August 27, 2010 by David Gillaspie
(written for http://www.thebeerbabe.com/)
In the beginning, the early 1980’s, Northwest beer had a few names. Olympia up in Olympia, Blitz in Portland, Raaaaiiiinnneeeeer Beeeeer in Vancouver.
They filled many a glass.
Olympia’s motto was “It’s the water” which sounds too much like today’s Coors commercials. The question then was ‘If they knew it was the water, why didn’t they do something about it?’
Blitz had the best name for bad beer. It was so bad they had to invent a premium beer for cover. Once a downtown music venue changed its name from the Paramount to the Schnitz it was possible to get the Blitz schitz at the Schnitz.
Then the brewery shut down and ruined the fun.
Raaiiiinnneeeeeer Beeeeeer was just good to say and one of the only commercial choices to come in a pint bottle.
All was good in beerland. It wasn’t Milwaukie, WI but Portland covered the beer bases.
Until Grant’s Scottish Ale popped into town, that is.
In the early 80’s the area that became the elegant Pearl was a beat down light industrial zone of garages and low warehouses. The hardcore homeless from the lower northwest side stayed there, but the more ambitious walked the would-be Pearl to the residential area starting on NW 18th.
It was so neglected and dangerous that Curtis Sliwa filmed a Guardian Angel spot in the district.
A bar/restaurant, Acapulco Gold, sat on the corner of NW 14th and Flanders. It was a good place for a big burger or a big salad. They bragged about the number of beers on tap.
One door down on Flanders a brew pub opened. They made Grant’s Scottish Ale. Since I lived and worked around the neighborhood it was a watershed moment. One I knew would never last.
You can’t make one beer and stay in business, right? Even a beer as great as Grant’s. How great? In the beer universe Grant’s answered the one question, ‘will there ever be a beer standard from which to judge all other beer?’
It’s name was Grant’s.
Hoppy, but not too hoppy. Not hop-obsessed like the triple hopped IPA on the Safeway shelf now. Hearty, but not cough medicine.
My instincts said something as perfect as Grant’s was doomed to live only in the memory of those who knew it for what it was.
Then Red Hook showed up with its malty side. Hoppy and Malty? Together at the same time?
Red Hook had its followers, but Grants stood alone. My research associate (wiki) calls Grant’s Brewery Pub in Yakima the first of its kind when it opened in 1982. It created the model for other brewpubs to follow. The CEO of Redhook called Grant’s Brewery Pub essential to the industry.
Most important, Grant’s Scottish Ale found an audience anxious for change. Enough of ‘It’s The Water Olympia’, or ‘The Light Refreshing Blitz’, the ‘Champagne of Bottled Beer’ or any other marketing tricks for what was now sub-standard beer.
Grant’s lifted the bar, pushed the envelope; it set the mark, shortened the field; most of all Grant’s made every other beer a stand-in. Leave the Lone Star, Pearl, Griesedieck, Millers, Falstaff, Schmidts, and Rolling Rock in the cooler. Don’t bother with Milwaukee’s Best, Old Milwaukee, Bud, Busch, or Coors, Hamm’s or PBR.
Grant’s was worth the wait when no one knew they were waiting.
After Grant’s, everything else paled.
In the classroom of great beers, Grant’s was teacher’s pet.