Bill Brand: It Was More Than Just the Beer 

A tribute to the late Oakland Tribune journalist.

Beer aficionados are raising a toast this week to Bill Brand, veteran East Bay journalist and renowned beer writer. Brand's widely read newsletter full of quirky humor, incisive wit, and crucial information about craft beers was a holy grail for anyone with a love of the hops. "He was the man," said Rodger Davis, head brewer at Berkeley's Triple Rock Brewery. Brand, 70, died February 20 of injuries sustained after being hit by a San Francisco streetcar.

"I shed some tears," said Vic Kralj, proprietor of the Bistro, Hayward's "Home of Extreme Beers." "We will miss him terribly. ... He was a gentleman's gentleman, in the old sense of the meaning." Such gentlemanly-ness extended to his writing, explained Jay. R Brooks, Marin publisher of the Brookston Beer Bulletin: "He tended to focus on the positive as opposed to the negative."

That was certainly the sense this reporter got upon meeting Brand last summer at the Bistro's wet hop beer festival. In zipped this elfin whirlwind: lopsided grin, mustache askew, rumpled, late as usual, furiously scribbling in his characteristic, upside-down style. When cornered by enthused fans, however, Brand was all embarrassed fumbling, as if looking for an escape.

There was more to him than beer. He was an accomplished and generous reporter at the Oakland Tribune since 1981. He covered everything from education, to science and technology, astronomy, and solar power. He also served as night editor and business desk editor.

"He was my first boss," recalled Chris Campos, Sunday Editor at the Contra Costa Times. "He was a top-notch reporter totally dedicated to journalism and his craft."

Brand's dedication showed in other ways. Lisa Wrenn, now the Bay Area News Group's assistant managing editor for Features, started under Brand at the business desk. "He taught me just about everything I ever knew about newspaper copyediting," she said. "He very quickly raised my game."

Brand was always willing to lend a hand. Brooks says he lent a big hand to Oakland's Linden Street Brewery. "They were having trouble with PG&E and Bill went to PG&E and somehow managed to get their power turned on."

"Here was a guy who was intensely competitive," said Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune political reporter. "And yet he was a mensch, the kindest, most easygoing guy in person I have ever met in seventeen years of journalism."

Brand is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, a son-in-law, and two granddaughters. His family asks that donations be made in his name to the Contra Costa County Food Bank.


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