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Sierra Nevada offers sneak peek at brewery

Tour guides lead groups of 10 through the plant and explain the beer-making, bottling and warehouse processes. Tour guides lead groups of 10 through the plant and explain the beer-making, bottling and warehouse processes.

By BILL MOSS
Lightning Editor
MILLS RIVER — The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. opened its Mills River brewery to sneak preview hardhat tours on Saturday. The tours will continue for a few weeks leading up to the start of regular public tours in late September.
Tour guides lead groups of 10 through the plant and explain the beer-making, bottling and warehouse processes.
Among the facts:
• The company owns 216 acres between the French Broad River and Asheville Regional Airport and has about 26 acres under roof.
• Solar panels in the parking lot (200) and 2,000 panels on the warehouse roof generate about 40 percent of the power the plant consumes. Sierra Nevada generates the rest by capturing methane from wastewater.
• Cisterns collect water from the roof of the plant so it does not run off and cause erosion. The 6,500-gallon cisterns are clad in decorative wood that the company saved when it cleared forest for construction. The wood includes white pine, white oak, tulip poplar and scarlet oak.
• The Sierra Nevada lab tests the product intensely. Beer goes through 110 tests before it's shipped.
• The bottling line can bottle three 12-packs per second. The Mills River brewery was built for a capacity of 350,000 barrels a year (about a third of what the overtaxed Chico brewery was producing) but it was built with room to expand.
The hardhat tours end with a serving of a 12-ounce Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Public tours starting at the end of September will feature a more elaborate tasting guide and a sample of eight different beers.
Book hardhat tours by going to sierranevada.com and clicking on brewery tour. Tours are offered every day.