Danny Williams, GABF beer organizer and gold-mine beer cellar owner, dies

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Danny Williams, a Boulder beer lover who had one of the most unusual jobs -- and one of the most unusual cellars -- in the world of craft beer died last night of cancer.

Williams, who was 52, had worked for the Boulder-based Brewers Association for ten years as, among other roles, the organizer all of the beer that arrives for judging and sampling at the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver; in 2011, that included around 4,000 kegs or bottles. He had a similar job with the World Beer Cup.

But he was even more well-known for his beer cellar, a former gold mine built into the side of a Boulder County hill where Williams kept 2,500 bottles of beer.

"Williams, who moved to Boulder in 1991 and bought the 8-acre mining property eight years ago, was more intrigued by the mine's history than he was about using it as a cellar," wrote the Denver Post's Dick Kreck in a 2008 article. "When he got it, the property was a mess. Junk cars and abandoned mining gear littered the grounds. A one- time crushing facility still tumbles down the mountainside....The mine itself was unlighted, 2 feet deep in muck and in disrepair. Williams built a drainage system to carry off water from a spring deep in the mine, installed a concrete path and ran strings of lights along the gray granite walls. It's actually roomier, 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide, than what claustrophobics might imagine. Because cave-ins make venturing deeper underground risky, Williams' 'tasting room' covers only the first 450 feet of the tunnel, referred to correctly as an adit because a tunnel is open on both ends."

Williams was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and his friends and family had organized a fundraiser and auction -- which will still take place on February 11 at Backcountry Pizza in Boulder -- to help pay for his medical bills and allow his family to keep his cellar. That fundraiser, complete with a beer garden that includes special beers from NØgne Ø, Mikkeller, Dogfish Head, Redstone Meadery, Odell, Stone, Funkwerks, Moylans, Odell, Avery, Sierra Nevada and Upslope, is still scheduled to take place.

Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, was having beers and talking with Williams a few nights ago, and says it is difficult to do justice to his life and his impact on others. "He was a magnet, just a real magnet," she says. "And he was just as great to have a beer with that night as ever.

"This is a very tight and ever-growing community of people who appreciate beer and he was integral to that community," she adds.

Herz says the fundraiser will be a great way for people to celebrate Williams's life and to help his family keep the beer cellar in the family. "It would be very positive to attend and to help," she says. "You can't replace a Danny Williams."

To read more about Williams and see pictures of his beer cellar, check out these links to the New York Times and to the Brookston Beer Bulletin blog.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan
and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan.

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