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Visit the Sierra Nevada Brewery Taproom
The last time I was in the Sierra Nevada taproom, the bartender offered me 17 different beers. Glorious beers. Sadly, I could only try a few, having already sampled several at an event in the brewery's "Big Room." It's a good problem to have. The flagship Pale Ale, the Porter, the Stout. Summerfest, Winterfest, and a sneaky one called Torpedo. Gasp. Sigh.
The Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California is a must visit for those on epic beer tours. In the microbrew world, it's macro. Travel, tour, sample, and see all of the amazing craft breweries that you can, but for God sakes don't miss this one. At this mecca, you can tour the brewery with a guide, or you can wander the well-appointed catwalks and read the signs on your own. As part of a multi-phase brewery visit, do your tour first. You can visit the gift shop, where you can purchase many of the brewery's offerings by the case, along with everything from t-shirts to mustard emblazoned with the iconic green Sierra Nevada logo. Do this second, before you begin drinking. Third, and above all, you must visit the taproom. Unless you don't like beer, in which case, why are you there anyway? Perhaps you don't drink, but you have an interest in industry, or perhaps, an interest in people who do drink. Hey, you're covered; it's a taproom and restaurant.
The taproom is heavenly. It's bitchen. It's all wood and copper and it smells like good beer, delicious food, hops (of course), and opportunity. You can sample the entire product line, including seasonal brews in season. You can, with the help of your knowledgeable bartender, compare the bottled and draught versions of the flagship pale ale (yes, they are different). You can get small tastings of several different products. You can learn about specific gravity. If you've learned a bit too much about specific gravity, or if gravity is having a somewhat unpredictable effect on you at the end of your visit, you should get a ride home.
A Restaurant, Too
Sometimes, like when you're traveling with your family, your strike at the brewery may only include having lunch or dinner in the restaurant. Not to worry. The restaurant's menu elevates brew pub fare quite a bit, and your server can provide pairing information for you. That is, he or she can let you know which ale would taste best with their locally-raised beef. Incidentally, the beef served there is from cattle that were fed a diet including spent grains from the brewery. Spiffy. The menu selections cover most tastes, including not only fish and chips, but also pizzas, flatbreads, and salads. As a bonus, the atmosphere is upscale enough to take your in-laws there and pass the visit off as something that you're doing on their account.
If you're in such a situation, and you can't belly up with the other aficionados at the bar, at least you can sit outside in fine weather and gaze dreamily at the demonstration hop fields while plotting your move to Chico.
The Sierra Nevada Brewery is at
1075 East 20th Street
Main telephone number: 530-893-3520