On August 10 we lost Fred Eckhardt (1926-2015), one of the most influential beer personalities the world has ever known. Called the Dean of American Beer Writers and Craft Beer’s Muse, among many other titles, Fred was one of the first homebrew advocates, he was a leading beer writer (with regular columns in Celebrator and All About Beer magazine) and author of many books, including “A Treatise on Lager Beers,” which published in the late ’60s – a decade before homebrewing was even legal.
A public wake for Fred will be held this Sunday, August 23, from 2 to 6 p.m., at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, hosted by Lisa Morrison. To submit a photo for the slideshow, send it to email@example.com. Click here for the Facebook page.
I never had the opportunity to meet Fred, but I’ve known of him since I first became obsessed with good beer in the early 1990s. Since I don’t have any personal stories to share, I thought I’d share some quotes about him that I have compiled:
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (the Denver System), I shared a room at GABF with Fred Eckhardt. We were both judges, and they put us two to a room. One morning around 6:30 a.m., I bolted awake to find Fred walking across the room jauntily, wearing nothing but a red Speedo and his trademark waxed mustache. I said, ‘What’s up, Fred?’ And he said, ‘I’m back from my swim! And it was awesome!’ Fred was about 75 at the time. The thing about Fred is that he always made you feel hopeful, both for yourself and for humanity. When I’m 75, I hope I’m doing pool laps early in the morning, and wearing whatever the hell I want. Here’s to you, Fred.” – Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster and author of “The Brewmaster’s Table”
“America tonight lost one of its earliest proponents of good beer, Fred Ekchardt. Raise your glass to his memory, folks.” – Stephen Beaumont, beer writer and author of many books
“[Fred] was craft beer’s muse and he will never be forgotten!” – Lisa Morrison, Beer Goddess, co-owner of Belmont Station in Portland and author of “Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest”
“[Fred] literally wrote the book. Lots of them, starting with ‘A Treatise on Lager Beers’ (way ahead of the craft curve), and more recently and even more legendarily, ‘The Essentials of Beer Style.’ Fred literally defined more beer styles than most people will even hear about in their lifetimes. I had the honor of sharing a few beers and tasting panels with Fred. Portland is grieving tonight. Earlier today, literally an hour before she broke the news, Lisa Morrison and I were recording an interview for my film where we discussed Fred’s contribution to Portland and the world or beer. Raise your glasses to Fred tonight.” – John Lovegrove
“Fred made an incredible, indelible contribution to the world of beer and sake appreciation. His voice will be sorely missed, but thankfully, his writing lives on.” – Deb J.
“Fred was an incredible inspiration and mentor to me and my entire beer career. I first met him at my first GABF in 1988, when Bill Owens introduced me to him. Fred gave me an advance copy of ‘The Essentials of Beer Style.’ Just a few months later I started writing what was then the second weekly beer column in a U.S. daily (Fred’s in The Oregonian was the first). Over the years, I had the great honor of getting to know Fred on a professional and personal level. We shared several meals, plenty of beers and sake at each other’s homes, and he once even got me a job as a sake maker at a sake brewery (sadly, the gig didn’t end up taking hold). He was the consummate gentlemen and the most gracious of all ‘beer celebrities’ that it has been my honor to know. I have two favorite ‘Fred-isms.’ The first he uttered before the very first Fred Fest, when asked what he wanted for his birthday. A practicing Buddhist, he said something to the effect of, ‘I really don’t want anything I don’t have. When I put my hand in my pocket, there is always money. When I want a beer, there is always beer close by. And everywhere I go I can find a friend to talk to.’ The other, and one I use quite often when talking about so-called ‘news’ stories in the beer world, written by those who lack Fred’s grace and perspective: ‘Yet another perfectly true story ruined by an eyewitness account.’ Of all the figures in the beer world, Fred’s life would make the most inspiring and entertaining book or movie. His was truly a life well lived. Many will miss him dearly, with every sip of life.” – Jim Parker, beer consultant, bartender, brewer, writer, …
“If it’s the water, why don’t they do something about it?” – Fred Eckhardt
More on Fred: