Sierra Nevada, Chico, Calif.
Few breweries are destinations unto themselves, but count the Sierra Nevada brewery among them. This sprawling brewery complex has its own hop field, facilities topped with solar panels and a growing production capacity, but the free tour through its mill room, brewhouse (where visitors get to taste the spent-grain wort right from the tank), hop freezer, 800-room cellar, bottling lines and packing lines is one of the most extensive in the industry. The walk along the brewery's catwalks and discussion of its sustainability program is what draws some of the brewery's most valued guests.
"Back when we were small and we didn't have any money, 'reduce, reuse and recycle' wasn't a slogan, it was a business model," says Sierra Nevada spokesman Bill Manley. "Breweries from all over the world come to see wastewater treatment, solar arrays, composters, biodiesel vehicles and how our recycled water from brewery goes directly into the hops field."
Sierra Nevada doesn't like to see those visitors go, either, which is why its in-house Taproom restaurant cooks beef entrees culled from its own private herd, uses vegetables grown on local farms and uses breads and pizza crusts made with spent grain from its brewing process. When that's not enough to get a tourist's attention, the brewery steers them toward its 300-seat Big Room music venue and its lineup of singer-songwriters, roots musicians, blues bands and Americana acts.