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APR/MAY 2005 | REGIONAL | WEST COAST

Obituary : Bob "Spike" Speicher
By Don Erickson

Brewing pioneer Bob “Spike” Speicher died suddenly in January. The founder of the Spike’s Place restaurant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., he was one of the very first publicans to offer and promote microbrews. Of everyone on the Celebrator staff, longtime contributor Don Erickson knew him best:

“Last issue, I wrote about the rebirth of Spike’s, one of California’s premier beer bars. In my article, I described how Spike’s new owners had revitalized the place by taking it back to its roots, transforming it into something very much like what it was back when it first opened. The day I received my copy of that issue, I learned that Spike’s original owner, Spike himself, had died."

Back in 1980 or so, Bob had an idea for a new restaurant. The food would be simple pub grub, but the beverages he offered would feature beers from everywhere — the more exotic, the better. His wasn’t the first “Around the World” beer tour concept, but his was certainly his own design.

Most notably, he chose to feature the beers made by the little breweries that were starting up back then. When Bob opened his restaurant, microbrewing was in its infancy. There were only a handful of small breweries in the entire country, but Bob tried to offer all of their beers. As the industry grew, his support grew with it. For many California microbreweries, one of their very first sales — and quite often their first repeat sale — was to Bob’s Spike's restaurant.

Customers took to Bob’s concept with an enthusiasm that surprised him. While many simply tried to keep up with his ever-changing and ever-growing beer list, some were inspired. "We even founded a beer festival in his parking lot that soon grew into one of our charity’s biggest annual fund-raisers," said Don Erickson. "In time, a few of us became brewers. And I became a beer writer.”

Don Erickson is an associate editor of the Celebrator Beer News and a longtime “grognard” covering the Southern California beer scene. He lives in Long Beach, Calif.

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