 1. Which is rather nice.

The taproom slowly empties out and Gabe and Mike clear up. I can see that Mike is really struggling with his foot. I feel really sorry for him having to be on his feet all day.

Mike drives me back to his place and starts cooking a curry. While I drink Laphroaig.

It's a pretty good curry. After we've eaten, we sit and chat for a while. Without making it too late. I'm feeling pretty knacked again.

Sierra Nevada
100 Sierra Nevada Way,
NC 28732.

Burning Blush Brewery

4891 Boylston Hwy,
Mills River,
NC 28759.


Steve said...

Hi Ron - agree entirely about Fresh Squeezed - it was just getting popular when we left Seattle. Brilliant beer. And a question - given the diverse and extensive nature of the British Empire, where beers brewed and shipped to other countries - eg Australia Pale Ale, South Africa Pale Ale? And if not, why not? Why was beer only sent to India?

Ron Pattinson said...


beer was shipped all over the British Empire and elsewhere. For a while Australia was a very important export market and you had something called "Australia Ale".

The type of beer depended on the destination. For example, mostly Stout and Scotch Ale were shipped to the West Indies.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ron, that scratched an itch! I guess the popularity of IPA means the most prominent story in beer circles relating to the British Empire is that of the heavily-hopped beers being sent to India. Any recipes for Australia Ale? How heavily hopped was that? Would there also have been local breweries satisfying the expats thirst as well?

Chris Pickles said...

The drink of choice in Australia in the early colonial period was rum. The climate was ideal for growing sugar cane. Of course this was the cause of excessive drunkenness but attempts to control its availability and distribution were met with riots and rebellion.

India was different as it required an enormous garrison of British soldiers. These had to be supplied with beer - IPA for the officers, and porter for the enlisted men. Ships could carry beer one way and (e.g) cotton the other.

Ron Pattinson said...


sadly, I have no Australia Ale details.

Unknown said...

Ron it was great seeing you again and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together and interview. I look forward to your next trip to the USA!