SweetWater Brewing Company and the craft beer community as a whole suffered a huge loss over New Year's with the passing of Curtis McArthur in a tragic accident. Gone too soon, he was just 28 years old.
Rather than focusing on how we lost him, I'd like to focus on how I will always remember Curtis McArthur. Curtis and I first met a few years ago as colleagues thanks to his job as the SweetWater Sales Representative serving Tennessee, Birmingham, and North Alabama. From the get go, it was easy to see he was a great guy who was amazing at his job. It did not matter if you were a distribution rep, employee or owner of a craft beer friendly establishment, customer or member of the press; Curtis always found a way to step aside with you to have an honest and jovial conversation. If he was in attendance at a major event such as a beer festival, you could rest assured that an always smiling Curtis was the life of the party over at the SweetWater tent. He knew his job and SweetWater's product incredibly well, but what made him truly special was the fact that he went the extra mile to really know his customer. Considering his attention to detail and unforgettable charisma, it was no surprise that he was recently named SweetWater's Sales Employee of the Year for 2013.
Since our friendship spawned from a mutual appreciation of great craft beer, most of our time together was spent at craft beer events or private tastings held at the homes or businesses of mutual friends. Quickly it became evident that his love for craft beer was not limited to just his day job. Curtis had an undying passion and curiosity for craft beer. If it was good, he wanted to try it. He had a particular fondness for sour ales, especially vintage, caged & corked bottles of La Folie from New Belgium Brewing Company. He was a huge fan of vertical tastings, so much so he carried a case of mini snifters with him just in case one happened to break out. He was studious in his approach to learning the nuances and subtleties different beers presented. With all that said, his passion for craft beer yet again centered on the friends and people he met in the craft beer community. He welcomed many into his home to share bottles with at tastings. Whenever he traveled, he sought out local craft beer lovers to have a pint with at a bar, open a bottle or two he brought for sharing, or just to simply hang out. He was always available to others online through forums and Facebook beer groups to answer questions, share ideas, or simply have a laugh with. He was a spokesperson for all that is good in craft beer today and he made countless friends along the way. The proof of that can easily be seen on his Facebook page in the flood of comments, memories and photos friends have posted of Curtis during this time of tragedy.
I struggled with writing this post over the last week simply because I have had a really hard time processing what has happened and that he is gone. I had to constantly stop writing because referring to Curtis in the past tense just did not feel right, but I had to say something. We had just had a couple of really good conversations over the last month or so where he gave me some great advice about my career and my move, and I am happy that my last memories of him consist entirely of his unwavering kindness. Events simply will not be the same now that I and so many others will no longer have that moment where Curtis calls you over with his trademark smile for a handshake and a hug. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with his girlfriend, family and friends. Curtis, this glass and many more in the future will be raised for you. Prost, buddy.