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.