Great Basin Brewing is turning 25! Let’s have a beer with Tom Young.
Great Basin Brewing Company holds a unique spot in the history of modern-day craft beer in Nevada. They are currently the oldest operating brewery in the state. This year, Great Basin will celebrate 25 years in Sparks.
Hopefully you will see a lot of coverage on the 25th anniversary of Great Basin Brewing, and a lot of it will focus on their history, so we’ll try to not do that (too much) in this article. If you don’t know the story of Great Basin, read THIS article recently written by Northern Nevada Business View. For context, here’s the TL;DR version: Tom Young, a geologist and award-winning homebrewer leaves his job in the mining industry and decides to open a brew pub. Unfortunately, 1) Brew pubs are currently not legal. 2) No bank will lend him money. So, Tom worked to have the law changed. Big Beer and distributors (who were annoyed with the growth of those pesky craft brewers) made sure Nevada brew pubs had production capped at 5,000 barrels and the brewery had to open in a “redevelopment” area. What could go wrong? Well, the rest is fermentation history.
I had a chance to sit down over a beer with founder, Tom Young, recently to talk about the past, present and future.
I asked Tom what stood out from the past 25 years and he said that when he started, he “really didn’t understand the challenge. But as an entrepreneur, I was good at problem solving.” Then, Tom mentioned “the people part”. “You can’t replace the staff and patrons we’ve had come through our doors. It so great to see how Great Basin has been a part of so many peoples’ lives.” We talked about his customers and his staff and it was interesting how Tom discussed his brewers as a diverse team of very talented individuals.
Tom is still very active in all aspects of the business including brewing and recipe formulation but he says he spends a lot of time “problem solving”.
Great Basin Brewing puts a lot of effort in giving back to the community. “We’re doing something all the time. It is one of our core values”, says Young. For 10 years, Great Basin has teamed up with the University of Bonn in Germany and offered assistance to further the Ichthyosaur expedition in Nevada. In addition to cash donations, in 2016, the expedition crew had difficulty locating a truck to travel into the back roads of Nevada to transport newly uncovered reptile fossils to go to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Members of the Great Basin team drove its beer truck, with a large Ichthyosaur fossil graphic on it, into the desert and delivered the fossils to the museum in Los Angeles. This all makes perfect sense when the founder is a geologist with a beer named “Icky”. Great Basin also participates in Ales for ALS and the special beers they brew each year have now raised over $25,000 for ALS. The number of local fundraisers and support is to large to list. “I feel it is everybody’s duty to try to improve the planet, society and themselves”, said Young. “We want to make the world a better place one beer at a time.”
Our conversation turned to the local brewery scene where Tom still sees room for growth. “The bar has been raised and any new brewery that opens here needs to be fun and innovative”, says Young. “I see Reno-Sparks trending as more of a beer destination now”, he continued. “I think the biggest obstacle to growth is distribution. Retail shelf-space is getting tougher to secure”.
Great Basin has 3 locations:
The original brew pub, opened in 1993 – 846 Victorian Ave Sparks, NV
South Reno brew pub, opened in 2010 – 5525 S Virginia St, Reno, NV
Taps & Tanks is their production facility, opened in 2012 – 1155 S Rock Blvd #490, Reno, NV
Great Basin is planning for a celebration on November 10. 25 beers on tap, music, the Not So Precise Precision Keg Drill team and more. Stay tuned for details.