|Don Younger RIP
Last night the brewing world lost one of its best, someone who summed up everything – every last little wave and particle – that is good about the world of beer and pubs. And that’s no hyperbole – anyone who ever shared a drink with Don Younger could tell you what those qualities are, and how Don encapsulated them.
I was introduced to Don when I was in his hometown, Portland Oregon, while researching my second book, Three Sheets to the Wind. If I tell you that I have read out the bit about our encounter at every single event at which I was promoting the book, that might give you the first inkling as to what a great man he was. It was one of the highlights of the book – one of the funniest passages, but also one of the most revelatory about the nature of beer.
I was in Portland because it’s the heart of North American craft beer. You might now say that’s San Diego, or wherever has produced this month’s latest extreme whisky aged Imperial stout, but Portland still has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else (I think), and its brewers and drinkers perfectly capture the cooperation, camaraderie and conviviality that make beer great – uniquely great.
And Don was its Godfather, its benign inspiration, in his passion, his kindness, and more than anything else, his legendary drinking prowess.
The story I was told is that he bought the Horse Brass Pub after a night on the piss. He woke up the next morning clutching a piece of paper bearing his signature, confirming that he was the new owner of the pub. He’d never wanted to run a pub, and had no memory of signing the paper. He could of course have blamed the booze and negotiated his way out of it. But he always lived by a strict code: if you make a decision or promise while drunk, you either follow through with it when sober, or you give up drinking. And Don never gave up drinking.
Under his leadership, the Horse Brass became the hub of the emerging craft beer scene, attracting beer loving locals, many of whom went on to start celebrated breweries. No one in that brewing scene speaks of him with anything other than love.
Don was 68 or 69, and had a fall last week in which he injured his shoulder. According to reports, this led to multiple complications, and he died around midnight last night, West Coast time.
I’ll leave it there. I only met Don the one time and I’ll leave the proper obituaries to the people who were lucky enough to know him well.
But on the basis of one meeting, he was one of my favourite people in the beer world. Even if you didn’t know who he was till now, take a while to read about him, and raise a glass of your favourite US craft beer to him tonight. After all, there’s a good chance it may not have existed without his influence.