Oregon Beer Industry Remembers Jim Parker RIP

Jim Parker

Yesterday word spread that beloved Oregon publican Jim Parker had passed away. The career of Jim Parker is the stuff of legend, a man who has had more careers and stepped behind more bars than he had hairs on his head. Lovingly known as that “Old Bald Fart”, Parker’s career can be traced back to opening breweries in Colorado, heading up the Oregon Brewers Guild, founding the Green Dragon in Portland and Oaks Bottom Public House with Lompoc Brewing. Parker had stints elsewhere in the Northwest with Fort George, Menace Brewing, Bellingham Beer Lab, and most recently as a co-founder of Asher David Brewing & Cellarworks. Parker suffered a stroke on November 15th that critically hurt his vocal and mobility skills, and he had been working towards a recovery. The last report I heard was that Jim had been moved from the hospital to a care facility, and finally to his family’s home as he improved. Sadly, Parker experienced a downturn in his health and passed away on Tuesday night.

“Jim Parker passed away peacefully in his sleep last night surrounded by his family–his brother, Mike, his sister, Mindy, and his son Joel,” posted Yvonne Rodrigue. Parker’s influence on the industry can be measured by the outpouring of support, social media was ablaze with heartfelt condolences, photos and memories. We reached out to many in the industry who admired and loved Parker for some of their favorite memories and stories.

Jon Reid and Jim Parker

“Jim’s face always announced that he was happy to see you and words were an unnecessary reinforcement of that fact.  It was  a good feature for a publican and he was an all around good guy, too.”

 – Fred Bowman, Portland Brewing co-founder, veteran brewer and local consultant

“Our brother in beer Jim Parker was not just a legend in his own time… an aspiring renaissance man… a fountain of more ideas per minute than just about anyone you’ll ever meet. He was also our ‘first customer’.

We’d already known Jim for awhile, as was inevitable for most everyone in our industry way back in 2007. But it was with pleasant surprise that we found him strategically located on one of our couches on St. Patrick’s Day of that year, when we first opened the doors at Double Mountain. Huge smile, enthusiastic to the nth degree, drinking heartily, insisting that he must get our first delivery to Portland, to Oaks Bottom Public House. And so he did… India Red Ale and Brown Ale, if memory serves. Jim was already scheming on the late great Green Dragon, which instantly became a must-stop on the Portland beer bar circuit.

(You can either thank or blame Jim and the Dragon for the always-rotating tap list world we now live in. He did it first.)

Jim was a funny fucker who was never at a loss for an often-bad, always-dirty joke, often at his own expense. He did make life tough on himself sometimes. But he was always in your corner, and always resolved to keep fighting the good fight himself, too. Which is all you can ever really ask of a colleague or a friend.

For all his ups and downs, Jim remained a true force of nature. And for that he’ll always have our friendship and respect. We’ve lost a special dude. Rest in peace Jim.”

– Matt Swihart & Charlie Devereux
co-founders, Double Mountain Brewery

“I will always be thankful for Jim’s vibrant enthusiasm and thankful for his ushering me into the industry.  Jim Parker was one of the original people to welcome me into their beer world in the early 2000’s.  I always think of Jerry Fechter, Alan Sprints, Martin Gredvig, Steve Parkes, and Jim Parker as some of the first beer professionals to spend time with me and teach me their ways.  Back in the day when I worked in the New Old Lompoc brewery, Jim, his laugh and his stories ran rampant.”

– Sarah Pederson, founder of Saraveza

“Jim and I opened Oaks Bottom Public House back in 2006.  Always the idea guy, Jim is responsible for OBP serving Totchos and the Chowder Challenge.  Both still going strong.  The stories with Jim are endless and he will be sorely missed by the entire beer community.  RIP.”

– Jerry Fechter, owner of Lompoc Brewing

“The main thing I remember about Jim, is that he was always ready with a great big smile and a hearty handshake. He seemed to know everybody in the beer industry. For awhile he was the “opener guy” in Portland. He helped open many breweries and beer pubs around year 2010. It seemed like every start-up had Jim right there in the middle of it, helping that start-up get launched in any way he could. There are probably several businesses in Portland today, who owe their early success to Jim Parker and his beer industry connections.”

