Sierra Nevada, Chico State, Chico discussed on How I Built This
So just a few days ago. Ken Grossman and I were supposed to be sitting side by side on stage at the Sydney Goldstein Theater in San Francisco for a live. How I built this show to hear how he built. One of the biggest craft beer companies in the country but instead that events like every other event was cancelled. But we didn't want to miss out on getting a chance to hear Ken story because too good and to inspiring to wait until we can all go out again so we asked Ken to record himself from his home just outside Chico California and by the way that's how it's going to be for a while because our staff our guests me probably many of you were all at home now and starting to adjust to this very weird new reality. I'm gonNA confess something here. I feel a little bit conflicted about doing a show that celebrates building and creating when so many businesses are in trouble now. Somebody people are worried but I also think of this show as a place of hope and possibility this is GonNa be a long challenging journey for all of us and we're going to need stories of people who can inspire us with the challenges they've overcome and the battles they've waged the odds. They've defeated to build something truly special. Sierra Nevada. Now before we even get into Ken Story. We wanted to hear from him about how things are going with managing the crisis so far and of course in one way the company is in better shape than most because lots of people are in need of a beer these days so in places where they can get it they are buying it. They're buying a lot of it. And when I spoke to Ken a few days ago he told me his production facilities are still open but he has no idea how long it might last a lot of the businesses that we depend on to sell our products are severely challenged right now and you know having this kind of financial disruption happened to tens of thousands of small family owned and run bars restaurants With the stores across the nation is going to have a huge toll on the lives of those people. The economy's in those communities so it's it's been one of the most difficult and stressful weeks in our existence I've had a lot of them over forty years. It was a lot of sleepless nights but this is sort of the pinnacle of of things for us to have to work through an and to make decisions about and yes over the course of building. Sierra Nevada beer can has had a lot of sleepless nights starting with trying to build a craft brewing company in his twenties with barely any money. When people didn't really know a craft beer was in fact when can introduce his now legendary Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to his friends in one thousand nine hundred most of them thought it was undrinkable but today his company is the third largest craft brewery in the US. After Boston. Beer Company and yelling in Canton and his family owned one hundred percent of Sierra Nevada but making money and becoming rich from beer was far from Kansas at his core. He is a beer brewer. Not a businessman totally obsessed with the process with the hops and barley in the mall to the strains of yeast and his interest in brewing and fermentation actually started when he was a kid growing up. In La's San Fernando Valley. We had a a small neighborhood group of boys Growing up through elementary school. So I met my neighbor I think it was second grade and his father was a you even back then was making home. Beer and wine and Was a Super Very progressive person for the time. He's into cooking and baking and for Manning and culinary arts as well as Being a cyclist so he was into bikes. Which later got into cycling and touring and also was a scientist? He was a meddler just in work for Rocketdyne and so he sort of had all those passions of Of Life and and I guess it really appealed to me so I was around fermenting beer from probably the age of Seven or eight or so And seeing things boiling on the stove every weekend when he would brew and his Senate. I were best buddies for many many years. I ended up moving up to Chico when he attended Chico State. What was your friends? what was it? What was his dad's name must name the cow Molar County since passed away But Calvin Molar He was this a very early adopter of of the. The science of brewing mortem brewers back in that day. You know. We're using English old sort of crude books on how to make cheap beer but not necessarily You know how to make great beer and had a had a do it at home with sort of a science based yeah so He approached from a scientific side. So here here's what I'm wondering you are in high school and I guess from from whatever you bought your first home brewing Kit Around that time Which I think a lot a lot more high school juniors today would put in in the early seventies certainly not early sixties. Early in common Did you did you WanNa make beer because you liked it and wanted to drink beer? Or what was the? What was the thinking behind buying a home Brooklyn When I was young so I couldn't buy beer and so I just wanted to experiment with making bear. That was it. Yeah and he'll today if you want to brew beer you just go on the Internet and order the hops come in pellets and you know wherever you need and then you just do. It was it. Was it a little more complicated than nineteen sixty-nine It was so there were actually some Homebrew supply stores just getting started. And you could buy beer and wine. Making supplies at that. Point pumping was still illegal but They did Nobody got arrested for providing mulder hops. But if you think back to that era there was still a bit of a carryover from prohibition brewing and so you could buy malt extract even at hardware stores and it was You know sold with a crock and packaging east and a little block of some pretty lousy hops. But there there were ingredients that were still available. During the prohibition era and no good information on how to make great beer home there was just For those people who wanted to brew Abacha Cold Brew. And how how? How early batches I mean were. They terrible terrible. You put them in a closet and your house. Where did you go? I had to hide. 'em Hide Him from my mother and Actually made a batch of wine. I which was pretty tragic. Which was out of welches cantwell just grape juice and some bacon east a can of grape juice cans anymore And then I got some all extract and and being. A bunch of me did a plastic bucket and and started bruin a little bit. How did you? How did you know you weren't making like you know Botulin Eum or anthrax or something? I guess one of the things about beer making is that Things like that don't grow in Beer. I got you okay. alcohol the P. H. Hops are all inhibitory to Toxins not that you can't make bad beer but it's pretty impossible to make beer those kind of toxins yet. All right so you. You're you know doing home brewing and and I guess when you Graduate High School in Nineteen seventy-two You decide that College is really going to be. You're saying that you you you WanNa Kinda just get out. La Move Up to northern California. And you go you end up in Chico California a small town in In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada the idea was that's where you want to to be for a while. Yeah I got a job at a bicycle shop which was a family owned business With the father and two sons working there in a pretty frictional environment the dynamic was not great and after less than a couple of months I sort of had to change your heart and say well maybe I should go to school and so I applied at the junior college to study chemistry and ended up eventually transferring to Chico state and continued to take science classes I met my girlfriend and then later wife Through a mutual friend about the same time this is. This is your wife. Katie that you met you met her at Butte Community College matter. She was going to Chico. State.