For more than twenty years, Tim Hillman was the beer manager at The Wine Source in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, and at its predecessor shop —Rotunda Wine and Spirits.
His career, which began in 1992, neatly coincided with the birth of 'craft' beer in Maryland. Early on, he recognized its staying power, and became a powerful advocate, prominently stocking the beers in his store. Also, early on, he began organizing annual tastings of autumn, winter and Christmas beers; the results would be tabulated and reported by the Baltimore Sun.
Tim died this past Sunday, suddenly, of a heart attack. He was 49.
From the Baltimore Sun:
"Baltimore has lost a pretty big figure from the world of craft beers. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of beers," said Volker Stewart, owner of The Brewer's Art restaurant and brewpub on North Charles Street in Mount Vernon.
"Tim was a pretty super guy who was always very supportive of the craft business as a whole plus the local players, and has been conducting tastings for 20 years," said Hugh Sisson, founder of Heavy Seas Brewing Co. "He was always looking for ways to get people to experience what was in the market. Even though he was a back-of-the-house guy and pretty understated, you could rely on Tim. He knew the market, had his finger on its pulse, and managed to walk both sides of the street with equal respectability."
"Despite his encyclopedic knowledge of beer, Tim was not a beer snob," said Mr. Kasper, retired Baltimore Sun food columnist and author of Baltimore Beers: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing. "When asked, he would tell you what he thought about a particular beer, but if you liked it and he did not, he recognized that tastes differ."
A beer guy, yes, but more than that: Tim was a true gentleman.
He had a preternatural sense of calm. When customers were complaining, when salesman were fretting, when deliveries were late or arriving all-at-once, Tim would be the eye of the storm: always polite, multitasking without a curt word, not loquacious, but patiently answering customers' questions.
With me, during a time when I was attempting to deal with personal loss, he would always find the time to talk about family. I may have been a beer salesman to his shop, but, to me, that sales-call would seem more like a visit with a friend. I haven't seen Tim since 2008, but those memories remain strong.
"He's our version of Cal Ripken. He came to work every day and never sought the limelight. He's both shy and very unassuming. Still waters run deep," said David Wells, owner of The Wine Source.
Tim was the quintessential behind-the-scenes guy, but, whether you knew him or not, he provided critical support at the birth of Maryland beer, then during its lean years, and most recently during its meteoric growth. And, if you did know Tim Hillman, you mourn the loss of a true gentleman of beer and of life. There aren't many of them, folks.
A Funeral Mass of Christian Burial was offered at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Catonsville, Maryland on Friday morning, 10 August. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that memorial contributions may be made to the LTRC Soccer Program, 121 East Ridgely Road, Lutherville, MD, 21093.