It turns out that craft beer can be a pretty profitable business. Sierra Nevada, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious craft brewers, has been awarded a valuation of $1.3 billion, according to Bloomberg. That’s a lot of dough (or should we say yeast?) for a company that has risen to prominence on a style that once nearly went extinct: the pale ale.
What makes this story different from the two other recent beer billionaires, Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) and Dick Yuengling of Yuengling Brewery, is that Sierra rode to success on highly hopped ale, while nearly all other major flagship beers were lagers. If there’s a person responsible for the rebirth of hoppy beers, look no further than the Chico, California-based founder Ken Grossman — who took the nearly extinct concept of pale ale and built a small brewery around it in 1980. It’s been profitable virtually ever since. As for the beers, they just kept getting better, and hoppier, as time has gone on.
But Grossman doesn’t just have a high valuation. He’s also got a remarkable amount of respect from his peers. I recall hearing Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione at the premiere of their collaboration beer “Rising Bines” cite Grossman’s love of hops as one of his inspirations for getting into the business. A force in the industry, Sierra Nevada helped set up beer festivals and collaborated with smaller brands, helping raise their profiles in the process. Look no further than their Beer Camp Variety Pack for proof of their awesome collaborations, which featured beer made with 12 different breweries including Three Floyds, Russian River, Bell's and New Glarus.
Sierra Nevada passed the 1 million barrel mark for the first time in 2014, in large part due to their newly minted East Coast facility in Asheville, NC. The company has also increased production on more specialized styles like their classic Bigfoot Barleywine and the recently released barrel-aged version of their Narwhal Imperial Stout. What sets Sierra Nevada apart is that even though they’ve grown exponentially, they’re still respected by the greater craft community. Grossman may not have gotten into the business to make money, but he’s shown that you can be successful and still make great beer while you’re at it.
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