Beyond the Pale – Book Review

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The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. By Ken Grossman (Wiley, 2013)
Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. by Ken Grossman

Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. by Ken Grossman

It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was at the time of its creation by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi. In 1980, there were just 40 breweries in the U.S., mostly brewing bland lagers in industrial quantities. The idea of creating full-flavored, hoppy beers that could compete with long-established German imports (at least, in terms of price), was a daunting prospect. Fortunately, Ken was an incredibly hardworking, entrepreneurial and resourceful guy. He was always building things and building businesses, beginning with bicycles (he managed a few bicycle shops in Chico) before focusing entirely on beer. Ken Grossman begins Beyond the Pale with stories of his childhood growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley, where he began home brewing as a teenager. Shortly after relocating to Chico, Ken started a home brew shop, an experience he soon parlayed into building one of America’s first craft breweries. Ken describes in fascinating, often entertaining, detail how Sierra Nevada began, from sourcing the ingredients and equipment for brewing to bottling and distributing the finished product. Besides the constant effort to expand production to keep up with growing demand, Ken was struggling to gain full control of the business. In 1998, he finally succeeded in buying out his original partner. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has grown at a phenomenal rate, from roughly 1,000 barrels of beer per year to nearly 800,000 barrels today. Having outgrown small-town Chico, it is currently constructing a second brewery in Mills River, North Carolina. In Beyond the Pale, Ken Grossman proves that he is not just a talented brewer and businessman, but a gifted storyteller. Those with a taste for Sierra Nevada’s flagship Pale Ale and/or an interest in the history of craft brewing, will find much to enjoy between its covers.

Reviewed by Barnaby Hughes

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