Jon Greenwood, co-owner of Kulshan Brewing, died December 18th. There is an absolutely beautiful obituary that truly captures who he was, over at the Bellingham Herald. Even if you didn’t know him, take the time to read it. After reading it, I started typing out my own thoughts on Jon to my personal Facebook Page. I stopped because I wanted to honor him by putting my thoughts on Tap Trail, which I consider a bit of a compendium of Bellingham’s contemporary craft beer history. He was a big part of that history and its future.
Jon had an impact on me and I’m happy to say he was in my life. He was a formidable, powerful, energetic and loving human being who seemed to be living at the apex of his existence and capabilities. He was a force of nature. Everywhere Jon went he left a wake of creativity, energy and ideas. I’d leave my conversations with him feeling what was possible. In those moments, everything else was put to the side – the details, the hows, the ifs. You left just riding his wake of positivity, possibilities and wanting to act. You were like, “Yeah, he’s right!! Guys, let’s do this!!”
Jon also had an incredibly powerful competitive spirit. I remember drinking beers with him a few summers ago and playing polish horseshoes (throwing a frisbee to knock a beer bottle off your opponent’s stick.) He was watching us and learning. If he had played before, he was observing how we were playing before joining. Once he jumped in, Jon’s mood changed to immediately figuring out how to win the game, but laughing and joking the entire way.
In our game of polish horseshoes we had a “gentleman’s game” going. This mean’t not throwing hard. Somehow Jon had managed to establish a throwing speed that was JUST hard enough to stay under our subjective speed radar, but still raise the question, “Is he playing fair?” And he was, or I think he was. Than he combined that speed with deadly accuracy. It was like kids playing with a seasoned veteran. As his obituary reflected, “He was skilled at calculating risks associated with pushing the edges of possibility.” I saw that in him.
Every year a group of my friends boat out to Clark Island for a weekend of families, beers, sun and sunsets. Two summers ago, Jon, Rachel and his family met us as they were heading into the islands. He invited me out to his boat that was moored off-shore on a sunny day. We were drinking beers (Full Session IPA cans) and he’d wax on about Kulshan Brewing and what he’d like to see happen. He really liked that beer, for the record. On his boat I got to learn a lot about him. This was a guy who had worked in an Alaskan fish cannery, started an electric company, helped start a craft brewery and, most recently, invested and started an insurance company.
I’ll miss Jon and I’ll always think about him when cracking a Kulshan, or dreaming big. Thanks for what you brought to not only our craft beer community, but the larger community that surrounds all of us. Tap Trail, make sure to head to Kulshan Brewing in the coming days and raise a glass to Jon Greenwood. Our deepest condolences to his family and everyone that knew him.