Industry Icon is Lost

Don Younger, good beer pioneer passes away

Don Younger, an iconic figure and owner of the famous Horse Brass Tavern in Portland, Oregon died last night. He was &0 years old.

Don died in the hospital last night due to multiple health problems triggered by slipping and breaking a shoulder last week.

Stan Hieronymus sums it up well from our sister site RealBeer:

There are various stories about how Younger acquired the Horse Brass in 1976 — he had more than one version himself — but he pointed to a trip to Great Britain inn 1977 as the reason the Horse Brass became what it was. “That’s when I knew,” he said. What, he wasn’t yet sure, “but I was going to do the pub thing.”

Reflecting on the first twenty years of business in 1996, he said: “We didn’t know we were making history, nobody does at the time, or we would have written these things down.” He talked about unopened bottles from New Albion Brewery in the pub’s basement. He remembers anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first beer from Portland’s Cartwright Brewing in 1980. “We had it one day,” he said, but it was too flawed to serve. “I’ve still got Cartwright T-shirts and coasters,” he said said.

The first microbrewery beer he put on tap was Grant’s from Yakima, Wash., in 1982. “People (in Portland) were ready, the pipeline was here. All he had to do was make it,” he said. Soon he was serving Anchor and Sierra Nevada from California, then BridgePort Brewing opened in Portland in 1984. . . . The new breweries kept coming and Younger kept finding ways to showcase the most promising.

Meanwhile, publicans from across the country were always showing up at the Horse Brass, and Younger freely offered advice. In fact, he became part of a group of bar owners who called themselves the Publican National Committee. Both they and their establishments — Tom Peters (Monk’s Cafe-Philadelphia), Dave Keene (The Toronado-San Francisco), Chris Black (The Falling Rock-Denver) and Matt Bonney and Matt VandenBerghe (Brouwer’s-Seattle, Washington — are well known, yet they only hint at the extent of his influence.

For instance, when Deven Black opened the North Star Pub in Manhattan — now long gone, but an early beachhead for better beer in New York City — he consulted Younger. The list goes on and on. In the coming days those who Younger will tell endearing stories and reflect on how desperately they will miss him. In the coming years many more will hoist a glass of better beer and perhaps somebody will remind them Don Younger is one of the reasons they can.