Today is a sad day for the beer world, for me, and especially for the Brand family. The story of William Brand's unfortunate accident February 8th, which we have been following closely, came to a tragic end today with Bill's passing due to complications from the accident. He was 70 years young (as I remember). Below is the story printed in today's Oakland Tribune:

SAN FRANCISCO — William Brand, a longtime reporter for the Oakland Tribune, died early Friday as a result of injuries suffered in a Muni train incident in San Francisco Feb. 8. He was 70. Brand died at San Francisco General Hospital, surrounded by family and friends, according to a friend of the family.

A recently retired reporter, Brand was walking near Second and King streets around 9:10 p.m. Feb. 8 when he was hit by oncoming N-Judah train, SF police said.
Brand was knocked into a nearby pole by the impact, police Inspector Dean Taylor said.
The investigation is continuing, but it appears to have been an accident, Taylor said.
Brand retired from regular news gathering at the Tribune in November after 27 years at the paper. He continued to write a well-read beer blog titled “What’s On Tap.”
The night he was struck by the train, Brand was returning from the 21st Amendment Brewery on Second Street where he had attended a food and beer pairing event he was writing about for his blog.
A memorial service is planned and details will be announced later today, a friend said.

Bill Brand and Sean PaxtonThere is no easy way to explain what we have lost as readers of Bill's columns (as fans I would say), or as beer enthusiasts, and certainly not for those of his family. At times like these it seems impossible. So instead I'd like to take some time to write about what I was given from Bill. Because that to me is easy, and tangible, and incredibly present in my mind today.

I was lucky enough to know Bill through our work together covering beer events, but my relationship with him began quite some time before he knew who I was. In 2004 I was a recent college graduate turned bartender. I was a craft beer enthusiast, beer snob, and every day imbiber. I was looking for a way to combine my communication skills learned in school with my passion for beer in life and I had come up with a hair brained idea that people would want to listen to me interview people who made beer, and talk about how to make it ourselves, on the radio. I would read Bill Brand's "What's on Tap" column every week during the slow periods behind the bar while the rest of the staff was reading the sports page. They caught up with scores, Bill caught me up with beer.

As I was inventing The Brewing Network during that year and the first six months of 2005, there were several times a week that I said to myself, "this can never work. What are you thinking?". And then another edition of "What's on Tap" would publish and Bill would show me the way. I would always think while reading it, "here is a guy who is being paid by a major and reputable news publication to write about beer. And he's doing it well! This can work!". And this literally went on every time I read the column. Bill was a sort of standard for me because he clearly loved what he was writing about, and he had done what very few people had done before; gotten published writing about beer in a major publication.

I aligned myself with Bill because at the time I was creating The BN in 2004, nobody else had done anything like it. I had no model or sure fire recipe to follow for success. But I had Bill and his example, and it helped motivate me tremendously. I know others were talking about Michael Jackson and Charlie Papazian, but Bill was different to me. He was a real figure in my region doing things that I wanted to do, and believed I could do. And he was writing about beer the way I thought about it when I was drinking it too. He made things tangible for me and that was what I needed to turn my own idea into reality. And because I was well on the outskirts of the beer world, I new nothing of the beer publications like Celebrator or Michael's books. Bill was mainstream, and that's what I wanted.

I remember talking to friends about Bill's column just before The Brewing Network went to air for the first time in 2005. They were telling me to contact him about covering our debut. In hindsight it was a no-brainer, but I thought there was no way that a big wig like Bill would want to talk about me and my little radio station. Not only was I terrible at publicity, but I just held Bill in such high regard. I had never met him though and would later find out that he was as humble and down to earth as anyone in the beer world, and maybe even more so. But at that time I thought. " the day I get Bill on my show to talk about beer...then I've made it!".

My listeners can attest that it took me three years to get Bill on the air. People closer to me can attest that it wasn't Bill that was my reluctance to ask him. Again, I just respected what he had done so much that I didn't want him to say no. I didn't want to be I never asked. Finally in April 08, I met Bill at a beer event and asked him to be on the show. He was so humble and even excited to be on air with me, said yes so quickly, that I felt like an idiot for waiting so long. Bill was going to be my guest on the show...I had finally made it!

Here is a link to the show Bill did with is: William Brand on The Session

Bill turned out to be a great interview. For me, it was truly fun to meet and talk with someone on the show that I had created, that he had helped inspire, about his life as a journalist and what inspired him to get into beer. I liked talking with him so much, and respected his beer reviews so much as well, that I asked him to put his weekly What's on Tap column into audio form for me so I could play them on my show, The Brewcast on CBS Radio.

William BrandBill loved the idea, so we began recording beer reviews that he had done, and they aired for several weeks on The Brewcast. For one reason or another, Bill and I had a hard time keeping on track with all the reviews, but I have several of them and I will be making them available on the site here for all to enjoy as soon as possible.

My last time with Bill was spent on BART on the way to the first festival of SF Beer Week, The Bistro Double IPA Fest, the day before he was hit by the MUNI train in SF. By coincidence, Bill jumped into the same car as me and Chad and Tasty. Bill sat down right next to me with that big smile of his and we all immdediatly started talking about the bay area beer scene. Even then, casually, he was insightful and educational as we talked. He gave me some insight into the South Bay beer scene, talked fondly of the coming SF Beer Week, and left me with a great memory of him; smiling and happy to be working in this industry.

So to Bill...I say this:  I don't think you know that you inspired me, but you did. I thank you for the support you gave me every time you published a beer column. I thank you for helping to pave the way so that aspiring beer enthusiasts like myself can have a place to make our own mark and work at what we love. I thank you for your time spent at The Brewing Network. And most of all Bill...I thank you for smiling when I shook your hand. Putting your face to the words I had read so much means a lot to me. I will think about you every time I write about beer, and I'll smile, and scribble something entirely illegible on a piece of paper in your honor.

Cheers and thanks to William Brand...


Brewcaster J is the founder of The Brewing Network and host of The Session