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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Tap Handle #499: Sierra Nevada Brewing - Torpedo Extra IPA

Tap size:  12.25"
Rarity:  Common
Mounting:  internal 3/8" nut

It's amazing that I've posted almost 500 taps and this is the first from Sierra Nevada - one of the oldest and largest craft brewers - simply because the brewery never made figural taps...until this one. I recently profiled the Hop Bomber tap from Rivertown, and with the addition of this tap, I'm building quite a collection of tap handle "bombs" (there are two more yet to be profiled). Torpedo is a beauty, with a copper and silver color scheme, the sunken "IPA" letters in the shaft, and the instantly-recognizable Sierra Nevada label at the top, which actually has a plastic, puffy feel to it due to the coating over the top of the label. The front and back of the tap are identical to each other, as are the two sides. The Torpedo was made in great numbers and is easily found on the secondary market for an affordable price.

Click through to read more about Sierra Nevada Brewing, their Torpedo Extra IPA, and to see more photos of this explosive tap...

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was founded in Chico, California in 1979 by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi. Originally from Southern California, Grossman started brewing his own beer in 1969, the summer after junior high school. Though home-brewing was illegal at the time and Grossman was too young to lawfully drink, it provided an outlet for his tinkering. After attending college in Chico, he opened a home-brewing supply store, where he met home brewer Camusi in 1978. The two men decided to start a brewery and sank all their savings into the business, turning to family and friends for additional funding after banks turned them down. The money was used to rent a 3,000 square foot warehouse, and also funded" equipment expeditions". Grossman had to scrounge for parts, scavenging stainless steel tanks, pumps and piping from closed dairies and salvage yards across the west coast, spending 12-hour days doing the bulk of the welding and fabrication himself, while also working a second job to provide a living. The old bottling system he bought proved to be useless. Brewing finally got started in late 1980, although the first ten batches of pale ale were poured down the drain due to a bad taste. Ten batches later, after seeking advice internationally and experimenting, they created their first marketable batch of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The brewery's name came from the nearby mountain range that Grossman, a fan of outdoor recreation, fell in love with as a college student.

The following year, the brewery introduced Celebration IPA. The company sold 950 barrels of beer in its first year, and double that amount in the second. They distributed the beer themselves in the early 1980s, struggling with financial and marketing issues. A 1982 article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighting the brewery, as well as having its beer sold in prominent restaurants such as Berkeley's Chez Panisse, helped establish a market for Sierra Nevada's beer. From bars in Chico to restaurants in San Francisco, into supermarkets and eventually to distributors across the country, word spread about the new brewery’s intense flavors and commitment to quality ingredients, such as their refusal to use anything but whole cone hops. By 1987, the brewery was distributing to seven states and production had reached 12,000 barrels per year, causing the company to pursue building a new brewery.

In 1988, Grossman oversaw the purchase and cross-Atlantic shipping of a 100-barrel copper brewhouse from a failed German company and installed it at a new Chico location in 1988, with four open-barrel fermenters and 11 68-barrel secondary fermenters. A year later, Grossman and Camusi added the Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant, which served lunch and dinner and included a giftshop. By 1992 Sierra Nevada was already pushing the limits of the new system. While multiple on-the-fly reconstruction jobs took their toll, problems festered behind the scenes. Grossman weathered a grueling five-year ownership battle with the less hands-on Camusi. Finally, in 1998, Grossman assumed undisclosed debt to buy out his 50/50 partner. In 2000, the brewery opened "The Big Room", a live-music venue located inside the brewery's facilities, featuring a variety of acts including country, bluegrass, folk, rock, blues, and other musical genres. Grossman continued to add capacity, but the company cut back on innovation, and by 2007 it had been 13 years since the company released a new beer on a national scale. As a result, it lost market share as a second generation of microbrewers flooded in. With almost no advertising, the signature citrus-and-pine blast of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale had become a reliable standby for millions, but consumers demanded ever more extreme flavors and styles.

So Grossman got busy, experimenting with new brews and taking advantage of the brewery's 30th anniversary to form collaborations with other breweries, touting their "Green Business of the Year" award from the EPA, and the publishing of "Hops and Dreams: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co", written by Rob Burton, who had researched the company for three years. By the next year, however, Grossman was burned out and seriously explored a sale. Only the surprise enthusiasm of his three children to keep Sierra Nevada in the family stayed his hand. Youngest child Brian, 29, oversaw a new east coast brewery in Mills River, North Carolina. The plant, situated on 185 acres, cost the company well over $100 million but relieved pressure on Chico's production facility, as well as slashing transportation expenses: cross-country refrigerated shipping was costing Sierra Nevada more than $4 per case. North Carolina landed the project from among 200 sites east of Colorado. Fermentation tanks were imported from Germany. A taproom and restaurant were opened later, with plans to build an outdoor amphitheater, along with hiking and biking trails and access to the French Broad River, which borders the brewery property to the west.

Meanwhile, Grossman's oldest daughter, Sierra, ran the Torpedo Room, a bar in West Berkeley for sampling limited new releases. The brewery has hosted a participatory “Beer Camp Across America” traveling festival to highlight its place within the broader craft-beer movement, coproducing each beer with a different regional brewery, like Allagash, Russian River and Ninkasi. The project allows Sierra Nevada to trade in some of its operational know-how and national exposure for ties to younger, hipper brands. Together they’re donating the profits to fund hops research. Sieera Nevada faced a brief challenge from Lagunitas, which initiated a trademark infringement suit on Sierra Nevada’s IPA labeling. However, it was withdrawn later that day after a Twitter backlash forced Langunitas to backpedal.

Sierra Nevada sold 1 million barrels of beer in 2014, producing revenue of $250 million. The value of Sierra Nevada is estimated at more than $1 billion. It remains one of the most well-respected and admired breweries in the U.S., and its Pale Ale is nationally recognized and sold in all 50 states, one of the most popular craft beers of all time. Currently Sierra Nevada brews 6 year round varieties, and several seasonal and specialty brews, including the High Altitude series, the biggest, boldest beers they have ever brewed.

Torpedo Extra IPA was released in 2008 and named for the giant device called the “Hop Torpedo", a revolutionary dry-hopping device that controls how much hop aroma is imparted into beer without adding additional bitterness. Torpedo is an assertive American IPA, deep reddish-gold in color, with a smooth and bready malt presence and massive hop aromas of citrus, pine, and tropical fruit.. The beer has a solid bitterness and a massive hop flavor, yet remains easy drinking with a pleasant dry finish.

Ratebeer weighted average:  3.74 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  93 out of 100 (outstanding)

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
1075 E 20th St
Chico, California 95928-6722

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