Historic Beer Birthday: Bert Grant

Today would have been Bert Grant’s 89th birthday, and he is still definitely missed. Bert opened the country’s first brewpub in 1982 in Yakima, Washington and was a fixture in the industry until his death in late July of 2001. Join me tonight in lifting a pint to Bert’s memory.

Bert Grant and me at OBF in the mid-1990s.

Here’s his obituary from Real Beer:

Craft brewing pioneer Bert Grant, who founded the first modern day brewpub in the United States, is dead at 73.

Grant had been ill for two years and died Tuesday at the University of British Columbia Hospital in Vancouver. He had moved to that city a year ago to be close to his children.

When Grant founded his brewpub in Yakima, Wash., in 1982 there were fewer than 50 individual brewing operations in the U.S. Today there are more than 1,500. That brewpub expanded to become a bottling microbrewery, selling about 10,000 barrels of Bert Grant’s Ales in 2001. He sold the brewery to Chateau Ste. Michelle wines in 1995, but Grant remained an active spokesman until being slowed by illness.

He’d sometimes wear a kilt at his pub in Yakima and occasionally dance on the bar. He kept a claymore — a double-bladed broadsword — just in case he had to enforce his ban on smoking.

He was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1928. He moved to Toronto, where he grew up and got his first job in a brewery … at 16, he became a beer taster. He remained in the beer business all his life. He moved to Yakima in 1967, where he helped build and operate two plants that processed hops. His patented processing of hops is still in use today.

Bert Grant Bert was one of a kind,” said Paul Shipman, who founded Red Hook Brewery around the time Grant began Yakima Brewing and Malting Co. “He was a scientist, a brewer, and I don’t think he even graduated high school.”

He remained dedicated to assertive beer and carried a vial of hop oil in his pocket to boost the flavor of a bland domestic beer. His first priority was to brew beer he liked. “It may not be your favorite beer,” Grant’s son Peter said. “But it was his.”



  1. beerman49 says

    So by how much did he beat “Buffalo Bill” Owens’ pub in Hayward, which I visited in my early beer-geek days (1982-83)? Buffalo Bill’s was the only one I’ve ever been to that had open fermenting vats a la Anchor.

    Which brings me to a topic that has yet to show up in a book – a history of US brewpubs from 1982-2000 (w/annotations for those that survived beyond & either still exist or the reasons for their demise. The variations & possibilities on this topic are many, & many readers of this would be able to help w/the research (hint, hint) :)

    • Gary Gillman says

      Sierra Nevada, which started about 1981, used open-top fermentation as well and I’d guess New Albion did too. Bert Grant was a trailblazer and is responsible surely for inaugurating India Pale Ale, not the taste as such, which really started with Liberty Ale, but the nomenclature. Sadly missed.


      • The Professor says

        Bert was a pioneer, a nice guy, and made good beers…but giving him credit for “inaugurating the nomenclature” of India Pale Ale is overstating it a bit. Even saying that Anchor was responsible for inaugurating the “taste” of IPA with it’s Liberty Ale is a bit far fetched.
        But Bert Grant certainly _was_ a true pioneer.

  2. Gary Gillman says

    Bert Grant did inaugurate the term India Pale Ale during the modern craft era, meaning two things: i) he was the first (as far as I know) to put it on a bottled beer label, ii) he used the term in connection with assertive PNW hops. Liberty Ale has a similar taste profile but didn’t call itself India Pale Ale.

    The existence at the time of Ballantine IPA does not affect these points because it pre-dated the modern craft era and did not rely on PNW hops for its signature taste.


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