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Delectable memorial for a brewer in Avon

Emma Brown
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Avon, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyCharles Hays, the owner and executive chef of Vin 48 in Avon, Colorado, prepares a savory cream puff filled with a walnut honey cream that will be served along with a chocolate tart with raspberry sauce for the last course in a five-course dinner paired with beer.
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AVON, Colorado ” The Dillon Dan Brewery won a bittersweet victory ” two gold medals for it’s ‘Sweet George Brown’ beer this year. But one came while brewmaster Matt Luhr was losing his fight for life.

Luhr’s award winning beer ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ will be served as a tribute to him at the Great American Beer Festival Charity Dinner, benefiting the Edwards-based Heuga Center, at Vin 48 in Avon at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday. During the meal, world class beer will be paired with gourmet food.

The Heuga Center’s programs are designed to keep people with multiple sclerosis active.



Luhr, 46, from Heeney in Summit County, died Oct. 16 from complications from an aneurysm. ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ ale won the silver medal at the World Beer Cup in May and won gold in 2004, competing against beers from around the world. Its latest award was gold at the Great American Beer Festival.

“When a young person dies it’s sad but when a young person who brews great beer dies it’s a tragedy,” said Chris Trettel, a fan of Luhr’s brewing.



Marc Weinberger, Luhr’s best friend and co-worker, wears a lot of hats at the Dillon Dam Brewery ” from beer salesman to snow shoveler to computer technician. He also considered it his job to make Luhr famous.

Luhr was in the hospital for some time and seven hours before the Great American Beer Festival he had a stroke.

“t was the first time in 12 years where I went on stage instead of him, with his girlfriend, Rusty Simmons … who accepted the award’. Weinberger said. “This was his great festival, the pinnacle of his career.”



Luhr died less than a week after the event.

Not only was Luhr brilliant at brewing beer, Weinberger said he was a brilliant man ” in certain areas a genius.

“His brain was my favorite in the world,” Weinberger said.

He knew trivia, the words to every Frank Zappa and Grateful dead song, he was mechanical, mathematical, good at chemistry, generous and kind, Weinberger said.

“The greatest hippie ever, every hippie in this world could learn to be a hippie from Matt,” Weinberger said.

Weinberger called Luhr “Commander Moonbeam” and Luhr’s nickname for him was ‘Corporal Cupcake’. The first night Weinberger met Luhr he saw a great big man, 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 250 pounds, with Coke-bottle glasses and long curly but bald when he took his hat off.

The epitome of a brewer, Weinberger said.

Luhr was considered a god in home-brewing circles, even sharing his recipes. He judged 80 different styles of home brew and mastered a lot of styles.

Luhr’s goals were to create consistent drinkable beer. His beers were in the styles of American Midwest and countries like England, Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic. Even though lagers take much longer and are more expensive to brew, Luhr had several in his repertoire, such as “Dam Straight,” a Vienna-style that won many awards, including silver at the Great American Beer festival.

Luhr will be leaving very big shoes to fill. During one of the beer showcase trips that Luhr and Weinberger took together, the innkeeper at the hotel where they were staying got up at 530 a.m. to plow the snow and said that they had had a visit from a bear. The innkeeper didn’t realize the gigantic footprints were Luhr’s.

Cory Forster, Luhr’s former assistant, is attempting to fill those large foot prints. Luhr trained him and he has returned to the Dillon Dam Brewery after working at the Wolf Rock Brewery down the road in Keystone.

Jim Larson, Luhr’s recent assistant, will be Forster’s assistant and they plan to continue the award-winning work. They plan to keep Luhr’s recipes alive while also coming up with new beers of their own.

Luhr’s sister, Sue, is a sculptor and the Dillon Dam Brewery is commissioning her to sculpt a bust of Luhr as well as a bronze of his brewmaster’s boots. And, because he loved his dog’s so much, a sculpture of one of his dogs will be placed in the brewery’s garden as a permanent memorial.

The Great American Beer Festival charity dinner will pay tribute to Luhr. The main course will be braised pork belly with potato gnocchi cabbage and Sweet George Brown ale sauce, paired with “Sweet George’s Brown,” a winner in the Great American Beer Festival’s winner of English-style dark mild ale or brown ale category.

A beer will be paired with each of the seven courses, in an effort to show the beer, as well as wine, can compliment the flavor of a meal. The dessert, a cream puff and chocolate tart with raspberry sauce, will be paired with an apricot ale to complement the sweetness.

At the dinner, there will be a raffle benefiting the Luhr Memorial fund. Prizes will include a gift certificate to Vin 48 and merchandise from participating breweries.

Greg Eynon, the owner and manager of Vin 48, said he wanted to be part of the Great American Beer Festival, help the Heuga Center, do something fun in the off season and expand his restaurants reputation for high-quality beer.


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