It was thirty years ago when I met Steve Dresler, who was and still is the brewmaster at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. I was in the hops business and it was my first trip to the brewery. Back then, my impression of a brewmaster was that of a stately, well-kept and well-educated brewing expert busy directing his minions as they performed the down-and-dirty duties of making beer.
But there was Steve, literally up to his waist in spent grain, sweating profusely and obviously attempting to alleviate a major issue in the brewhouse. Steve’s stringy long blond hair was plastered with sweat and grain, but his demeanor was cool in his effort to fix the problem at hand. It was in those early days that Steve established a hands-on leadership style that has become his trademark.
Well, Steve solved the issue and, as the brewhouse personnel regained control, he took the time to sit with me over a beer and our long friendship began. A good supplier-customer relationship is a formula for business success. With Steve, though, our relationship grew into a personal bond that has lasted thirty years as we shared time laughing and crying and cajoling each other over life’s challenges.
We never let our personal relationship compromise our business dealings. Steve has one-hundred percent loyalty to his beloved brewery and it’s that loyalty, along with his brewing skills in developing wonderful and unique beers, that made Sierra Nevada the industry leader. Steve would never take credit; his gentle ways and humbleness are part of his character. But the company does indeed owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
So it was just recently that I learned of Steve Dresler’s plan to retire from Sierra Nevada in the upcoming year. As I absorb that news, I sit and smile. Way to go, Steve. Your retirement is well deserved after such a successful career. Maybe it’s just coincidence—or possibly some type of brewing and hops mystical intervention—but I’m also retiring next year. We may both be transitioning into new life roles, but I am honored to say our friendship will remain.