Jim Patton, a founder of Abita Brewing Co., dies in Miami
Jim Patton, a pioneer in the American craft beer brewing movement and a founder of Abita Brewing Co. and Zea Rotisserie & Brewery, died Oct. 23 in Miami, where he was helping to start a new brewery. He was 59.
Courtesy of the Patton family
Patton died suddenly of unknown causes, said his wife of 42 years, Kathleen "Catch" Patton.
An avid home brewer, Patton was a founding partner in the Abita Brewing Co. in Abita Springs. Taking advantage of the town’s famous artesian waters, he launched the company at a time when Americans were first developing a taste for indie craft brews. When its first beers debuted on July 4, 1986, Abita was just the 13th craft brewery to open in the United States and the first in the South.
“The first night we rolled out with a beer, we had one bar in New Orleans and one bar in Mandeville that carried it,” Patton recalled last month to writer David Minsky of Miami’s New Times newspaper. “We got some of the local television media in there, and they had some pictures of people dancing on the bar, and you just can't buy that.”
Crafting beer intrigued him, Patton said in the article, because it was a “blend of science and art.”
Abita produced 1,500 barrels of beer its initial year. Patton sold his stake in the company in 1997, but the business he launched now brews more than 125,000 barrels of beer and 8,000 barrels of root beer.
Patton left Abita when he realized he was spending more time behind a desk than in the brewery, he told New Times. “I opened a brewery because I wanted to brew. Eight years later I was sitting in an office talking to distributors and bankers and that's not what I wanted to do.”
After Abita, Patton was a co-founder and brewmaster of Zea Rotisserie & Brewery, and was brewmaster at Key West Brewery in Florida. Recently, he became involved with the launch of Wynwood Brewing Co., a craft brewer in Miami.
But beer wasn’t his only love. Patton also enjoyed making wine at his home on Lopez Island, in the San Juan Islands of Washington state, and he worked at several wineries in Oregon and California, Kathleen Patton said.
Before he got in the beer business, Patton was an anthropologist and taught at several universities, including Southeastern Louisiana and Xavier. He earned a doctorate in cultural anthropology as a Dougherty Fellow at Washington University and specialized in Andean agricultural economics.
A California native, Patton loved the outdoors and hiked, biked and cross-country skied throughout his teenage years. “In his 20s, he hiked the Inca Trail, explored Patagonia, and journeyed into the caves of the Maya mountains,” Kathleen Patton said by email Thursday night. “Recently he sailed the waters of the Florida Keys and hiked and kayaked extensively in his beloved great Pacific Northwest.”
He met Kathleen in 1970 during their first week of classes at Carleton College.
In addition to Kathleen, Patton is survived by his daughter Kathryn Braidwood Patton of Seattle, Wash; his son, William Anselm Patton, of Lopez Island, Wash.; his mother and two sisters. A private memorial will be held this week.
Re: Jim Patton, a founder of Abita Brewing Co., dies in Miami
Brew some great beer in Heaven R.I.P.
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