On March 10, we lost one of the true giants of the brewing community when Dr. George Fix died of cancer.
A list of all of George’s accomplishments would be lengthy indeed. Born in Dallas, Texas, he earned a BS from Texas A&M University, an MS from Rice University and a PhD from Harvard University. He was the chairman of the mathematics department at Carnegie-Mellon University for more than 20 years, and also chaired the mathematics departments at the University of Texas at Arlington and Clemson University. He also taught at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland and the University of Bonn (in Germany). He published two books and over 100 scholarly articles in the field of mathematics, and received numerous professional honors.
In the field of amateur brewing, there was little George did not do. He served on the Board of Advisors of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), the editorial board of Brewing Techniques magazine, and the steering committee of the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing. He won, literally, hundreds of awards nationwide for his beers, which from personal experience I can say were typically nothing less than spectacular.
George was a member of the Beer Judge Certification Program, and the American Association of Brewing Chemists, and the Master Brewers Association of America. He was a consultant to numerous microbreweries and brewpubs. He served as an expert witness in brewing-related litigation, including a patent infringement lawsuit between two of the largest breweries in the world. He published numerous articles and three books on beer and brewing, including his seminal works, “Principles of Brewing Science” and (with his beloved wife Laurie) “An Analysis of Brewing Techniques.” (Both books were published by Brewers Publications in Boulder, Colorado.) For his record of achievement, George was the recipient of the AHA Recognition Award in 1991.
Perhaps befitting his profession, George will probably best be remembered in the homebrewing community for his role as an educator. George gave countless presentations at local and national gatherings of amateur and professional brewers. Most of us remember his presentations for the torrents of valuable information he enthusiastically conveyed in his rapid-fire, almost manic style, always accompanied by copious handouts. These handouts were often particularly valuable because, as one brewer once observed, listening to George was sometimes like trying to get a sip of water from a gushing fire hydrant.
Indeed, George served as a critical bridge between the worlds of professional and amateur brewing. With the publication of “Principles of Brewing Science,” and in his many presentations, George inspired legions of homebrewers to begin to try to appreciate, understand and apply the scientific bases of what is actually going on in brewing and fermentation processes. In his writings and presentations, and in his posts to the “Home Brew Digest” on the Internet, George introduced the homebrewing community to techniques such as no-sparge brewing, first-wort hopping, ice brewing, using selective media such as HLP, and the potential hazards of hot-side aeration. Although these topics were known (and in some cases all but forgotten) among professional brewers, George’s insatiable quest for better beer led him to investigate and experiment with these techniques in small-scale brewing, and then share his results with us.
In his farewell to Dr. Fix, Karl Lutzen of the “Home Brew Digest” perhaps said it best: “I no longer put faith in the adage, ‘In heaven there is no beer,’ because you are there now getting it ready for the rest of us.”
Rest in peace, George. You will definitely be missed.
Louis K. Bonham is a homebrewer and an attorney from Houston, Texas.