Brewing and malting scientist Charlie Bamforth knew instantly that he and Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman would be friends after a meeting in Chico in 1999.
“Ken wanted my input on the merits of purchasing an Electron Spin Resonance Spectrometer to research flavor stability in beer,” recounts Charlie, noting that such a tool is more apt for things like dating fossil discoveries. “Anyone who’s that obsessive over quality is a kindred spirit.”
At the time, Charlie was the newly arrived professor of brewing at the University of California, Davis. He led the brewing program for 20 years until his retirement in 2018. Before UC Davis, Charlie held positions at Brewing Research International as well as Bass Brewers, both in his native England. He first came into the industry in 1978.
Charlie’s vast knowledge, expertise, and signature humor have made him a brewing industry fixture, even earning the lofty moniker “The Pope of Foam.”
How lucky we are, then, to have the Pope on staff at Sierra Nevada. Since 2019, Charlie has served as our Senior Quality Advisor, evaluating all areas of brewery production to ensure we hold fast to the “highest quality” mission featured on our beer labels.
“It would have been very easy to have completely retired after leaving UC Davis,” he says, “but Ken and Sierra Nevada have impressed me hugely for so long, I just could not miss the opportunity.”
Charlie is also a prolific writer, with a delightful style that makes the most complex ideas both approachable and entertaining. And he’s created an expansive series of articles — a Brewer’s Alphabet, if you will — that dives deep into craft beer, from defining styles like Altbier to sampling beer from a zwickel.
There’s much to learn from one of history’s best beer minds.