Brian Sollenberger, the founder of Diamond Knot Brewery, died suddenly last night. He passed just hours after the memorial for Dick Young of Dick’s Brewery. This is the third memorial post that I have written for a Washington Brewer in the last six months and this is the most difficult one to write.
Brian Sollenberger and I were aware of each other but didn’t really start to get to know each other until we reconnected at Gusto, the wine, microbrewery and food festival fundraiser for Everett Community College. The Washington Wineries far out numbered the Washington breweries at this event and Brian attracted a steady crowd around his kegs of Diamond Knot Brown Ale and Diamond Knot IPA. He managed to take a break from the taps and hunted me down to thank me for blogging about Washington beers. We discussed the role of bloggers in supporting the beer industry and how bloggers and brewers can work together.
Brian as Beer Mentor
As Gusto was shutting down for the evening, we ran into Brian again. He was talking to brewers from another Washington brewer that was having some problems with some of their batches. Well regarded as a mentor, Brian gave his time, energy and experience to these brewers to help them identify and correct the situation. He offered the other brewers a tour of of Diamond Knot Brewery to see not only their equipment but to witness the process. Brian explained to us:
“Everything, but the recipes, are an open book at Diamond Knot Brewery. We have figured out a few things the last 15 years and we will share those lessons with other breweries to build the industry. Sure they are competitors in one sense, but we all benefit when we have more great beer to drink”
Brian was exceptionally proud of Diamond Knot Brewery. Although he regretted that Diamond Knot walked away empty handed from the Great American Beer Festival, he pushed away that disappointment and focused on his successes. Brian positively beamed when he talked about the 2005 Ho! Ho! that they were planning on releasing for Diamond Knot Brewery’s 15th Anniversary. He credited the successful aging of the Ho! Ho! as proof of the brewery’s high standards in sanitation. That night, he was so excited about Diamond Knot Brewery’s 15th Anniversary, his enthusiasm was contagious. We decided on the spot to change our plans and make Diamond Knot Brewery our featured brewery for October 2009. At the time of his death, we were planning on creating a short video series on Brian for the blog.
Brewing and Balance
Brian was not a one dimensional man. As he packed up his kegs, he told us his plans to spend the following day brewing rootbeer and spending time with his sons. He shared the joys and frustrations of being a proud dad and the necessity to make time to “enjoy them while I can”. He was talking about how fast they were becoming men and striking a balance between family, being a talented engineer and his love of brewing.
We last saw Brian Sollenberger two weeks ago, at Diamond’s Knot Brewery 15th Anniversary. The brew pub was packed with enthusiastic Diamond Knot fans to celebrate and enjoy the vertical flight of Ho! Ho! beers. Brian was too busy being the host to say much more than hello to us that night, but we made plans to reconnect in November to plan the video series. The 2005 Ho! Ho! was just as delicious as Brian promised.
Brian Sollenberger died unexpectedly at his home. It appears that the cause of his death was an accident at the home, but I have not been able to verify. Details about Brian’s passing and memorial service will probably be available first at the Diamond Knot Facebook page or via the Washington Beer Blog.
UPDATE 11/3: Details available on Brian Sollenberger memorial
Brian’s partners, Pat Ringe, Andy Easton and Bob Maphet, at Diamond Knot Brewery have asked their beer fans to raise a pint in honor of Brian. I raise my glass not only to Brian, but in support of his friends and family at this sad time. Will you join me?