Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

March 28, 2014 at 9:24am

RIP John O'Gara

John O'Gara, pictured at the 2009 Tacoma Craft Beer festival with co-organizer Roxy Lee. Photo courtesy of Donna Herren, who co-wrote craft beer blog "The Brews Tribune" with O’Gara.

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That big collective ache you may have heard or felt reverberating throughout Tacoma Tuesday, and obviously for years to come, was for the loss of one of the city's most beloved citizens, everyone's friend John O'Gara. The 52-year-old Parkway Tavern long-time manager passed away from health issues, although those close to him still were in shock. O'Gara had been at the Parkway for around 20 years, although he did take a leave in 2000 and Barry Watson stepped in for a brief time until O'Gara returned after a year or so.

Watson, who after selling the Rosewood Café in Tacoma opened Pint Defiance beer store and taproom with his wife, Renee, mentored under O'Gara at the Parkway. "This is a huge loss, not only to those who loved him, but to the community as well," Watson said Wednesday night, eyes filled with tears. "No one knew more about craft beer. O'Gara knew before everyone else. He was my mentor. He was my friend."

The Parkway has been filled with mourners since the sad news, sharing stories and hoisting beers.

"John was the kind of guy that inspired loyalty. In his employees, business associates and customers," says Mick Wilcox, and brand manager with Click Wholesale Distributing. "What he did to raise the profile of craft beer in the South Sound was immeasurable. In a time not so long ago when bars were balking about putting anything but a 120.00 keg on tap John would try anything. He wasn't afraid. He turned his love of barleywine into a two-day festival complete with an exclusive brunch.  This is a big deal.

"He put 32 handles of just IPA on tap because he liked it and he knew you would too, says Wilcox. "And why not roast a whole pig to go with it? These weren't your typical brewers nights. It took him months of planning with his team to make sure everything was perfect and it was. And he did it for us."

Wilcox explained in a time when Russian River was by far the most sought after beer on the market, O'Gara took a keg of Pliny the Younger - easily the most highly sought after beers - that he could have sold for $15 a pint and gave it away in four ounce samples. Why? Because O'Gara believed everyone deserved to try the best beer in the world.

"What John did best though was bringing out the best in others. He took me from a guy that got a job selling a portfolio of insane beer I didn't know anything about and pushed me, sometimes a bit too hard, to give him my best and I am thankful for it. He gave everyone at the Parkway Tavern a purpose and that is why he was so great. He made you feel like you had a reason to be there. He treated us better than we deserved and we know it and the thing I will miss the most is coming into the Parkway and seeing him standing at the corner of the bar intensely pondering something on his yellow tablet and seeing him turn and look at you and smile." 

O'Gara is survived by his wife of 22 years, Marit Berg-O'Gara; 7-year-old daughter Maeve; siblings Angela, Nicola and Stephen Geary; and mother Lois Geary.

A memorial for John O'Gara will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 30 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 901 N. J St., in Tacoma.

Filed under: New Beer Column Tacoma
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Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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