Vignette #13: Ken Grossman
Brewer vignettes feature quotes from brewers I picked up in my travels around the world.
“I was an avid homebrewer, starting back in 1969, and brewed through the seventies and ran a homebrewing supply store that I founded in 1976. I had brewed a range of pale ales and when we were thinking about starting the brewery I wanted to do something that was not British, that was American, and wanted to feature American ingredients wherever possible and so chose the Cascade hop as about the only signature American aroma hop at the time. I blended a little bit of brewing technology and history from England with my homebrewing and some US ingredients and came up with pale ale. It was my familiarity with that hop and the distinctive nature of the aroma—the piney citrus—that I appreciated and enjoyed and wanted to incorporate into our pale ale.”
The following answer was in response to a question I had about the durability of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale.
“Well, I’ll take some credit as—I wouldn’t say we invented it, but we certainly focused in on and honed a style of pale ale that had a forward hop profile, which the English styles don’t so much have, and a more robust character, higher bitterness units, and higher alcohol than most of the British pale ales. So I think it’s certainly a variation on a theme—as all beers are, in reality. I mean, you’re brewing with a handful of basic brewing ingredients. We bottle conditioned. We did some fairly unique things for American breweries—not that they weren’t being done a few places in the world and by homebrewers—we also put that out there as one of our signatures. ”
I particularly love that second quote for its modesty. This is a man to whom I credit largely with inventing the American tradition. With Pale and later Celebration, Grossman fixed the DNA of the American palate. I gave him a chance to take a victory lap and celebrate this singular accomplishment, but he downplayed it the whole way.