Sierra Nevada and I go way back. I mean way One
of the great things about brewing in America, and in most of the world for
that matter, is the great diversity among beers and those who enjoy them.
Diversity in beer extends into many more areas, however, not the least of
which is the scale in which beers are made, and the range of sizes in which
it is produced.
The most basic production of beer is at the homebrew level; homebrew
is usually produced in five gallon batches. Homebrewers are beer lovers who
have taken their love of beer to the level that a gourmet cook takes his
love for good food: both make the object of their passion themselves. It
wasn’t always so for homebrewers. During the Dark Days of the prohibition
years, homebrewing was a way for many folks to drink the beer they loved but
could no longer buy. Though the practice was illegal, one could legally
purchase the ingredients required to make beer, and often did. Ask anyone
you know who was alive during those years about illegal home made beer,
chances are he or she will have an interesting story to tell you about
Though prohibition was repealed in 1933 and the beer once again began to
flow, homebrewing was not legalized until 1978 in this country. Even today
there are restrictions upon how much beer one can brew, and some states
still do not allow it, notably Alabama and Utah. The American Homebrewer’s
Association, the leading homebrewer organization, boasts 23,000 members
today and estimates roughly one and one half million Americans have taken a
stab at the hobby.
Many homebrewers have gone on to professional careers in brewing, generally
at the next two tiers in brewing scale. The first is the brewpub.
Brewpubs are breweries that sell beer from a bar and perhaps restaurant that
are an integral part of the brewery. They may also sell beer in bottles and
kegs at other locations too. Their production is usually small, perhaps a
few thousand barrels a year. When one speaks of a barrel of beer, one
is referring to 31 gallons. This should not be confused with a keg of
beer, which is generally sold in sizes of a half barrel (15.5 gallons) and a
quarter barrel (7.75 gallons).
Sometimes, a brewpub is an integral part of the next step up in brewing. The
microbrewery produces 15,000 barrels of beer a year or less.
Generally, these breweries bottle and keg for sale but do not sell from
their brewery, though some do depending for the most part on state alcohol
The contract brewer occupies a gray area in the brewing world.
Generally, contract brewers don’t have their own brewery, but instead brew
their beer at a large brewery with excess capacity for a fee. Some brewers
contract brew exclusively. Others have their own breweries but contract out
some of their production, generally their bottled beer. Boston Beer does
this with their Samuel Adams line.
A regional brewer is the next step up. Many of these have been around
for a very long time. Matt Brewing in Utica, New York; Anchor in San
Francisco, California; and Sierra Nevada of Chico, California are all
regionals. Their production may run into hundreds of thousands of barrels or
Finally, the mega brewery, or national brewery is as big as it
gets. This would include the most famous of brewers, Anheuser Busch, with a
production level approaching an astonishing 100 million barrels a
year. Boston Beer’s Jim Koch once said that the big brewers spill more beer
in a day than he brewed in a year, and at the time that may very well have
So what does all this have to do with Sierra Nevada Wheat beer? Everything,
really. Founded by homebrewers, the company operates a brewpub at its
facility that was once a micro but now has expanded to become a regional
brewer with national distribution.
Sierra Nevada Wheat Beer is pale straw in color with a light head of densely
packed bubbles and a fresh-hoppy nose. The palate is crisp and refreshing,
light and tart with a touch of fruit and a subtle, quenching bitter finish.
Don’t look for clove or banana here as in a traditional Bavarian wheat beer;
this is an American wheat all the way. I’m having it with roasted chicken
and fried pierogis tonight; it complements the food quite nicely.
And remember, try a new beer today,
and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For
reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.