He was short and not too happy about it. He didn't much care for hops. He had crappy taste in music, or at least taste opposite of mine. And he was a great guy.
Walt Powell, the beer guy at HomeField Grill and Flix Brewhouse in Round Rock, died Tuesday after a cruelly brief but eventful 33 years. The cause of death is unknown but appears to be natural. I knew him even before HomeField opened when, as the Statesman's then-beer and booze columnist and blogger, he invited me to a beer tasting at his house. He had a legendary cellar of goodies and a passion for Belgians so we were friends from the start.
When HomeField got going (What? A sports bar with an enlightened tap wall? In Round Rock???), Walt and chef Scott Reed launched monthly beer dinners, which were epic. My wife and I missed maybe two over the three years they've been going. The last one was last Thursday. The theme was bacon. Later that night I sent him an email suggesting we grab a beer after he closed on his new condo. Unlike a lot of beer-themed dinners, at HomeField, you always got a full serving for each of the five courses, not a small plate. We never came home without leftovers. We never came home sober, either. It probably took me a while to type that email.
Walt played bass and won a scholarship to the Berkelee College of Music, which as I recall he did not accept so that he could pursue a life of making himself and others happy with beer and good times. Oh, the music? He loved Phish. He loved Primus. And Ween. Wow. I made fun of him for that. He made fun of me for everything. Flix, which recently announced an expansion to Des Moines, Ia., announced it was having a firkin festival and Walt reached out to some of the HomeField beer dinner regulars to be volunteer servers. I got TABC-certified to volunteer, partly as a token repayment of all the good times Walt had helped create, partly so I'll have bartending to fall back on if this journalism thing doesn't work out. When the fest came, Walt apparently had put "Make fun of Beach all day" on his calendar. I will remember that day, and every moment I had the pleasure of his company, with great and eternal fondness. He's one of those people who will never fade from the memories of those who knew him and for those who didn't, I'm sorry.
His actual job title was "Vice President of Operations at Hospitality Investors, Inc.," which sounds extremely dry for a man who was anything but. What a wit. He sent out instructions to the servers at the firkin fest. Two of them were a variation of "Don't get snockered."
Walt did a lot to promote craft beer in our area, especially in Williamson County, which we Austinites still regard as a tad backwards and provincial. Through those HomeField dinners, Walt helped me get to know friends from that area who are anything but.
That's what he did. He brought people together. There are far worse ways to spend your days. You made me laugh a lot, Walt. And now you've made me cry.
Friends have created a facebook page in his memory and are gathering at 6 p.m. today at the Draught House Pub & Brewery, 4112 Medical Pkwy., to remember him.
Correction: This story corrects the day Walt Powell passed away to Tuesday, June 4th.