Now that it’s a giant in the craft-beer business, Sierra Nevada is partnering with the little guys, reports Brian Solomon in Fast Company (3/2/14). When Ken Grossman launched Sierra Nevada in 1978, "there were only 45 independent breweries in America." Ken invested all his savings, roughly $15,000, plus another $85,000 from family and friends. He fabricated the brewery himself, using parts "from closed dairies and salvage yards." He succeeded as "word spread about the brewery’s intense flavors" and high quality.
Today, there are 2,700 independent breweries, with "more than a third popping up in the last five years," and "growing by double digits, from nothing to 7% of the total US market by volume and 12% by dollars spent." Sierra Nevada is now "the seventh-largest brewery in the country … sold in all 50 states." However, now "the craft beer revolution" Ken helped start is "passing him by." The beer aisle at grocery is now packed with "hundreds of players" and consumers are demanding "ever more extreme flavors and styles."
The Sierra solution is to collaborate with these many smaller breweries, rather than compete against them. This summer, it will host Beer Camp Across America, a traveling festival featuring a "special-edition variety 12-pack" of beers created with various regional breweries. For the regionals, it’s an opportunity to gain some of Sierra’s "operational know-how," and for Sierra it’s a chance to re-assert its roots and burnish its image via "ties to younger, hipper brands." Profits from the camp will "fund hops research."