For the Oregon Beer Growler
While collaboration is nothing new in the craft beer industry, projects typically aren’t 3,000 pounds of steel that travel 2,663 miles — from the Willamette Valley’s Eugene, Oregon to the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. However, when Chico, Calif.-based Sierra Nevada Brewing needed a “grand entrance” for its new East Coast brewery in Mills River, N.C. (10 miles south of the region’s urban center, Asheville), they turned to Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing.
Spanning the width of the 20-foot drive leading to the 350,000-barrel brewery and 400-seat/23-handle taproom and restaurant at 100 Sierra Nevada Way, the gate evokes sheaves of barley with the same shaping as Sierra Nevada’s logo banner. The two members of Ninkasi’s in-house fabrication department, Jazz Khalsa (design and fabrication specialist) and Pat “Phatty Fab” Evans (metal fabricator), worked with 672 individual barley kernels, affixed by 13,444 nuts, as well as 540 studs around the perimeter. Evans built the project with no tape measure or blueprint.
Ninkasi co-founder Jamie Floyd met Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman at Beer Camp Across America. During a BCAA cross-country bus trip, Floyd and Grossman began talking metal. Conversation soon turned to Ninkasi’s in-house metal fabrication shop. With Ninkasi’s two-man team producing artistic, elaborate steel pieces — from tap handles to conference tables, bottle openers to fire pits — Grossman and Floyd realized they might be able to work together on the gate for the Mills River facility.
Concept and design began at the end of 2014 and fabrication began in March. “There was only really one design, but it went through several iterations,” says Khalsa. “I channeled the aesthetic of Sierra Nevada, highlighting the barley and brass features. I felt pretty good about the concept, so I only proposed the one to the Sierra team. The Grossmans approved it very quickly.”
“I’m really pleased with the design [Ninkasi] gave us,” says Grossman, “They understand what we’re trying to do here, and I think it’s because we’re both brewers and both share a lot of the same ideals.” The Mills River facility is now brewing beer and serving customers.
For Ninkasi it’s a new type of collaboration that highlights how even in a competitive industry, there is room to work together. “It’s exciting and humbling to be a literal piece of such a remarkable building,” says Floyd. “It gives us all something to strive for.”