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Thursday, August 9, 2012

RIP, Bob Ryan

I just found out that Bob Ryan, the former owner of Ryan's Beverage (now North Wales Beer) in North Wales, died about a month ago. His passing was probably not noted by many, but Bob had a very significant impact on my life: he bought my first piece of beer writing.

I was working at a small pharma company in Fort Washington at the time, late in 1993. My friend Tom Lawler walked into my office and tossed a piece of paper on my desk; it was a one-page, one-side newsletter from Ryan's Beverage (Tom lived about four blocks from there at the time). "You can do better than this," he said. I looked at it, and he was right, I could. So I did. I ran up a two-sided newsletter on a cheap desktop publishing suite I had (DOS-based, can you believe it?), a story on Saranac and Matt Brewing, put a snazzy masthead on it, and gave it to Tom. I had a cover letter that said, essentially, I'd like to do this for you. If you like this one, it's free; if you'd like more, I'll do them for $25.

Bob liked it. I wrote newsletters for Ryan's for seven years, and their craft and import business grew. I'll take a little credit for that, but mostly it was Bob's hustle (and the energy of his wife, Connie). Bob was always smiling, always thinking, and made the most of his little sidestreet space. I got up there fairly often; did tastings, did book signings once Pennsylvania Breweries came out, helped out with beer selection occasionally.

Finally, the newsletter got to be more work than it was worth for me as I got busier with better-paying gigs, and I had to tell Bob I couldn't do it anymore. That was after the shakeout in 1996, and the business was tougher. Eventually, Bob came to me and asked advice on what to do. I gave him the best thoughts I could, but he wound up selling (to a guy from my local beer store!). I heard from him occasionally after that, but with him out of the business...

Then this morning I got an email from Connie; she'd seen my name on LinkedIn, and wanted to let me know that Bob passed away last month, from Parkinson's. It's a sad moment. Bob, more than any other one person, is responsible for what I do now, for how I got here, for all the great experiences I've had, and for all the help I've been able to give to craft beer and rye whiskey.

Cheers, Bob! I hope you're getting a chance to rest.


Sud Savant said...

A very heartfelt article about an interesting man. Neat to hear how you got started! I'm glad he gave you that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Bob was one of the nicest man in the beer business and i often bought many a case of beer from him and enjoyed many of the craft beer samplings he would have at his place.Bob was also one of the first beer distributors in Montgomery County who had such a large selection of craft beers before they were popular.Hey how bout when Bob would always laugh and what came out was always he he he he he used to freak me out for some time.He was always smiling even when that illness was starting to effect him more and more....
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