Fred Eckhardt, RIP

Yesterday, Fred Eckhardt, the dean of American beer writers, passed away at his home in Portland, Oregon. He was 89.

In the 1960s, Eckhardt inspired thousands of beer lovers with his pioneering “A Treatise on Lager Beer.” Years before it became legal in the United States, he wrote about homebrewing and inspired many Americans, including some prominent craft brewery owners, to take it up. At a time when breweries were consolidating and almost all domestic beer was light lager, Eckhardt wrote about better beer—and challenged his readers to make something better.

Eckhardt’s writing style was legendary. Tom Dalldorf, the editor of Celebrator Beer News, said of him, “I’ve pretty much given up on giving Fred assignments, because he writes on whatever interests him and ignores the tedious requests of unenlightened editors. That’s why we call his column ‘Fred’s World.’ He’s comfortable in it, and you can only hope that some day he invites you in as well. It’s a pretty cool place to be.”

The word “unique” is badly overused, but Eckhardt truly was. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II, under a sergeant who kept a still going, even in combat zones. Later he became a Buddhist but defied that faith’s disdain of alcohol. During the Cuban missile crisis, when nuclear war seemed imminent, he decided there were more important things to do in life than take pictures of children and teach people to swim. He decided to brew beer and teach others how to do it as well.

If ever there was the proverbial life well lived, it was Fred’s.

h/t: John Foyston of The Oregonian, for his wonderful remembrance of Fred Eckhardt.

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