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Sep 17, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 48
Remembering a beer pioneer

Aug. 2, 2001

Late yesterday the word began to spread in the brewing community about the death of Bert Grant. We can't begin to list all of his contributions to the brewing industry -- dating to before he opened the first post-Prohibition brewpub in the United States, to before his ground-breaking work with hop pellets, to before he began telling big brewers they needed to be making more interesting beer.

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He was a maverick, which fit in well with a new breed of independent brewers in the 1980s, but he also had a strong beer background and didn't have to make things up as he went along. Most important, he brewed beer that he wanted to drink.

Four years ago, Grant's Brewery Pub in Yakima, Wash., celebrated its 15th anniversary. Even though Grant had sold the business to Chateau Ste. Michelle wines he was still very involved in the operation. At that time he was busy rolling out a seasonal line of single hop beers that showcased hop varieties from the Yakima Valley.

Meeting with the press he couldn't quit smiling as he scooped up freshly picked hops and smelled them. As he lead a tutored tasting, his love of hops -- he is said to have carried a vial of hop oil in his pocket to boost the flavor of a bland domestic beer -- was obvious. After taking a sip of his Fresh Hop Ale he leaned back and sighed with contentment. "You should feel it in the back of your throat," he said.

He took a little time in 1997 to answer a few questions from Real Beer editor Stan Hieronymus.

Hieronymus: Did you expect 15 years ago that we'd have close to 1,000 brewpubs operating now?

Grant: I was quoted in '82 as saying that by '92 there might be 500 brewpubs.

SH: What are the best changes you've seen in the microbrewery industry in the last 15 years?

BG: The best thing that has happened in the last few years is a great improvement in the average quality of brewpub beers.

SH: What are the worst?

BG: The worst thing is the proliferation and prosperity of beers pretending to be craft-brewed beers. We really need some "truth in advertising."

SH: How have specialty beers themselves changed?

BG: Specialty beers now offer the consumer much more genuine variety of flavors than at any time in recent history. In addition to the wide variation in brands and types produced by the craft-brewers, the major brewers also are making many more styles.

SH: Do you think the United States has developed a beer culture? If so, how would you describe it?

BG: Yes, the beer culture is growing quite rapidly; still far from a majority but it now has reached a sizable minority status.

SH: What are your predictions for the microbrewery business in the next 15 years?

BG: Craft and specialty beer volume should double in the next 10 years. Brewpubs also could easily double in the same period.

SH: What is your favorite beer you brew? Could you name three favorite beers you don't brew?

BG: My favorite has always been Bert Grant's Scottish Ale. Outside favorites include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Full Sail Amber Ale, and most of the cask-conditioned ales at the Wharf Rat in Baltimore.

Tasting notes

BERT GRANT'S IMPERIAL STOUT

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

The innovative Bert Grant was the first US brewer to make a strong stout in the style of St. Petersburg.... Although it is less potent than most Imperial Stouts, it was at the time one of the strongest, tastiest, and biggest-bodied beers in America.... splendidly flavorsome, chocolately, roasty, and firmly oily, with some honeyish perfuminess.

BERT GRANT'S PERFECT PORTER

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

His brand-name Perfect Porter is hardly modest, but the alcohol contest (4.0 abv) is. Despite which this beer is astonishingly well-rounded in both body and flavor, with suggestions of cocoa powder, toasted nuts and a touch of peat.

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