I have been researching, listening, talking, and writing a lot about legendary publican Don Younger. Don is a figure every serious beer drinker should know; as owner of the Horse Brass Pub, he helped start the craft beer revolution in Oregon, and really in the entire Pacific Northwest.
I recently had the opportunity to write a little story for Willamette Week on the occasion of Horse Brass 40th Anniversary and important dates, I was then asked to write the Oral History of the Horse Brass Pub for the 2017 Oregon Beer Guide, and then I was honored to produce a video tribute to Don Younger for the Oregon Beer Awards lifetime achievement award and Oregon beer Hall of Fame. That OBA tribute video was cut down to an approachable six minutes and twenty-three seconds, but there was so much great content from the interviews I conducted with luminaries like Carl Singmaster, Joellen Piluso (Don’s business partner who has been running the Horse Brass), Karl Ockert (Bridgeport’s original brewmaster and Brewpub Law co-architect), Fred Bowman (co-founder of Portland Brewing), and Jerry Fechter (Lompoc owner, Horse Brass co-owner) that we had to make a longer cut, which I am pleased to debut here.
The Horse Brass was one of the first beer bars in Portland. Along with Produce Row and Paddy’s, the Brass was serving imports (at the time, the closest thing to what we call craft beer) before anywhere else. Don Younger installed one of the first cask engines on the west coast in 1983 and the Horse Brass was Portland’s de facto brewery taproom even after the microbreweries started appearing, since Oregon did not pass the brewpub bill until 1985 that allowed breweries to sell their own beer in-house. Don also served as sort of a wise man of infinite insight, wisdom, and encouragement to the industry; everyone from Art Larrance to Duane Sorenson sought out his counsel. He was, as Carl Singmaster (Belmont Station co-owner and local brewery investor) says, a lot like Yoda, not the least of because Don looked a little like Yoda.