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Great Basin Brewery founder

Rob Sabo

Saying that Tom Young likes beer is like saying kids like candy. Young gave up a long career in the mining industry he holds a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s degree in geological engineering to found Great Basin Brewery in Sparks in 1993.

Young’s passion for beer took root when he toured the former republic of Yugoslavia as a budding mining executive.

“I really liked the beer there,” he says. “They had some really unique flavors, especially some of the Yugoslavian beers.”

When he returned stateside, Young began buying expensive imported beer much to the chagrin of his wife, Bonda.

“We couldn’t afford these expensive six-packs of beer,” he says. “I was a junior geologist then, and it wasn’t in the budget. So I decided to start home brewing.”

After he was laid off from Tenneco Minerals Company, he enriched his knowledge of the brewing industry at fermentation science classes at the University of California, Davis, and by apprenticing at microbreweries in Sacramento and San Francisco. He also subscribed to home brewing journals.

“I think every very serious home brewer has a dream, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to open up your own brewery?’ “

When he founded Great Basin, Young says one of the major challenges was finding funding his partnership applied to every single bank in Nevada and was promptly denied.

“I can certainly see why and understand that, he says. “My experience was as a mining engineer who wanted to run a brewery and restaurant.”

Even his own mother said no.

“She was a smart lady,” Young says.

So Young brewed beer in small batches and pitched his suds to local investors, who bought in. He eventually secured a small business loan from a California bank as well.

He says his best memories of brewing beer for more than 15 years on Victorian Avenue are the things that don’t show up in a business plan.

“People have had their first dates here and are now married, and they bring their children in,” Young says. “I have seen my staff members grow up, get married and become productive citizens.

“We certainly want to make a profit, and it very important to us, but at the same time we really want to enjoy our work. We are here for the experiences, the passion, and the whole journey. That’s what life should be all about, and hopefully that results in more laughs, and black ink on the balance sheet.”

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini sees the longtime Victorian Avenue establishment as a local version of the famed Boston bar in the television show, “Cheers.”

“It is a great locals place with excellent food, beer and atmosphere,” Martini says. “This is what Victorian Square is all about. Tom is a very good businessman, and the product he provides is second to none. He

continues to be an excellent partner with the City of Sparks.”

Young says the beer is the binding ingredient in the whole mix. Despite the evils of alcohol, Young contends that beer historically has done a whole lot more good than harm.

“It is great elixir for conversation,” he says. “Microbrewed beer has a lot more flavor and body, and it is incredibly difficult to consume a lot of it. If you really wanted to get intoxicated, it is a bad vehicle. It is something you have to sip rather than quaffing it down and becoming a blithering idiot. Sometimes that might be important for people’s relationships if they have a beer, enjoy some conversation and become closer.”

Young would love to expand Great Basin because the current brewery is unable to meet wholesale demand in northern Nevada.

“They are drinking us dry,” he says. “We cannot keep up with the thirsty thousands.”

Young is an avid hiker and downhill skier who frequents Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. He would like to become a better golfer but doesn’t know where the time would come from; he works about 55 hours a week at the brewpub. Young has been married 27 years and has two children, daughters Molly and Katie, both students at the University of Nevada, Reno.