This article was originally posted on November 2, 2010. Don Younger passed over night after complications from a fall, and we at the Hop Press wanted to let the world know how sorry we are and what a great friend in the craft beer world we have lost.
When Don Younger awoke one morning after a long night of drinking, he noticed a piece of paper on his nightstand. Hung over, he read the receipt as the words sunk in: In a drunken moment the night before, he had bought the same bar in southeast Portland, Ore., that dealt him the headache he was nursing.
Since then, Younger has made it a seldom-broken rule to conduct his daily business before he gets to the business of drinking. He also lives by the quote that you should always do sober what you promised to do drunk, and he has never looked back.
In the 34 years since that morning, Younger has transformed the Horse Brass Pub from a hole-in-the-wall bar into one of the country’s most well-known and well-loved craft beer meccas, bringing in rare imports and being among the first to take a chance on some local kids who were making a new thing called “microbrew.” Today, the Horse Brass pours craft beer from about 50 taps — most of them rotating — and has been an inspiration for numerous other pubs across the country.
It wasn’t an easy transition from crap to craft for the Horse Brass. There were more lean years than not, a bankruptcy, a tangle with the IRS, and, more recently, a smoking law that bans Younger from enjoying his other favorite vice in his own pub — something that had Younger threatening to close the place rather than be told he couldn’t smoke in his “home.” (Thankfully, he didn’t.)
When he’s not in the back parking lot, grabbing puff under the stairs like a high-schooler sneaking a cig, the venerable publican can often be found on the “drinking side” of the bar. If you’re lucky, you can slide onto the bar stool next to him and start up a conversation. After a Younger’s Special Bitter (brewed by Rogue in honor of his now-deceased brother), he will tell you he had no idea when he took over the pub that he would be making craft beer history — and it certainly wasn’t something he set out to do.
“I didn’t want to do what was right. I didn’t want to do what was wrong,” Younger said once over a round of beers about his involvement in the development of today’s craft beer culture. “I just wanted another beer.”
Cheers to that — and to many more years of “another beer” at the Horse Brass Pub.
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