Monday, August 10, 2015

Good night, Mr. Eckhardt.

Sad, sad news for 'craft' beer today. Well, really for beer. Fred Eckhardt, uber-mensch of 'craft' beer, has died, aged 89 (1926-2015).

Some very sad news has just been reported, via Lisa Morrison that Oregon beer writing legend Fred Eckhardt has passed away at 89 years old. Beer advocate, critic, beer guru and historian, Fred was often referred to as America’s greatest living beer writer. Fred was also a huge advocate of sake and wrote the 1989 book “The Essentials of Beer Style” that really put him on the list as one of the world’s leading beer journalists and historians. Fred will be remembered by his longtime partner, thousands of fans and the annual Fred Fest charity fundraiser celebration held in his honor every year at Hair of the Dog Brewing. Fred Fest 2016 is scheduled for May 1st, 2016.
The New School Beer

Fred Eckhardt 1926-2015.

If you are a 'craft' beer brewer and you don't know who Mr. Fred Eckhardt was, you should. He is a big reason why today, nearly fifty years after his first work on beer, "A Treatise on Lager Beers: A Handbook for Americans and Canadians on Lager Beer," was published in 1969, you are still saying your beer is "revolutionary." The subtitle of the book is "How to make good beer at home." Of course homebrewing was still illegal in 1969!

A Treatise on Lager Beers (front)

Mr. Eckhardt's next book, "Essentials of Beer Style," published in 1989, would become a seminal treatise expositing the principles of beer character and style, using qualitative analysis of beers available at the time of its publication. Although outdated today if only in terms of beers available, this book remains an invaluable educational resource, timely today, especially as beer 'experts' purport to 'discover' more and more beer styles.

Essentials of Beer Style (01)

Mr. Eckhardt has bid us good night, and we might be the lesser for it, except that he has left us with a great legacy. He was indeed a revolutionary for 'craft' beer, years before that term was coined or claim was ever made. It is now our responsibility to keep it such, brewers and drinkers alike.

As Mr. Eckhardt was famous for saying, "Listen to your beer."

Fred Eckhardt
An inveterate raconteur, [Fred Eckhardt] first tasted good beer while a radio operator in the Marines. He was stationed in Japan of all places, during the Korean War, and the beer? Tuborg from Denmark. When he got back to the States, Mr. Eckhardt, who would settle in Portland, Ore. (that’s important), and from there visit Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Steam. There he discovered the second flavorful beer of his life and came to the realization such a thing could be (re)created in the United States, even as there remained a woeful dearth of both ingredients and know-how.

Nevertheless, Mr. Eckhardt began teaching homebrewing courses in Portland at a junior college and through a local winemaking-supply store; and, at the encouragement of the store’s owner, in 1969 wrote the seminal A Treatise on Lager Beers: A Handbook for Americans and Canadians on Lager Beer. It became for the times the step-by-step guide to homebrewing the world’s most popular beer style (this was, mind you, 10 years before homebrewing was legalized by the federal government).

Mr. Eckhardt eventually pecked out what was the first regular beer column in an American newspaper, for The Oregonian in Portland, which he fast helped make one of the beer capitals of the world.
—Tom Acitelli
The Five Most Important Figures in American Craft Beer
New York Observer: 21 December 2010.


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