The last time my brother and I got together for one of our Bro Go weekends, was December of 2014 when we went to Disney World, which for me was my first ever visit. One of the things we enjoyed doing together there was partaking of some of the liquid refreshments available—specifically beer.
In addition to having a number of common interests and both working in the pharmaceutical industry, we both enjoy trying new and interesting beers. (Previously I have written that my favorite beer is an IPA (India Pale Ale), a beer preference I acquired thanks to my brother.) We don’t get to do this together very often since we live over 1,000 miles apart. So whenever we try something new that is particularly tasty, we typically text a photo of it to each other along with a description.
And in spite of the distance, we have been known to having beer tastings over the telephone where we each try a beer and describe what it tastes like. When we do get together for our sibling get together (SIBSAB) or Bro Go, we tend to focus on trying a variety of beers.
Since we are both beer lovers and get to travel a lot for business, we each also have had the opportunity to visit a number of breweries around the world. But recently we got to do something new that we had never done before. Take a brewery tour together.
In June, we were in North Carolina for a combined family vacation. And Asheville (and NC in general) since becoming a beer mecca is a great place to take a tour. Each of us having read the story behind Sierra Nevada…
…their recently opened brewery just south of Asheville was our planned destination. A word to the wise if you plan to visit: book early. I thought I was but when I went online several weeks before our trip, I found that there were only two tickets available for the entire week we were going to be there, one at 4:00 PM and one at 5:00 PM on Monday.
We arrived 45 minutes early hoping that we would be able to take the tour together rather than separately. Sure enough, they had some cancellations and so were able to accommodate us both on the 4:00 PM tour. And being there so early, we were also able to taste a flight of beers in their restaurant bar before the tour started…
…which we finished just in time for the tour.
The tour starts with a video of the history of the company. It was a story my brother and I were both familiar with having recently read the book. And we immediately recognized many of the over 30-year old photos in the video from the book while we sipped on a complimentary glass of their signature pale ale.
Then the walking tour began with stops at different stages of the incoming raw material receiving and preparation steps. Our favorite stop was at the hop room, a quite chilly room where the hops were removed from bales and sorted into bins by variety.
In our pharmaceutical workplaces, we would have been required to gown up and glove up before even entering such a room. And amazingly we were allowed and even encouraged to pick out a hop, break it into two halves, and rub it between our hands to release the aroma, something never allowed in our own workplaces. It was most surprising how different the aroma was for the three different varieties of hops we tried. The most expensive one was the Citra, which had a citrus like aroma.
Next came the brew room.
Sierra Nevada is known for its beautiful copper brew kettles, a throwback to centuries old brewery techniques, and an interesting story in itself of how the original kettles were acquired for their brewery in Chico, CA. Even though these modern ones are stainless steel on the inside, the only other brewery where I have ever seen this type of kettles was the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam.
Following a tour to the mammoth storage tanks that looked almost like fuel tanks for the space shuttle, was a visit to the packaging area where seeing the millions of bottles being filled just made us appropriately thirsty for the final stop on the tour, the tasting room.
Here we were able to sample 8 different beers they had on tap.
Obviously our favorites were the last two, the IPAs with their elevated IBUs (International Bittering Unit). These samples were quite small (less than 1 oz.) so before we left, we decided to whet our whistle with one more beer in the Tap Room.
And our final “one for the road” was another beer in one of their intriguing growlers, uniquely shaped like their copper brew kettles. This one we enjoyed back at our mountain cabin filled with one of their IPAs.
While technically it wasn’t one of our planned Bro Go weekends, it was a few hours together carved out of our week long family vacation where we got to share one of the things we love doing together. We have already started planning our next Bro Go, one to Portland, OR where we intend to explore the huge west coast brewery universe. But in the mean time, thanks to our “hop” experience, I can enjoy a new variety of IPA, one I might not have ever tried without the knowledge gained of the Citra Hop.