Remembering Lee Shephard

Drinking beer in Alaska in January. Photo by Ann Niemczyk.

Drinking beer in Alaska in January, like a boss. Photo by Ann Niemczyk.

Lee Shephard died on June 10 after an unfair struggle with a rare, aggressive neuroendocrine cancer. We in the beer community knew him as an award-winning homebrewer, master BJCP judge, festival organizer, volunteer wrangler, podcast co-host, drinking buddy, teacher, mentor, and friend.

It’s hard to overemphasize how much Lee taught so many people. Drinking a beer with Lee, you paid more attention. His BJCP classes were epic, unpaid labors of love full of hard science, tough love mixed with consistent encouragement, and extensive handwritten comments. Whenever he sat down at a judging table, both his fellow judges and the homebrewer up for critique were going to come out smarter. Unlike many brewers at his level, he was patient with newbies, generous with advice, and nonjudgmental of your learning curve. He was an actual educator in a world of pedants and know-it-alls.

Facebook is doing what Facebook does after someone passes…exploding with tributes that all but canonize the departed. In Lee’s case, it’s hard to argue with the outpouring. He really was all those things: smart yet humble, sarcastic but kind, hardworking and funloving, discerning yet forgiving, and liked by goddamn everyone.

Another rock star claimed by 2016. My condolences if you knew Lee. Bigger condolences if you didn’t.

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8 Responses to Remembering Lee Shephard

  1. Great article Jen. I met Lee at the now defunct Olde Depot pub when I was living down there. I was helping organize an imperial stout fest in early 2013. Lee volunteered his time to quietly help out. Everything you write of him is true. I’m glad to have known him. His battle inspires me to beat my own cancer an I dedicate my efforts with the National Brain Tumor Society to Lee Shepherd. Cheers, Lee!

  2. tyler says:

    Well said, Jen. I haven’t said much in all of this, because there are so many who have so much to say, and say it better than me. Like you just did.
    Grief is a funny thing. You never know when or how it will hit you. It kinda knocked me down last night.
    I’m going to try to ‘be there’ for as many of my friends who are hit hard by this, as there isn’t much we can do for the deceased, but we can be with the living.
    Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  3. Dee says:

    Thank you Jen for writing about Lee. I always enjoyed being around him. His energy was calming, he was fun to be around and he offered wise advice about a range of topics. I can’t count how many brewing sessions, BAM meetings or beers I enjoyed with Mr. Shephard around. I am grateful to have nothing but fond memories of him.

    • Jen Muehlbauer says:

      I was recently remembering some fun times we both had with him. Glad I was able to cross his path, and yours too.

  4. Kim and Harry Graham says:

    We are still shocked at the news about what Lee was going through. Harry judged the Toronado Barley Wine Competition with Lee and enjoyed it immensely. We are greatly saddened by his death. We saw him a year or so ago at Ken Kelly’s house in Ft. Bragg and had a really enjoyable time with his college friend and her husband. That was probably the last time we saw him but he is not soon to be forgotten. When we heard Lee was in the hospital, we went down to our cellar and toasted him. Tonight we will do the same, a fitting day as Harry has new brewing equipment ready to roll, so the first beer will be in Lee’s honor. To Lee, one of the greatest homebrewers to rock the Bay Area! Here’s to you!

  5. Brian Cooper says:

    Nicely written, Jen. Words are failing me lately. There are so many craft beer, beer judging, and homebrew enthusiasts whose lives have been touched, and curiosities sparked, by Lee. All we can do is to try to share our love and knowledge of the craft that he so freely shared, without any hint of ego or pretentiousness. I learned something new every time I sat down and discussed beer with him. Lee will be sorely missed.

  6. Lee was a first class person, humble, intelligent, giving, and always there to help you. He always showed me and other home brewers how to listen, and, learn. I’m 62, and only knew him a few years at beer festivals and he was always genuine, and willing to share his expansive knowledge on beers, brewing, and, improving..Lee will be missed, hopefully we can all continue to be like him..sharing our experiences, and, teaching each other to be better…

  7. Peter Simpson says:

    I worked with Lee at his last scientific company, and remember him much as do all of you in the brewing community.

    He was a careful and creative scientist, a good man and a good friend. I left the company a few weeks prior to his passing, and was out of the country for a while, hence only got the sad news yesterday.

    I will miss our wide-ranging conversations, and will remember his patience in both personnel management and in his solving of the scientific challenges he faced as he worked to make medical diagnostics more accurate and informational. Lee was exceptional in so very many ways – I am saddened by his loss to cancer. He had so much to give, and did so until felled by his disease.

    I raise a toast to you, my friend. RIP Lee.

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