– Teri Fahrendorf, founder of the Pink Boots Society

Jim Parker (left) and Dwayne Smallwood

“I guess I am so far out of the loop that I didn’t even hear Jim was sick until last week, even with the fundraiser at Belmont Station last November. Some friend I am. Anyhow, I first met Jim at what must have been the 2nd or so annual Colorado Brewers Festival in Ft. Collins in 1994. I’d been the brewer at Mountain Sun in Boulder for a year and was it was my first trip to Fort Fun and Jim ran the Mountain Tap, a long-before its time taphouse featuring mostly Colorado beer. If I remember correctly, I changed a keg for him while he was busy and he bought me a beer. I came back the next day and changed another keg for more free beer. (It was still a bit of a novelty at the time…). We crossed paths many times in Colorado and here in both our home state of Oregon. He opened up the Seattle market for us as a brewery rep for a time. Among many of Jim’s endearing (and not so, sometimes) features was always telling a story about someone when introducing them. My “story” was about a debaucherous evening we shared in downtown Denver that ended up at the Cruise Room. An evening I would have long lost in burnt up brain-cells  I always gave him shit that after all the things we’d done, that’s the only story he would ever tell.

I can’t think of anyone that touched as many facets of what was once a little industry. From publican to publisher, brewer to one man sales force, manager to the man, Jim did it all with unique, optimistic enthusiasm even when sometimes going down in flames. The brewing world is built on personality and characters, but it will be a long while before it sees another Jim Parker.”
– Jack Harris, co-owner/founder/brewer Fort George Brewery

“Jim was solely responsible for my being a board member of the Oregon Brewers Guild, and through that also responsible for much of my involvement in the greater Oregon industry, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I had met Jim soon after moving back to Oregon in 2000, when I was working at the Rock Bottom.  We got along well, both liked stupid jokes, both just liked to have a pint.  Some time in late 2003 he approached me to run for the Guild board.  I’d never thought myself important or good enough to play in the big kids’ sandbox, but he saw it in me and encouraged me.  I really needed it at the time.  Jim always saw the good and the best in people.  Always had time for you.  There were times when I wouldn’t see him for a year or so because he was up in Washington, or I was just busy or whatever, but seeing him again was always easy.  He was a hell of a guy.”

– Van Havig, co-founder/brewmaster Gigantic Brewing Co.

“Jim worked for me for over 2 years—the longest stint in any one spot in his last 15 years in the business—and I owe him a lot for what I learned about the beer business and being a better human being. My favorite Jim Parker story that explains just how long that guy was in the craft beer game:

The first pub Jim Parker opened was a little ole joint in Ft. Collins. CO called The Mountain Tap Tavern. It just so happened to be the first draft beer account for the now world famous and monolithic New Belgium Brewing.

My favorite memory of Jim Parker showed that even that man could blush:
One regular day here at Baerlic, Jim inadvertently walked in on me whilst I was doing my business in the lone employee restroom. It’s a rather modest single occupancy bathroom (with apparently a faulty locking mechanism at the time) and we got close enough to see the whites of each others eyes. From that day forward, every time I mentioned that the term “Jimmying” a door open was coined after him, he would always blush a little and present a sheepish grin. And for anyone who knew Jim Parker, that’s an extremely tall order, so I never really shut up about it.
I will dearly miss him. Cheers to Jim “Jimmying the Door Open” Parker.”

– Ben Parsons, co-founder/Brewmaster at Baerlic Brewing Co.

left to right: Will Kemper, Jim Parker and Josh Pfriem at Chuckanut Brewing

“Some of my fondest memories of Jim were when him and I worked together at Chuckanut Brewery. Jim would assist me in the brewery when he wasn’t out delivering beer. It was a relatively small space so you’d find yourself in conversation most of the day while working. Anyone who knew Jim wouldn’t be surprised to know; he had endless stories, tales and lore about our industry. Jim loved it dearly.  It was a major part of who Jim Parker was and he cared so much for beer but even more so for the people. I learned a lot from Jim’s personal stories of victories & follies. Days always ended with beers, belly laughs and huge grins. Jim was a restless guy and always on the move to his next big opportunity or adventure. He bounced back and forth from working in breweries and then serving folks beer. For some this might have grown old, but not Jim. The spark of a new idea was what kept his blood pumping and his head in the game.  One of my favorite lines from Jim that always cracked me up was when he would make a transition back to the production side of the brewery from the beertender side.

He would enthusiastically exclaim, “Hey everyone! I am out from behind bars!!”
Jim you will be missed. Thank you for what you have given this industry and even more so – all of us personally. “
– Josh Pfriem, co-founder of pFriem Family Brewers
“I met Jim Parker when I started working at H.C. Berger in Fort Collins Colorado in 1996. The Brewmaster Sandy Jones was teaching him to brew and mentoring him on the business of brewing for his upcoming Dimmer’s Brewpub.  When I began asking if I could brew Sandy said he wasn’t in a position to add another brewer but someone owed him a favor and he would call it in for me. That someone was Jim Parker. I volunteered a few times a week with Jim for around 2 years while working at H.C. Berger.  The Parker method of brewing began with me. The first time we brewed I followed him and he explained. The second time he told me what to do and I brewed. The third time I walked him through the process and the fourth time I brewed completely by myself. There was also a hot scotchy with every first wort and a shot with every hop addition. Jim was notoriously heavy handed and a man before his time when it came to hops. A brew day with Jim always ended in a cab ride home.  It was trial by fire but I am so grateful to have been around the right people at the right time. When I moved to Oregon he graciously introduced me to the entire brewing community and made me feel welcome and appreciated.  I owe Jim Parker a huge debt of gratitude.”

