As I alluded in my last post, my trip to Portland wasn’t all beer.I was primarily there to pay tribute to one of the guiding lights of beer culture in the United States, Fred Eckhardt, who passed away in August.
Fred was among the first people in America to promote craft beer.His first book, A Treatise On Lager Beers, predated other homebrewing books by years and was even well ahead of homebrewing’s legalization in 1978.He also did one of the first data driven surveys of beer styles, classifying them by original gravity, attenuation, alcohol content, bittering units and beer color (SRM) in his book, The Essentials of Beer Style.His scholarship on the subject was a lifelong endeavor and the Portland beer scene owes much to his encouragement of early homebrewers to go pro.At his wake, we traded stories of his adventures and misadventures over cups of Hair of the Dog Brewing’s beer, Fred. Named in his honor, it’s a 10% ABV beer that hides it well behind aromatic and rye malts and ten different hop varieties. Needless to say it helped make a more festive gathering for those of us left behind.
Fred loved beer, but more importantly, he loved people.He always had a moment to spend teaching a new judge how to fill out a scoresheet, to offer an opinion on your homebrew or simply share a beer.On my trips to Portland, he made time to meet us at the Horse Brass pub for beers and dinner.He was generous with his time.He was also a pioneer in beer and food pairings, with combinations like beer and chocolate, beer and ice cream, beer and cheese, proving almost anything will pair with the proper beer.He led these tastings all over the country and endured our “Fred Tasting” at Houston’s Dixie Cup homebrew competition for twenty years.(He even humored our requests to dress him in outrageous outfits... King Arthur, Darth Vader and Uncle Sam among them!)
His gentle sense of humor never failed to amuse our beer soaked sensibilities and his calls to honor craft beer stirred many to go into the profession in Houston as well. It’s a testament to Fred’s impact that one man, visiting Houston one weekend a year could make so many friends and change a city’s beer culture for the better.His refusal to take life seriously rubbed off on our club as well, as the Foam Rangers are renowned for our irreverence but are also highly regarded as brewers.
Ex-Marine, swimming instructor, photographer, sake expert, beer writer… It seemed there wasn’t anything Fred couldn’t do, except stay with us forever.Even so, he lives on in breweries in Houston and Portland, his writings will carry his groundbreaking legacy into the future and for those of us who loved him as a mentor and friend, his memory lives in our hearts forever.
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.