FredFest 2010 was the fifth of such annual birthday parties for Eckhardt, the first being his 80th birthday, although he told attendees Monday night that he preferred to think of the event as “celebrating the fourth anniversary of my 21st birthday.”
FredFest is always a fundraiser for a different nonprofit of Eckhardt’s choice, and this year’s recipient was Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Each year, brewers donate a keg of something special as their answer to the enduring question and annual event theme: What Would Fred Drink? (WWFD?). Some of the beers at this year’s event were Cherry-Wood Smoked Rye Whiskey from Barley Brown’s Brewpub; Cascade Brewing’s The Vine, made with wine grapes; and Midnight Sun’s 3767 Belgian IPA, a collaboration beer with Ballast Point Brewing (3767 miles apart).
But the best news is, the party’s not over. A worldwide auction of rare beers and verticals is being held in Eckhardt’s honor. All proceeds from the auction, which runs through Saturday, May 15 at 6 p.m. PDT, will also go directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. You can check out the auction here: http://www.liquidsolutions.biz/home/auctions.asp
Who Is This Fred Guy?
Eckhardt got a taste of different beer styles during his stint in the Marines, where he fought in two wars. When he returned to the Northwest to live in Portland, he began writing about beer styles, a lone voice describing stouts, pale ales, and altbiers in a land of macrobrewed lagers.
“I remember cruising around looking for tap beers I hadn’t yet tasted,” Eckhardt remembers. “Finding Blitz-Weinhard and Schlitz in the same bar was a real deal in those days.”
As homebrewers with names like Kurt and Rob Widmer, Art Larrance and Fred Bowman of Portland Brewing, Karl Ockert of BridgePort, and Alan Sprints of Hair of the Dog, began to go pro, Eckhardt would visit the breweries, advising them on which beers to brew and how to do it. He also worked with bars like the Horse Brass Pub to help these beer pioneers get their wares in front of what, at the time, were very skeptical beer drinkers. To help ease the introductions, Eckhardt began holding beer pairing events, all while weaving tall tales and silly stories along with beer and cheese or chocolate. The annual pairings have become legendary, even though Eckhardt admits the chocolate and beer pairings came about only because he wanted to find a way to write chocolate off on his taxes.
Eckhardt’s influences are not felt solely in the Pacific Northwest, though. In 1969, he published A Treatise on Lager Beers: How to Make Good Beer at Home, about ten years before it was even legal to homebrew. A clerical error in a throwback law from the repeal of Prohibition allowed home winemaking but omitted the words “and/or beer” from the document, rendering homebrewing illegal until Congress passed a bill and President Jimmy Carter signed it in 1979. Twenty years later, Eckhardt published another book, The Essentials of Beer Style: A Catalog of Classic Beer Styles for Brewers & Beer Enthusiasts, which has been considered a Bible for brewers and beer judges ever since.
Eckhardt has traveled the world to teach the gospel of good beer in his own impish way, making this octogenarian with the twinkling blue eyes an unlikely rock star, as was evidenced in the number of fans, especially young women, who wanted their pictures taken with Eckhardt at Monday night’s party.
His response? The usual: “I’m having entirely too much fun.”
Happy Birthday, Fred. And many hoppy returns!
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