 – Tonya Cornett, innovation Brewmaster at 10 Barrel Brewing

“As many people know, Don Younger was notorious for not having a butt. I mean, he was negative butt. Concave. One day, when Jimmy and I were drinking at the Horse Brass, we came up with the idea of putting a picture of Don’s (lack of) rear end on a milk carton, much like pictures of kids that had gone missing were on milk cartons at the time. The hard part was getting a photo of Don’s missing butt without him knowing it, but somehow Jim managed. This was before cell phones had cameras so it was a bit more difficult. Flash forward a few weeks and out of the blue, I get a call from Jim: “I’ve got it!” he says. So we made arrangements to meet up at the Brass that evening as there was an event going on. I was already at the bar, sitting with Don, when Jimmy came in, brandishing The Milk Carton. It was truly a milk carton, with the words “Have You Seen Me?” printed on the back and in the space where the kid’s picture would normally go, there was the unmistakable back end of Don. Everybody just howled and Don was a good sport, although he did act a little disgruntled about the whole thing. He kept it at the bar for years, though, and I do think it’s still there today!”

– Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess and owner of Belmont Station

“Jim would always call me up to give me beer news for me to write about. When he called, I was always greeted with, “Beer Goddess. It’s Beer Throat” (his nickname for himself that was a beery nod to the Watergate informant, Deep Throat — and he’d say it in a really deep, low voice). This one day, my husband, Mark, and I had just gotten home after our dog had died from a sudden illness. Obviously, we were devastated. The phone rang and it was Jimmy. “Beer Goddess, it’s Beer Throat,” he said. “How are you? I’ve got news.” I told Jim what had happened and all he said was, “Well, you guys need to come to Oaks Bottom. I’ll buy you both a beer.” So we went. And Jim bought us several beers. He and Jonathan Carmean took turns telling us every joke they knew (which was a lot!), plied us with beer, and we actually went home after several hours feeling better, despite everything. Jim was great at cheering you up and making you laugh, even when you didn’t feel like it. He was one of a kind.”

– Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess and owner of Belmont Station

“I also met Jim Parker when he was opening Oaks Bottom, a good friend of mine got a job there. She said… “you gotta’ meet this guy and try this beer”. I liked beer, I mean it was ok… so I went. As soon as I walked into the space, this fabulous imp of a man with a huge grin said “hello, what would you like”. I shared with him that I wasn’t really sure but I was open to whatever they had. I wish I could remeber exactly which beer was the first, but, with that huge Parker smile he handed to me my first quality beer. IT BLEW MY MIND!!!!!!! He spent time walking we though what they had on tap; pungent IPA’s, thick sexy Stouts, I was sold. Jim always remembered this funny awkward kid just exploring beer for the first time. When I started dating a brewer, I ran into Jim Parker again… I don’t know how his amazing brain worked but he knew who I was, and he cared… the world is not the same without this truly wonderful, giving, curmudgeon. Will always miss him. Thank you, Jim, for everything you shared!”

– Maude Bowman, The Caputo Group

Tomas Sluiter and Jim Parker

“I remember him being a sincerely nice dude and one of the only guys in the industry who visited Culmination just after I opened and refused to not pay for a beer. I tried to tell him it was on the house as I did for most in the industry but he refused to let me He said, through his big bearded smile, ‘after you’ve been open a couple years maybe I’ll let you buy me one.’ I thought that was thoughtful of him and probably because he knew well how difficult startup businesses are This pic is from when he scored a really nice sake from Japan. He knew how much I love good same so called me up excited to share it with me.”

 – Tomas Sluiter, owner of Culmination Brewing
Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

Discussion

  • John Lee
    John Lee
    Sat Feb 9, 2019 2:09 AM

    Very nice tribute, Ezra. Sad news indeed.

    • Richard Backus
      Richard Backus
      Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:19 PM

      I worked with Jim at the IBS in Boulder in the mid-late 90s and will never forget his infectious, nay sarcastic attitude. He programmed my computer to comment things like “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that” when I hit a wrong key stroke or “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” me being from Kansas. He was a complete pain in the ass and one of the greatest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Love you Jim.
      Richard Backus