Sierra Nevada Brewery, Mills River, NC

Project Media:

Project Manager:

Image loading Gary Fowler

Project Details:

Project Name:

Sierra Nevada Brewery, Mills River, NC


Mills River, North Carolina


Ken Grossman

Project Duration:

July 2014

Project Description:

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company project is located in Mills River, North Carolina, 18 miles south of Asheville.  Gary Fowler, Vice President, has been on location for the past year managing the construction of the project, and he has quite the story to tell. “The Sierra Nevada project is a group of projects consisting of: The main 300,000 square foot brewery; a waste water treatment plant; a complex 300,000 gallon underground rainwater storage structure and storm outfall streambed connecting to a nearby River; a state highway project connecting the site to Highway 280; a main entry road—named Sierra Nevada Way—that includes two bridges, stone retaining walls, miles of conduit and lighting, and serious landscaping; a railway receiving station for grain, similar to the one in Chico; a 7,000 SF maintenance facility (that is one of the prettiest metal buildings I have had the pleasure of being involved with); and a shipping/receiving area for trucks with guard facilities. The site is located on 190 acres of forest, along the French Broad River in western North Carolina. We sit at the 2,000 foot elevation, which protects us somewhat from the dreaded East Coast humidity, but offers zero protection for daily afternoon thunderstorms. Only 27 of the 190 acres will be developed. This year, since January 1st, we have received just under 70 inches of rain. This has shattered all previous rainfall totals since weather records were first kept in the late 1800’s. While it has been more than a little stressful attempting to keep our schedule on track, most of the trades here are used to working in summer rains. Unless it is hazardous, they put on rain gear and keep going. Our current schedule calls for the first sample batch of beer to be run through the system in mid-September, with full production to start in late October, to early November. The main production facility won’t be completed until the end of the year. We currently have 250-300 workers on site six days a week. There are 48 subcontractors currently working. I work in the same trailer with Sierra Nevada’s Facility Manager from Chico, John Warmerdam. John and I work well together as a team to keep track of the progress and goals of the project. My focus is much of the “bricks and mortar” construction, while John oversees much of the installation of brewery-specific equipment and systems. There are also 27 Sierra Nevada staff members currently on site. Our main focus to date has been to complete the parts of the job that will make and ship the beer, but we will be starting the restaurant/pub phase of the project in September. This will be a two-story, 27,000 SF restaurant, pub, demonstration brew house, outside gardens, and outdoor music amphitheater. Sierra Nevada owner, Ken Grossman, visits the site every other week to review the construction progress. I live in Hendersonville, which is a 20 minute drive south of Mills River, though I don’t spend much time there, as we are at the jobsite 12-13 hours per day. Hendersonville is a very nice, small town. The downtown is similar to Chico, with outdoor dining along the main street and lots of flowers! When I first moved here, I thought the locals were being nice due to my relationship to the project, which is one of the biggest things to happen to this area in many years. But the more time I spend here, I can tell you, there is something to the phrase “Southern Hospitality”. I have heard they brew moonshine in the mountains around here; I will make sure to find out if there is any truth to the rumor!! Ken selected this area, in part, due to the abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. Because of my work schedule, I have only had time to scratch the surface, but there are streams, waterfalls, fishing, mountain bike riding, and hiking trails and paths everywhere! It is beautiful here!  Upon completion, the facility will be run by Ken’s son, Brian, who has permanently relocated here. The project is scheduled to be completed by December 2013, and I do look forward to coming home!”