Sierra Nevada's Organic Estate Homegrown Ale and their eco-friendly brewing practices

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Truly organic beers are few and far between, and certainly none are being made by the macro-brewers like InBev (formerly known as Anheuser-Busch) or SMB (Miller/Coors). For any product to be certified Organic, it has to meet strict criteria. Among the requirements to be able to label anything as “organic” are:


* Avoidance of most synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge


* Use of farmland that has been free from synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often three or more)


* Keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail)


* Maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products


* Undergoing periodic on-site


The brewery is also well known for its sustainability practices and commitment to renewable energy. They built one of the largest privately-held solar arrays in the country (over 10,000 panels), implemented water conservation measures that are above brewery standards and even put in their own rail line to reduce their carbon footprint. When Sierra Nevada bought land for that rail spur they also acquired extra land, so they decided to grow their own barley and hops. Today, Sierra Nevada grows barley on 35-40 acres and grows Cascade, Chinook and Citra hops on another nine acres.


The Estate Homegrown Ale comes in 750-ml bottles that are sealed with green wax. It pours a clear medium amber color with some red highlights and a fantastic, long lasting, almost white head with very small bubbles. The aroma is grapefruit and spice hops with a faint caramel note from the malts and is quite pleasant, for I was actually expecting more hoppiness in the nose. Flavor is again hop-oriented as it should be, with grapefruit and spice, but the maltiness ends up dominating. The flavors are very complex and extremely well balanced. Personally, I would prefer more of the sticky-green flavor and aroma that I get from the wet-hopped Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale or the spicy bitterness of the Southern Hemisphere, but this is an exceptional beer nonetheless.


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Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is considered by most craft beer lovers to be one of the granddaddys of American craft beer. The Chico, California brewer was one of the first to offer beer lovers something other than the mass-produced, watered down, and mostly tasteless light American lager that still pervades the beer market today. In 1979, Ken Grossman started the company and in 1980, the flagship beer was first offered: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a beer that still holds its own today among the new craft beer Renaissance. Over the years, Sierra Nevada has introduced beer lovers to the full spectrum of styles and flavors, and has brought us some of the best beers in the world.

The limited releases from Sierra Nevada continue with that tradition of quality and excellence. From the robust Bigfoot Barleywine style ale to the Harvest Series, each new offering is a testament to the dedication Grossman and his team have to producing truly top-notch craft beer. For three years now, an Estate line has been produced with the name changing each year. It was introduced as Chico Estate in 2008 and re-branded as Estate Brewers Harvest Ale in 2009. This year, the again renamed Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Ale is Certified Organic, featuring hops and barley grown on their own grounds.

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