Bert Grant’s Perfect Porter

Bert Grant, photo attributed to Michael Jackson

Bert Grant, photo attributed to Michael Jackson

Sorry if the title misled you. You won’t find the recipe for Bert Grant’s Perfect Porter here. If you search the internet for it, you’ll find you’re by no means the first person to do so. Instead, try Clone Brews, pages 230-231. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of their version, and Mr. Grant has been gone for 15 years, so there’s no asking him for verification. I more or less stumbled on it during a recipe search thanks to the local homebrewers’ club and the March meeting host who put out a call for stouts and porters.

Read much about craft beer history, and you’ll inevitably run across Bert Grant. By all reports, he was an extremely smart and colorful individual, passionate about everything to do with making beer, especially the hops.

In 1982, he opened one of earliest microbreweries, Yakima Brewing and Malting Company in Yakima, Washington’s old opera house. Grant’s Pub occupied the building’s lobby. Reports have it that no actual malting went on there, but such details, didn’t seem to bother Grant. Not coincidentally, of course, the town of Yakima is in the heart of one of the largest hop-growing regions of the world where Grant had lived and worked in the industry since the late Sixties.

Before heading to the homebrew supply shop, I ran the recipe by my husband Hugo who started his brewing career in 1979 at Cervecería Cuauhtémoc in Monterrey, Mexico. He took the book and immediately smiled. “I remember Bert.”

“No way. You actually knew Bert Grant?”

He proceeded to tell one of his stories I’ve heard before about a laid-back consultant who used to visit Cuauhtémoc. The guy had a habit at bars and meals of pulling out a tiny bottle of Yakima hop oil and adding a few drops to his beer. It was kind of on the weird side to doctor your clients’ beer in front of them, but, apparently, Bert Grant relished his reputation as a little out-there.

“Wait a minute,” I interrupted Hugo. “All those times I’ve heard you tell that story, you never mentioned the consultant’s name. That was Bert Grant?” I mean, I could have invited the man to our house for a home-cooked meal while on the road?

Hugo then started reminiscing about seeing Grant for years at annual MBAA (Master Brewers Association of the Americas) meetings. “He was always such a well-regarded and respected hops’ expert.”

Here’s an excerpt from a 2001 memorial column on Grant written by the late beer writer Michael Jackson. “Isn’t this on the hoppy side for a Scotch Ale?” I asked. “Yes,” he acknowledged. “All beers should be hoppier.” I pursued the question. “Is it really fair to sell it as a Scotch Ale?” He took a surprising tack. “It is a Scotch Ale because I created it. I am Scottish.” I had never thought of him as being Scottish, despite that dynastic name. “When did you leave?” I persisted. “When I was two years old.”

Almost as almost as if Grant had predicted the future, one of four craft beers sold in 2015 was an IPA, overall the hoppiest beer style.

Last September when I attended the Yakima hop harvest, I drove into town along Yakima Avenue where my first impression was how much it resembled the agricultural towns that dot California. How, in this small town, had Grant ever made a go of his brewery and pub in the nascent years of craft beer?

Grant sold Yakima Brewing in 1995 and died in 2001 at age 73. The company eventually foundered and declared bankruptcy in 2004. And, as I write, there’s a batch of Bert Grant’s Perfect Porter happily fermenting away in my kitchen. In Mr. Grant’s honor, I plan to dry-hop it.

Dry-hopping in Bert Grant's honor

Dry-hopping in Bert Grant’s honor

Comments

  1. Bert Grant sounds like a man you would have had fun interviewing. Nice to have Hugo’s remembrances for authenticity ?. Sure would love to be sampling your brews!

    • Leslie Patino says:

      Thanks for reading, Bonita. One of these days maybe we can actually get together and you can sample a Patino brew!

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