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Don Remembered
In Memoriam : 1941–2011
View our "30 Years Younger : An Interview with Don Younger" video featuring Don Younger and his Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon.
CLICK HERE to view our photos taken at Don's memorial service held on February 13, 2011 at the Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon.
Don Younger, famed publican extraordinaire and legendary beer evangelist, died early Monday morning, January 31, 2011 of complications from a fall a few days earlier. He was 69 years old.

Don was a “larger than life” character with an enormous passion for beer, brewing and beer culture. He loved meeting new people and spreading the word of good beer but eschewed “phonies” and poseurs. He also eschewed people who would say “eschewed.” He was not a model for the healthy lifestyle preferring beer, whisky (make it MCCALLAN 12 please, 18 if ya got it) and cigarettes (Sprits will do) to more conventional comestibles. It is suggested that both he and Patsy from the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous had not had solid food since 1977. That is not true, of course, but close.

A pub crawl with Don involved a ride in his beloved 1973 Thunderbird with a hood as long as an Arena-size football field. But parking never seemed a problem. He knew all the great places and seemed to know just when to get there. The truly worthy might be treated to a crawl of the great beer places of Portland (in chronological order) beginning of course with Produce Row. Great moments of beer education not soon forgotten.

I first met Don at the Rogue Ales Brewery in Newport, Oregon, before they moved across the bay into the vast former boat storage facility. Owner Jack Joyce told me I really needed to meet this guy who owned a cool pub in Portland. Don looked to be a cross between a thoroughly aged hippy and Gabby Hayes with puffy lips smacking at the possibility of another great beer and slightly bulging eyes that seemed to take in everything. His smile and gracious welcoming demeanor were legend. He truly wanted to listen to you but get him started and tales of pubs past and beer’s future spewed forth like first runnings.

I learned that a visit to Portland without a visit to the Horse Brass on Belmont was as vacuous as a light lager. But Don was not a beer snob. He began as a light lager drinker (there was precious else to drink in the '70s) and was indeed known as Captain Blitz. Don famously won his pub in a drunken card game awaking with two headaches — his own and his new ownership of a pub. Ouch. He maintains he had no idea what he was doing and his early success was due (he said) to blind dumb luck with an interest in good beer.

“It’s not about the beer — it’s about the beer!”
As the Horse Brass Pub prospered with adoring fans both local and from distant lands (a sister pub in England is in mourning), Don spread his wings and started other pubs to spread the culture of good beer. Some worked and some faltered. He learned, he moved on. His legacy is manifest in his surviving pubs and retail outlets. But Don’s lifestyle proved to be a challenge. Oregon’s chief beer scribe John Foyston reported: “Living as he wanted included being a famously avid cigarette smoker and a man who loved a pint or three with friends, and those habits finally caught up with him, despite his legendary Keith Richards-like constitution.” If only he could play guitar.

Don was a product of the '50s and loved the music of the era. He and his buddies would drive to hilltops to pick up broadcasts of Wolfman Jack at night from a 150,000-watt station across the border in Mexico to hear the latest rock ‘n roll or doo-wop. He carried that outlaw spirit with him into the 21st century.

His best-remembered aphorism (maybe because he kept repeating it) sums up the Don: “It’s not about the beer — it’s about the beer!” Well said, sir. I think. And ultimately, it’s not about Don — it’s about Don. Your next visit to the Horse Brass should begin with a pint of Younger’s Special Bitter on hand pump and remember: It’s named for his brother Bill, not for Don. But we know better, don’t we?

Don Younger at his world famous Horse Brass Pub on the advent of his 30th anniversary. This picture made the cover of Celebrator Beer News for the December 2006/January 2007 issue.

Don Younger, the “Dean of American Beer Drinkers,” with Fred Eckhardt (left) the “Dean of American Beer Writers,” at the legendary Horse Brass Pub in Portland.

Don Younger (from left clockwise) with Chris Black, Falling Rock Ale House; Natalie and Vinnnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewery and Tom Dalldorf, Celebrator Beer News, at the Falling Rock in Denver.

Don loved to meet new people — not only to talk about the beer he loved so much but to hear their stories and beer likes and dislikes.

Jay Brooks, Brookston Beer Bulletin, and Don enjoy a moment outside the Rogue Ales Public House in San Francisco.

Don Younger with longtime friend and business partner Joy Campbell, former manager of Belmont Station in Portland.

Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf with Horse Brass owner Don Younger at the legendary Horse Brass Pub shortly after Don’s birthday a few years ago.

Don Younger and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf (left) at a bar (what else) at Denver International Airport getting ready for the return home after GABF week.

Your publisher and Don Younger share beers and giggles on board a massive cruise ship for the Celebrator Brews Cruise in 2008.

We weren’t sure if Don would make it out on the deck for life jacket drill (no smoking and all that) but he surprised us all with his thumbs up for safety.

Don toasting his image painted by Portland artist/writer John Foyston.



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