Fred Eckhardt
This painting of Fred Eckhardt is on display at Hair of the Dog Brewery, which named both a beer (Fred) and festival (FredFest) after Eckhardt. (Photo courtesy John Holl)

It is with great sadness that we must report the passing of Fred Eckhardt. Eckhardt was effectively the dean of American writing since his very first newspaper column for the Oregonian, which was published on April 25, 1984. He penned countless other articles since then, and was a columnist for many years here at All About Beer Magazine.

When he turned 80 years old in 2006, Eckhardt reminisced on beers past through “Eighty Beers I Remember.” A veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Eckhardt imbibed many of these beers while serving our country overseas.

He returned home and graduated from the University of Washington in 1958, then later left Seattle for Portland. It was there that he started homebrewing and penned “A Treatise on Lager Beer” in 1969.

And as breweries popped up across the country in the decades thereafter, Eckhardt was there to sample them and write about them in his trademark style.

He told us where American beer was at the time, where it was heading, and where it had already been.

And while everyone else was content to simply taste and smell their beers, Eckhardt was urging us all to “Listen to Your Beer! Now!“:

“It’s true, there’s a lot more to beer than what is usually perceived, but the sound of a beautiful head is well worth the search. Paying attention is the key here. Center yourself and just be present to your beer. Different beer types have different sounds. As the head disintegrates, it produces a clicking noise. A good cold lager will have an especially nice sound. A rather mellow clicking goes forth: slow and quite pleasant.

If you close your eyes you can really enjoy this quiet, yet impressive sound. Be there with it; it is well worth the extra effort.”

This is but a fraction of the great body of work produced by one of America’s foremost beer writers, and we’ll be sharing more of it in the coming days. But for now, we’re going to pour a beer and think fondly of our friend and former columnist, Fred Eckhardt.

And Fred, we’ll be listening.