Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rest In Peace 2015 -- Thanks for all the beers

I'm closing out the year of 2015 by paying respect to those departed during the year that left a significant mark on the beer industry. I keep a list throughout the year and by mid-year I was wondering if we might have a very low count for the year. In 2014, I could only come up with one name for the list.

Unfortunately, the last five months (esp. November) claimed some big names both here around Philly and elsewhere in the country. If you'd like to look back and remember those lost in prior years, check on back on my year-end memorials in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.

As in past years, I'll repeat a soothing message: Be still sad heart and cease repining; Behind the clouds the sun is shining, Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life a little rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary. ~ Longfellow

Fred Eckhardt passed away at the age of 89 from natural causes in August 2015. No one covered it as well as Jay Brooks. Eckhardt was a fixture in commercial and home brewing around the world from his home state of Oregon. His journalistic influence ranged from A Treatise on Lager Beers (1972) to The Essentials of Beer Style (1989) to his column in Celebrator Magazine. He left his mark in many other ways such as the FredFest in Portland and Hair of the Dog's Fred ale.

He was a well-liked, greatly-respected, and engaging man in the beer world and the death of The Dean of American Beer Writers has left a hole that can never be completely filled. Some more material that you may wish to check out regarding the rich life of Fred Eckhardt: Brewing TV video from 2010; a public wake that was held at McMenamin's; video of Ken Grossman and Charlie Papazian discussing Fred and the 30th Anniversary Sierra Nevada bock beer that they collaborated on; and more video of Fred, this one at the annual Oregon Brewers Festival.

Also in August 2015, the Philadelphia/South Jersey brewing community was rocked by the sudden passing of 56-year-old Village Idiot co-founder/brewer Rich Palmay. He died from a heart attack while brewing at his three-year-old passion/business on High Street in Mount Holly. Don Russell, aka Joe Sixpack, had a nice piece on Palmay and the community on

The Philadelphia region was again touched by the loss of one its own when Tom Buonanno died in November 2015. A longtime fixture on the Philadelphia beer scene from his early days at Stoudts to his board position at Philly Beer Week and to his work at Muller Inc. importer/distributor, Buonanno had a gregariously outgoing personality who served as mentor and friend to many in the industry. His obituary at is linked here and a more personal account of "Tommy B's" life is summed up in quite well in a Facebook posting by Vetri Family Beverage Director, Steve Wildy (based on privacy settings, you may or may not be able to see this).

Also in November, one of the brewing world's foremost educators, Bill Siebel, died at the age of 69 from esophageal cancer. He was a fourth-generation leader of the school begun by his great-grandfather that counts numerous of the industry's finest amongst its past students. The Chicago Sun-Times covered the news quite well in addition to pieces that can be found also at Pro Brewer and from Tom Cizauskas at Yours For Good Fermentables.

Another prominent 56-year-old related to the brewing industry passed away in November. Jamie Gordon, referred to as a "microcanning pioneer", died of a heart attack in Denver, Colorado.

And, finally, one last note to November, 53-year-old Steve Anderson, the brewmaster force behind Live Oak Brewing in Texas, died from cancer. He most recently worked his skills at Big Bend and his career is documented nicely at

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