At the end of a long day, Nevada City resident Dustin Harper likes to unwind with a cold, robustly flavored craft beer. Harper considers himself a beer aficionado and enjoys sampling brews across Northern California. This spring, he will have a new option to do so just minutes away from home. By the end of this summer, he may even have two.
Grass Valley Brewing Company
141 E Main St., Grass Valley
Opening this spring
From the moment a group of friends conceived of Grass Valley Brewing Company to the business’s upcoming soft opening in the historic downtown this month, two years will have passed. That timing has coincided with the rise of brewery culture in larger urban locations that are faster to adapt to trends, including nearby Sacramento. The timeline also shows how much work goes into opening a brewery, especially in an older area.
The brewery has already been debuting its beers at local events and has attracted a following, including Harper, who plans to patronize the new business on Main Street. “More and more, local breweries are becoming anchors of thriving downtown districts,” he says. “It only makes sense for Grass Valley to have a brewery that’s a destination for locals and visitors alike.”
Grass Valley Brewing Co. will be the first brewery in town since Prohibition, according to the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce. The organization hosts a walking tour that features the buildings where the old Washington Brewery and the Grass Valley Brewery once operated. Both opened in the 1850s and closed during the Prohibition era of the 1920s.
The modern-day Grass Valley Brewing Co. will be followed by 1849 Brewing Co., which is expected to open on Sutton Way — not far from downtown — this summer.
The team behind Grass Valley Brewing Co. encompasses four families. “Our kids went to preschool together. We camp together and enjoy spending time together,” says co-owner Chad Wingo, adding, “We all started kicking around the idea, as you do after a few beers, of opening a brewery in town.”
Then they jumped into action. They hired a consultant to conduct market research and gauge the feasibility of success. Through this process, the consultant determined there were enough residents to support the brewery without factoring in tourists to this historic Gold Rush town. “We worked with our consultant to analyze the Grass Valley market and decided to go for it,” Wingo says.
The Grass Valley Brewing Co. ownership team was determined to open downtown — a historic district with unique challenges. Many structures built there were constructed in the mid-1800s, and come with their share of issues.
Additionally, the brewery’s location on Main Street was once a gas station. To get the brewery and restaurant into compliance, the owners had buried gas tanks removed and covered hydraulic tanks with concrete to avoid environmental problems.
“We really wanted to be downtown, so we were willing to jump through hoops related to environmental mitigation that came with the site,” Wingo says. “In the evening there aren’t many choices for drinking and dining downtown. We want to be available when people leave a show at the [nearby] Center for the Arts.”
Robin Galvan-Davies, CEO of the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, says the new business will be a big tourism asset to downtown. “At the Grass Valley Visitors Center, we have a steady flow of tourists seeking the pub crawl experience.”
Mike Sutherland, who worked most recently at Loomis Basin Brewery, was hired as the brewmaster and will focus on traditional ales and lagers at the new business. The brewery launched with both blond and amber ales, and a milk stout.
Sean Cox, who owns Jernigan’s Tap House in Nevada City, will open a new restaurant called The Roost in the brewery space. “We figured if you’re good at making beer, focus on that,” Wingo says. “Sean and his team know how to make great food, so it made sense for him to open the restaurant.”
The Roost will offer pub fare with a mining theme twist, paying homage to Gold Rush history. “We’re going to have a variety of pasties, some that incorporate the beer,” Cox says. The Roost will serve a steak and ale pasty created to the specifications and guidelines of the Cornish Pasty Association.
Cox is exploring ways to recycle the spent grain from brewing by using it in recipes like bread and crackers. The Roost will also serve fries, yam chips, wings, pork belly sandwiches and an American Wagyu beef burger.
“Downtown Grass Valley is an intriguing mix of small business, agriculture, conservation and tourism,” Harper says. “A brewery is a great communal place for these influences to come together and celebrate the simple, common appreciation of good beer.”