I was out of town this weekend on a Buddhist retreat--and subsequently didn't hear the news about the passing of Don Younger until yesterday afternoon. Such was the size of his extended family that by the time I booted up my computer at 4pm yesterday, there were blog posts galore and pages and pages of Twitter eulogies and toasts. There's little I could add that would lend insight to a man I knew not very well (and who probably didn't know me at all). His friends will do a better job of that.
Two things, though, that do spring to mind. The first is that Don lived 69 years and, from the long distance of my viewpoint, he seemed to live them the way he wanted. We all come into this world, abide for some time, and then pass. The passing is a certainty; it's the abiding that makes the difference. A lot of us end up regretting the ways we lived; looking back, we wish we'd made different decisions and done different things. It looked like Don was the exception, the person who lived exactly the life he wanted. Along the way, he inspired many and left a sea of friends--a wonderful life and a wonderful legacy. Surely this is a reason to celebrate as much as mourn.
The second thing is the Horse Brass. I don't know what the drinking scene was like in 1976 when Don opened it, but I have to imagine his British pub was a wild, rare thing in Blitz-drinking Puddletown. By the time I came along a decade later, the Horse Brass was already an institution and has remained so for two and a half more. But it's more than an institution. Lots of businesses manage to hang around for decades and connect old-timers to their youth and nostalgic old times. They are institutions, too. The Horse Brass was not a museum for old-timers.
I was recently working on a project in which I listed the best bars in Portland. Although the craft beer revolution has made it possible for dozens of new good-beer pubs to open, the Horse Brass is still the best bar in Portland. The beer selection kicks ass, there's always cask ale on tap, the food is hearty, and the ambiance is dense enough to cut with a knife. I led that piece off with the Horse Brass, not because it's an institution, but because it's the best bar in Portland. I don't know if you could offer a better salute to Don than to acknowledge this basic fact. He was so far ahead of the curve that in 2011, he's still on the leading edge.
Cheers to Don Younger, the best beer city's best barman--
Remembrances are many, and here are just a few: John Foyston, Jacob Grier, Jay Brooks, Portland Business Journal, New School, (great comments), Pete Brown.
Another one: Charlie and Matt from Double Mountain. And another: Dave Selden.
PHOTO: Oregon Brewers Guild