A Magazine from California State University, ChicoSpring 2017 Issue

Brewing a Balanced Life

Brewing Up a Balanced Life

Balance contributes to Alum's success and happy life

We are going to grow, but it will be more metered out and controlled.

A balanced life is a life well-lived. And whether it’s running a brewery, spending time with her family, sitting behind the dais, or hoisting a world championship trophy, Alicia Barr works to achieve that balance daily.

Soon after graduating from Chico State, Barr (BS, Mechanical Engineering, ’96) began working at Hewlett-Packard in Roseville, where she met her future husband, Andy. After growing weary of Roseville’s urban sprawl, they plotted a plan to start anew in idyllic Truckee, California, where Andy’s family had a home.

“We came up with a three-year plan to get out of any student loans or debt, sell our house, and move to Truckee and start a business,” Barr said. “After two years, we said, ‘You know what? That’s close enough.’”

The Barrs bailed for Truckee in 2005, so when it came time to think about starting a business, they thought about their common interests, including their fond experiences of visiting brewpubs on vacations.

“If you’re visiting somewhere, [a brewpub is] a great way to get a vibe of what the community is like,” Barr said. “I love the comfort of it.”

Having toyed around with homebrewing in Roseville (“We found it fun.”), Barr, who grew up in Chico, calls Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. a huge inspiration.

“It’s not just because I grew up in the area, but they’ve been such a leader in being sustainable,” Barr said. “They practice what they preach.”

Alicia Barr and her husband, Andy, started homebrewing before making the jump to owning a full-fledged brewery in 2007.

Alicia Barr and her husband, Andy, started homebrewing before making the jump to owning a full-fledged brewery in 2007.

All roads seemed to point toward a brewery, so FiftyFifty Brewing Company opened its doors in May 2007. FiftyFifty Brewing Co. distributes to high-end urban markets in 16 states—including California—and eight countries. On a local level, the brewpub satiates Truckee professionals while also attracting out-of-towners taking a break from world-class slopes nearby or relaxing after a day on spectacular Donner Lake.

FiftyFifty Brewing Co.’s sweet spot is quality over quantity. Its selection ranges from the strong-hopped California Pale Ale and robust Donner Party Porter to the dry, light Base Camp Golden Ale and the highly touted barrel-aged Eclipse Imperial Stout, an award-winning example of its commitment to aging beer in old, used whiskey barrels. FiftyFifty produces slightly more than 1,000 barrels a year. By comparison, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. produced about 1.2 million barrels in 2015, roughly half of which came from its flagship brew, Pale Ale.

“That’s what fits us now,” Barr said. “We are going to grow, but it will be more metered out and controlled.”

This strategy underscores the Barrs’ and the brewery’s shared philosophy of balance, which plays out in everything from its logo and cozy brewpub atmosphere to a carefully crafted menu, which features mouthwatering pizzas and calzones, build-your-own-burgers and fresh salads, and all-natural baby back ribs and fish tacos.

“We want our food to stand up to our beer,” Barr said. “We don’t want our food to be an afterthought to feed someone while they’re having our beer.”

It’s not all hops and barley for Barr, though. In November 2012, Barr was elected to the Truckee City Council. She served as a council member in 2013, became vice mayor in 2014 and mayor in 2015, and finished out 2016 as a council member. And last year, Barr was a member of the USA Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Master’s team that captured the world championship.

Barr balanced plenty during her years at Chico State. She excelled at athletics, competing in track and field, where she clocked the University’s 10th-quickest 400-meter hurdles time ever, and was part of the eighth-fastest 1,600-meter relay team in school history. She also participated in a human-powered vehicle project, as part of the Capstone Design Program through the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management.

“What I loved about Chico State was how it’s a really academic school,” Barr said. “But even more, it’s practical, it values teamwork, it forces you to look at things from all sides and not just a common equation.”

Barr puts this concept into practice at FiftyFifty. Knowing they weren’t experts in everything, she and Andy hired brewing, logistics, sales, and restaurant management experts, acknowledging that decisions need to consider all of those opinions and perspectives.

“We may have a road map, but it has to change constantly from a practicality point, and it’s the teamwork of all of our leaders that keeps us successful,” Barr said.

Even in Truckee, Barr maintains her University connections. She served on the Chico State Alumni Board from 2004 to 2009, acting as president from 2006 to 2007, and she recently joined the Advisory Board for the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management.

“I guess I still needed my Chico fix,” Barr said. Because for Barr, balance is everything.

—Sean Murphy (BA, English, ’97) is the public affairs coordinator for Chico State.

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Alum Notes



('08) was promoted to assistant superintendent of Calcrete Construction.

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('88) received a distinguished service award from the Boy Scouts.

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