Fred with Cherry Fred From the Wood
  • Michael Rasmussen
  • Fred with Cherry Fred From the Wood

Portland beer writer, columnist, historian, and icon Fred Eckhardt, fondly known as the Dean of American Beer Writers, passed away yesterday at age 89. His book, A Treatise on Lager Beers, published in 1969, was the first modern book about beer. In 1984 he became the Oregonian’s, and America’s, first beer columnist. His 1989 publication, The Essentials of Beer Style, helped many homebrewers understand their craft and in turn helped launch many craft brewing careers.

One such brewer that benefited from Eckhardt’s knowledge and charisma was Hair of the Dog’s Alan Sprints, who created a liquid homage simply named Fred. Sprints consulted with him to build it around ingredients he liked including rye malts and 10 varietals of hops. Eckhardt would soon thereafter write a story called “The Curse of Fred” about how he went all over town trying to buy his namesake beer but everyone gave him a free pint, such was his legendary status and visage.

Speaking of the near-nonagenarian’s love of hops, even well into his 80s Eckhardt once told me, “IPA is one of my favorite styles. If I don’t get enough hops, I get two IPAs.”

Among Eckhardt’s enduring imprints on Portland’s beer culture will be FredFest, first celebrated at Hair of the Dog on the occasion of his 80th birthday and last celebrated on his 89th birthday, May 1, 2015. We hope the event will continue in years to come to celebrate his memory and mirth, as well as his life of charity, as the first 10 celebrations saw Eckhardt select a different nonprofit for the bash’s proceeds.

In addition to beer, Eckhardt championed saké, cheese, and chocolate, all of which ought to be enjoyed in honoring him in his absence.