A little more than a week ago, Seattle’s craft community lost one of its more impactful personalities suddenly and unexpectedly. Matt Bonney passed away in his sleep leaving a void that will take a long time to fill. Check out this link for some background on the man…
The beer world shocked and saddened by the passing of an icon: Matt Bonney
As is the case when people in your life pass away, the interactions with them come to the forefront as you look back at the better times. I’m not sure how much my personal experiences with Bonney add to the overall conversation, but nonetheless I wanted to share a few of them in the hopes of further reflecting on what kind of person he was. He is on the short list of industry people kind enough to offer help and advice despite having no reason to help some idiot trying to sell beer from Ellensburg with very little experience (shout out to Matt Younts, Bob Brenlin, various people from Georgetown Brewing, and Mike Jaskari among others).
The first time I met Bonney he was managing Brouwer’s and was the gatekeeper to getting on tap at one of the most impactful craft bars in the city and region. He was always honest and blunt with brewery reps, but for some reason he would give me extra time. During these conversations he would discuss what did and didn’t work with the beers I was sampling as well as points I should highlight in order to sell our beer more effectively. To him it was probably a small thing, and I can guarantee he wouldn’t take any credit for it if asked, but the impact it had on how I did my job was huge.
A couple of years later he was mentioning a home poker game he hosted and was nice enough to invite me. During the long evening he took all the money I brought, while constantly cracking jokes (a fair amount of which were at my expense). For some people, it could have come off as rude and/or mean spirited. In Bonney’s case, it was hilarious and he welcomed people trying to give it back to him in kind. Obviously he was also good at spotting an easy mark in poker.
Fast forward a few months and I was back in Brouwers after losing my grandpa during surgery to repair a broken hip. I had taken it harder than normal because, with my parents out of town, I had to make the decision to operate knowing pretty certainly that the decision would result in his death. I sat down to have some scotch (his favorite drink) and by chance, Bonney was behind the bar tending to something. He must have seen how down I was because he ended up sitting down and switching back and forth between asking questions and listening to me reminisce over the next hour. To that point I would have thought his response to someone being sad would go something like, “Get over it.” Instead he was compassionate and patient when he had no reason to be.
Reading back over this post, I realize it meanders and doesn’t really have any significant conclusions. Much like life, you don’t get the full picture of any thing or person, instead just shades of the overall image. Since most of the messages out there have focused on his impact on our industry, I hope that this post helps you better understand what a good dude he was despite his occasional efforts to conceal that fact.