Sierra Nevada Brewing Owners Give $2 Million to UC Davis Brewing Program

Four men watch another man working with a stainless steel vat
Professor Charlie Bamforth, left, and brewer Joe Williams, second from left, confer as beer is brewed in the UC Davis brewery. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Gift establishes endowment for a full-time staff brewing position
  • Brewer will align hands-on training with theoretical education
  • Brewing students train in small-scale UC Davis brewery

Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and his wife, Katie Gonser, have presented UC Davis with a $2 million gift to support the campus’s renowned brewing science program.

The gift establishes an endowment to provide ongoing funding for a full-time staff brewing position, focused on excellence in hands-on brewing education in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology.

The new Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Endowed Brewer position will be dedicated to mentoring and managing students and teaching assistants, maintaining the campus brewery and its equipment, and assisting in teaching brewing classes.

“This Endowed Brewer position will allow us to provide outstanding practical brewing experiences for our students as we continue to align hands-on training with the best theoretical education,” said Charlie Bamforth, the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences. “Students don’t get that combination in most other brewing programs.”

“My family and I have supported the brewing program at UC Davis for nearly two decades,” said Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “Charlie Bamforth is not only an expert in brewing science, technology and engineering, but a frequent guest speaker at our brewery and a close, personal friend. The ideals that he and the rest of the staff instill in the students are the very same principles that have guided our success in craft brewing for the past 36 years.”

The first Endowed Brewer will be Joe Williams, who brings considerable hands-on knowledge to the UC Davis brewing program, where he has been serving as a staff researcher.

In addition to fulfilling his teaching and brewery management duties, Williams will be involved as a liaison to the brewing industry for UC Davis and a host for visitors to the campus brewery.

Longtime relationship with Sierra Nevada

The endowment for the brewing position grew out of a long-standing relationship between Grossman and Bamforth dating back to 1999, when Bamforth arrived at UC Davis to lead the campus brewing science program.

“Over the years, Ken has been incredibly good to UC Davis,” said Bamforth, noting that Grossman generously shares his expertise in commercial brewing with students. For many years he lectured three times each year in the Introduction to Beer and Brewing course and often hosts Bamforth and his students for tours of the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico.

“Our students have learned from Ken the true meaning of quality,” Bamforth said.  “Everything at Sierra Nevada speaks quality, from the brewing itself to the company’s insistence on sustainable approaches to the process.

“Sierra Nevada is the ultimate in brewing excellence, and it is marvelous that they have demonstrated their commitment to UC Davis, where our mantra also is about doing things the right way,” he said.

About Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is one of America’s premier craft breweries, highly regarded for using only the finest quality ingredients. The pioneering spirit that launched Sierra Nevada now spans both coasts with breweries in Chico, California, and Mills River, North Carolina. Sierra Nevada has set the standard for craft brewers worldwide with innovations in the brewhouse as well as advances in sustainability. It is famous for its extensive line of beers including Pale Ale, Torpedo®, Hop Hunter® IPA, Nooner® Pilsner, Otra Vez, ™ Kellerweis®, Porter, Stout and a host of seasonal, specialty and limited release beers. Learn more at

About UC Davis Brewing Science

Teaching and research in brewing science has been an integral component of the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology since 1958. The program provides students with a solid grounding in chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and other foundational sciences, and offers them opportunities to develop the core skills needed for entry into the brewing profession or related businesses.

Undergraduate students can earn bachelor’s degrees in food science with a brewing option, and graduate students can earn master’s degrees through the food science graduate group, also with a brewing option. Courses in the brewing option focus on the malting and brewing processes involved in making beer

Hundreds of students, many of whom come from other majors including chemical engineering as well as viticulture and enology, have progressed from the brewing science program to senior technical positions within the North American brewing and brewing-supply industries and beyond.

The program’s practical brewing training is carried out in a 1.5-barrel-capacity brewery within the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Research Laboratory, the latter of which further illustrates Grossman’s commitment to the brewing program at UC Davis. Those labs include state-of-the-art brewing facilities on several scales as well as associated analytical instrumentation.

Media Resources

Charlie Bamforth, UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, 530-752-9476,

Scott Kolbe, Sierra Nevada Brewing, 530-893-3520,

Pat Bailey, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-9640,

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University Food & Agriculture