Longtime Sierra Nevada brewmaster Steve Dresler will retire in early 2017, the beer company announced last week.
“It’s bittersweet,” brewery founder Ken Grossman said via a press release. “Steve is an iconic figure in our brewery and in the industry. His talent and personality are legendary, and he has set the tone in our production department for years. I wish him all the best in this much-deserved retirement.”
Under Dresler’s direction, Sierra Nevada won eight World Beer Cup awards and 31 Great American Beer Festival medals, according to the release.
Sierra Nevada said it has already begun the search for a new brewmaster and that Dresler would help train the yet-to-be named replacement.
Despite not having any professional brewing experience when he took a job working on the Sierra Nevada bottling line in 1983, Dresler has led the Chico, Calif.-based company’s brewing operations since the mid-1980s
“There wasn’t a lot going on for craft brewers to get training to get jobs as craft brewers, so most of us got our starts homebrewing,” he said in a 2011 video interview.
Dresler earned degrees in biology and chemistry from Chico State and was one of Sierra Nevada’s first employees. In the early days, he would brew up to seven barrels at a time on a small system consisting primarily of recycled stainless steel dairy tanks that brewery founder Ken Grossman had cobbled together by hand.
One of Dresler’s most significant contributions not only to Sierra Nevada but also to the entire craft brewing industry was the idea of brewing with 100 percent “wet” hops. In 1995, he met with a hop broker by the name of Gerard Lemmens who encouraged him to explore the idea of brewing with freshly picked hops and, shortly thereafter, the company introduced its first “wet hop” Harvest Ale.