By Kayla Anderson
Special to The Ely Times
The gregarious owner and founder of Great Basin Brewing Company is at the Taps and Tanks warehouse on Rock Boulevard, celebrating the launch of Great Basin’s Chilebeso beer amongst a piñata, $2 tacos, and a group of donkeys. Donning a black mustache and sounds of a mariachi band playing in the background, Tom Young offers a tour of the warehouse that he acquired from Buckbean back in 2012.
Holding a master’s degree in geological engineering and a love for brewing beer, in the early 1990s Tom Young decided to turn his passion into a business by launching a brewery in Sparks.
“One of the traits of geologists is they drink a lot of beer and like different varieties,” Young said. After spending some time in Yugoslavia during his geologist days, Young came back to the States to discover that he couldn’t find the beer that he enjoyed overseas. So he started brewing it himself.
Meanwhile, he was working for a mining company in Nevada but when the company initiated downsizing, Young was part of the group to go. Transitioning into becoming a consultant for his former company and also winning awards for his homemade brews, Young decided to take his career in a different direction.
Nevada legislature tried to throw a wrench in Young’s plans … laws were in place that prohibited beer production and distribution, which in turn made it difficult for Tom to secure a loan. But luckily, the City of Sparks welcomed him with open arms and Tom and his wife Bonda eventually were able to open Nevada’s oldest brewery in December 1993.
“Victorian Square was pretty desolate at the time and the city was very accommodating,” Young said in regards to choosing his brewery’s location. And although Nevada’s officials said more aggressive beers wouldn’t survive in a Budweiser-loving state, Great Basin ran out of its flagship Ichthyosaur IPA in its first two days.
Great Basin then took off, outgrowing and expanding its operations. Here is a timeline of its progress:
1993: The first Great Basin brewery opened in Sparks.
1994: Working with a distributor, Great Basin provided kegs to select restaurants and bars upon request.
2010: Great Basin opened its second brew pub in Reno. Great Basin also expanded its operation with the ability to bottle beer on a mass production scale.
2012: Great Basin acquired the Buckbean manufacturing center and inherited some canning equipment. It was able to increase the capacity for brewing five times of what it was before, helping to meet the ever-growing demand.
2016: Working with local manufacturer Silver State Stainless in Moundhouse, Great Basin was able to secure more fermentation tanks helping its expansion and production and the brand. Great Basin beers are pretty much sold in every supermarket, liquor and convenience store in Northern Nevada (and some stores in Las Vegas and Northern California). Great Basin is also working with distributors and legislation on expanding into Utah and Southern California markets.
Presently, Great Basin continues to be the oldest- and the largest- brewery in Nevada continuing to rake in awards for its delicious and unique beers. Even though a brewing business is difficult because the profit margins are so small, Great Basin is setting up for success.
So out of the 200-plus beers that Great Basin has produced, what is Young’s favorite?
“It all depends on my mood, but right now we’re updating our menu to include summery, citrusy shrimp dishes and a beer that pairs well with that is the Kaffir Lime Leaf & Basil Saison.” Considering it took the silver medal in the spice category of an LA international beer festival recently, it seems that the beer is a favorite of other beer lovers too.
Tom Young, Founder/Owner: firstname.lastname@example.org