Thursday, August 23, 2007

In Memoriam - Steve Harrison, VP of Sierra Nevada

There was some tragic news from California last week. Steve Harrison, a long-time beer industry veteran and stalwart of Sierra Nevada and craft-brewing, was first reported missing and later discovered dead. Full Story.

While I was not close with Steve, I enjoyed meeting him and learning from his contributions to a few Craft Brewer's Conferences in the past. I find myself saddened and uncomfortable with this loss to our community. First off, my condolences and wishes for strength and peace go out to his family and friends.

I feel a kinship with Steve, as I've held a similar post (VP of Sales) for two different breweries over the last 13 years or so. I hope he was aware that many in the industry looked up to his work and his company with respect and admiration. Sierra Nevada, under Steve's leadership, was an early force in the craft brewing scene. What I have always appreciated, was their patience to do it their way, at their pace, according to their ethos. There are many breweries that have grown faster than them, with flashier stories and more exciting marketing. No brewery has led such a steady, controlled, march into national distribution, while maintaining their presence in core-beer accounts with a solid flagship brand and a conservative-to-non-existent, media budget.

They've demonstrated a quiet confidence and genuine sincerity in their approach to the market. Their stability is one of the reasons people can have confidence in craft beer today. While Sierra Nevada Pale Ale may not get talked about in hushed tones any more, or revered as the most intriguing beer someones had this week; it was a pioneering beer that taught our beer-drinking public that hops are ok, and pale ales should not be feared. Since then, it has taught brewers that consistency is important, and after you teach someone that a flavor profile is enjoyable, you better be able to deliver the same profile in every bottle, no matter what size brewery you are or how fast you're growing. The consistency they deliver(ed) in beer, in message and in service is a benchmark that our industry owes a good deal of its existence to. It is also a benchmark that we should all strive to meet.

I hope Steve was aware of his impact on our proud industry. I'll remember him as a leader and offer my thanks and respect to his family, friends and colleagues.

Rest in peace.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please re-think and write this article again. In the current form, this is upseting. Nobody in the US craft brewing industry can compare themself to Steve or undemine the current perception of the beers.
Until you make an impact as relevant as he had done, please refrain from such comments.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Beervangelist said...

I believe you misunderstand my post. My intentions were entirely respectful. I make no comparison to Steve; I express that I have looked up to his work within my own career. In regards to their beer, I imply that in this current period of our audience lauding “extreme beers,” ground-breaking beers like Sierra Nevada are sometimes overlooked. I intended to express that people should remember that Sierra helped establish a new expectation of quality, before many other craft breweries even existed. I honestly do not see any comparative or undermining aspects of my post. If you wish to clarify your objections, I hope you’ll email me, or post in a less-anonymous manner. I apologize for any misunderstanding.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Sean Wilson said...

I just read the tribute. I don't get what anon is upset about. It seemed like a respectful homage to a man who led a great brewery at the forefront of the craft beer revolution.

3:56 PM  

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