Portland craft beer pioneer Art Larrance dies at 80

Art Larrance, the local craft beer legend who co-founded the long-running Oregon Brewers Festival, died Sunday morning at the age of 80.

The Oregon Brewers Festival announced the news over Instagram on Sunday, asking people to raise a pint to “the friend, father, grandfather and great-grandfather who we dearly miss,” as first reported by KATU.

Chris Crabb, longtime spokesperson for the Oregon Brewers Festival and several of Larrance’s other ventures, remembered the brewer as an innovator and “the world’s nicest guy.”

“He loved beer so much, but what he loved about it was how it brought people together,” Crabb said. “He did a lot for the beer industry, and we were all lucky that he brought that to us. We were lucky that he had a vision.”

Larrance rose to prominence after founding Portland Brewing Co. in 1986 and the Oregon Brewers Festival in 1988. In 1998, he co-founded Cascade Brewing, a pioneer in the Northwest-style sour beer movement that became a tourist destination for those coming to Portland to sample the craft brewing scene.

The Oregon Brewers Festival, which missed two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, hasn’t taken place since a brief comeback in 2022. Over the past two years, it has re-emerged as a curated tap takeover at CityFair during the city’s Rose Festival. This year’s Celebration of Oregon Brewers Festival features beer curation by Larrance, and runs every weekend of CityFair, from May 24 to June 9, according to the Rose Festival.

In 2023, Larrance called the latest cancellation of the festival a “pause,” telling The Oregonian/OregonLive that organizers were “going to wait for the right time to come back.”

Larrance said that in the early days, he and fellow organizer Teddy Peetz agreed they would run the festival until they were 75 years old — an age they then both surpassed.

“We’re getting old, and things have changed,” Larrance said.

Jamie Hale covers travel and the outdoors and co-hosts the Peak Northwest podcast. Reach him at 503-294-4077, jhale@oregonian.com or @HaleJamesB.

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