Ken Grossman learned the basics of home brewing at an early age from a neighborhood friend’s father. His life has never been the same.

When he was 21, Grossman – who studied chemistry and physics at Butte College and Cal State Chico – turned his mechanical and brewing skills toward opening a home brew shop. After years of intensive home brewing and recipe development, he began Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., one of the nation’s first microbreweries in 1980.

Grossman began the design for Sierra Nevada in 1978 with little resources and no business models to follow. Small-scale breweries were unheard of, and Grossman had to rely on his mechanical skill to get started. He scoured junkyards for scrap stainless steel and used dairy equipment for the parts to build his brewery. His tiny, hand-built brewery finally began producing beer in 1980. 

Sierra Nevada has since grown from that tiny, hand-built brewhouse into among the largest craft breweries in America.

But Grossman hasn’t forgotten his roots. In 2018, he and his wife, Katie Gonser, made a $1 million donation to the Butte College Promise Scholarship Program that offers two semesters of free tuition and fees for first-time, full-time students.

“Both my wife and I attended Butte College, along with our children, and we’re proud to be investing in students and our communities through this donation,” Grossman said. “The Promise Program helps open the door wider to students so they can opt to learn a trade, enroll in a career program, or take general education classes. We believe this will encourage more students to attend community college and ultimately contribute to our workforce and economy.”