Grant's Ales Leave Home
Yakima Brewing moves production out of Yakima, Washington
Bert Grant's Real Ales will no longer be brewed in Yakima, Wash., where Yakima Brewing and Malting Co. founder Bert Grant established America's first post-Prohibition brewpub in 1982.
Financially troubled Yakima Brewing announced it is moving production to unspecified breweries in the Southeast, West Coast and Northeast, apparently brewing only under contract.
"The decision to close the brewery was a tough one psychologically, but financially it was really easy to make," said Paul Brown, vice president of operations for the company.
Brown said the move will cut production costs by as much as 50% and will help reduce distribution costs by as much at 30%. "Right now, it's killing our distributors to ship beer from Yakima to, say, Florida," he said. Brown said the new facilities' locations were chosen because they are close to the company's major distributors, but he declined to provide specific locations.
After initial success with his downtown brewpub, the pioneering Bert Grant built his 20,000-square-foot brewery in 1990 to meet growing demand. Grant, who died in 2001, sold the business in 1995 to Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, which later became Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Brown and J. Gregory Tranum purchased the brewery in 2001.
In 2003, Yakima Brewing fell behind on its payments and avoided foreclosure by giving its plant, property and equipment back and entering a lease agreement Dec. 1, 2003, allowing continued operations.
Shortly after giving back the brewery, the company touted a highly publicized stock offering of up to 500,000 shares. But that was halted when an investigation by the state Department of Financial Institutions found Brown and Tranum allegedly deceived investors and broke security laws.
Last year, the company's Grant's Brewery Pub was evicted from its longtime home at the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co.'s depot at 32 N. Front St. for owing unpaid rent and other costs. The pub moved to another location, which continues to operate.
Yakima Brewing was back in court earlier this year. The company owed $34,650 in back rent and penalties for its brewery. It was served a "pay rent or vacate" notice in July. Brown said the decision to close the brewing facility was not a result of the recent threat of eviction.
This is sad news, Bert must be turning in his grave... He was quite a personality from what I've read.
This news raises a question related to beer recipes/reformulation when transitioning to new equipment/brewing sites...
Is moving to a new location (or multiple locations as it seems is the case here) not a major headache (and potentially disruptive to distribution)--I would think that with new equipment, each beer is going to have to be reformulated to a certain extent until the flavors match the originals. The Bert Grant beers have been around for quite a while and certainly people have expectations--it seems to me that it will take a while to get the same beers coming out of the new locations. I'm sure this will cost some extra cash, but obviously in the long run it will save the company $, otherwise they wouldn't have given up their brewery...
Any knowledge about this process to share--is it tough to dial in an old standard with new equipment? I know some breweries will upgrade equipment and this requires some (potentially) major tweaking to get the flavor/aroma profiles in line with the originals. Just curious... I think that Ommegang and Duvel Moortgat are having to do the same thing now that some of the Ommegang beers are also being made in Belgium...
Yes, it is sad..........
I had met Bert Grant on a few occassions very early in my brewing career. Regrettably, he was already suffering from a brain ailment that he had major surgery for.
Bert was a rebel, that's for sure, and had been in the Brewing Industry longer than most of us have been alive. If you have a copy of "The Practical Brewer", the chapter on hops was written by a younger Herbert Grant when he worked for Steiner. Bert, along with Paul Shipman of Redhook (I think he was involved), and Robert Keufner (Keufnerbrau) ran the gauntlet with Washington's Liquor Control Board to get the pasteurization requirement dropped for bottled and draft beer in our state. Also, as far as I know, Grant's was the first Brewery to put a nutritional label on their bottles only to have the ATF request its removal (after already approving the label previously, by the way). Now it looks as though they'll be required.....a bit of an irony.
An interesting annecdote, though Yakima Brewing Company (Grant's) was the first Brewpub, it was the second Micro in Washington State...........losing by 1 week to Redhook, then called "Independant Brewing Co." or similar. Keufnerbrau, I believe, was 3rd, though Hale's or Thomas Kemper might be in there somewhere.
In the late 1980's, my Northwest micro pallet was formed on brews like Grant's IPA and their exceptional Scottish Ale, which, in my book, was the gold standard for Scottish Ales (and "Northwest Reds"). It had a pronounced diacetyl edge that balanced perfectly with the malt profile and hop bitterness. However, the flavor of that beer changed significantly at the time of the sale years ago. I recall sitting at an Alehouse with a friend drowning my sorrows in a Grant's Scottish Ale when I made the committment to "jump the broom" from homebrewing and open a Brewery.
I wish them luck with the contract Brewing, and would ask that they bring back that luscious Scottish Ale I remember from my younger days.........