April 15, 2013

We Have Lost Dave Conz

On Friday, we lost a great man, Dr David Conz. Dave was a warm, personable and engaging figure that moved between intellectual and social circles as freely, easily and simply as a smile. When I met Dave, he was introduced to me as Dr Beer, an Arizona State University (ASU) professor with a CV of varied disciplines that defied logic, that is, until you met and spoke to him. He made it all make sense. His intellectual pursuits led him to sit comfortably between areas of knowledge and learning--an area where he could be a teacher and a student at the same time.

Dave and I had an affinity in looking at beer as a lens through which the world could be better understood, though he obviously stated it much more clearly than I ever hoped to. We were not close friends, but that was only a limitation of time. He is someone that I saw my own potential in. I wanted to treat people like he treated people. I wanted to understand things like he did. Over the years, we discussed a great many projects. This was the year that we were going to push forward. This was the year that our close work would further cement our bonds.

Dave began a class at ASU that he one day hoped to turn into a program: BIS 402, The Cultural and Chemical History of Beer
“This interdisciplinary course traces the development of beer from ancient cultures to the multinational mega-corporations and craft homebrewers of today. We will examine the social, cultural, legal, biochemical, physiological and business dimensions of beer throughout history while integrating students’ areas of concentration. The class will feature expert guest lecturers, field trips to local breweries, and an optional hands-on, at-home (off-campus) “lab” component where students will have the opportunity to make, bottle, analyze and sample their own batches of beer (off-campus).”
It was a wildly popular class and the students that I met were fascinated with the scope and depth of the materials that their professor presented. Notably, the beer industry took interest and anecdotally, I know of many direct hires from the graduates of this class. There were placements at Sierra Nevada, Santan Brewing and Crescent Crown to name a few. I had the pleasure of guest lecturing a class on the beer culture in Phoenix that included segments on urban planning and adaptive re-use.

You'll note in the course description above, that "off-campus" is used a few times and this speaks to the uneasy relationship that ASU has with beer. Dave's passing has, for the foreseeable future, placed the class and program at an end. Many are vowing to bring the program back, but that will be a discussion for another time.

I will remember Dave as a colleague and a friend and someone that will continue inspire me for as long as I live. So too will every one of his friends.

Last night, the beer community met at one of Dave's local favorites, Taste of Tops. As many as 100 packed into the small bar and there were easily 80 raised glasses for round of drinks bought by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. Among the brewers, homebrewers, distributors and beer fans were many of Dave's colleagues and students. There were also representatives of the many sides of Dave, the friends that knew him as:

The Drummer
The Biodiesel Scientist
The Dancer
The Poet
The Traveler
The Professor
The Motorcycle Mechanic
The Sociologist
The Pilot
The Philosopher
The Lover
The Skater
The Vegetarian
The Chicken Farmer
The Homebrewer

We will all miss him.

UPDATE: My friend James Spencer recorded an interview with Dave on March 29.


  1. Thanks for this tribute and the memorial gathering last night.

  2. Deeply saddened by his passing. Loved working with him for a bit, and was looking forward to doing more together. Please pass on my condolences as if I was there. A warm hug, and a pale ale to remember him.

  3. Yes, thanks very much for assembling this remembrance of Dave and for your efforts going forward to sustain all the good that he did or inspired. He was a gentle and thoughtful person who leaves each of us much lonelier and emptier.

  4. Dave was hands down the best professor I had at ASU. He had such a passion for his career and for his students, you just don't come by that. My prayers are with his family. Thank you so much for the post.

  5. Thank you all for replying and sharing your stories.

  6. Glad I met this wonderful man. Came as a shock to all of us, we will miss our "beer" teacher.

  7. It saddens me to hear about his passing. Dave was a great guy and sparked my interest in the brewing industry and beer. He will be greatly missed.

  8. Thank you as a fellow high school graduate with Dave class of '91 something made me find this and it puts an ease of the wondering why?? Nicely said and though we will never know what really happened anyone that knew dave has a vivid memory that will make them smile forever.

  9. I did not know Dave personally. He was a friend of some of my friends, but his influence extended very far. The day after his death, when my homebrew club learned of his passing, we all lifted our glasses to him. I mean nothing but respect, but it's a strange feeling for me to miss someone I've never met.

  10. I loved Dave very much and considered him a close friend. I'm disappointed in him for not reaching out to me, and disappointed in myself for not catching the signs which, in hindsight, are so clear. He was a wonderful man, full of life and love for everyone. He dropped a ray of sunshine on every person he met and I will miss him deeply.

  11. Thank you for writing this. Dave was one of my best friends for over 25 years and was in fact, like a brother to me. His passing is a monumental loss for everyone who knew and loved him. The manner in which he left us is not important, rather let's focus on how he lived and let that remain an inspiration to us all.

  12. Rob,

    I was a student in Dave's class last fall, and I appreciate what you have done to bring light to his passing. He was a brilliant intellect and wicked funny. He truly was an interdisciplinarian, and had so much to teach. I consider myself to have been lucky to know him and learn from him. I am saddened by his passing, and I doubt I'll ever be able to look at a homebrew again without a tug at the heartstrings. He was a good dude, and he will be missed.

  13. I had the opportunity to meet Dave, AKA Dr. Dave, twice and both times he was genuine, kind and fantastic to converse with. I got to know a little bit about him just through stories from a mutual friend. Although I hardly knew him I felt a great bit of sadness hearing of this loss. My heart goes out to his friends and family.

  14. Thank you! Dave was a great friend that I have known since high school.

  15. Words can't express how much I miss my good friend Dave. He has had a profound impact on my life and I will never forget him. He is truly one of the greats.
    I started brewing biodiesel with dave back in 2007 after taking his technology and society course. We started out using a 55 gallon drum and an electric boat motor! Today I help manage one of california's biggest biodiesel refineries and we make almost a million gallons a month. Livin' the dream!

    Thank you for this posting.

  16. I'm very lucky to have had Dave in my life for the past 15 years. He is the kindest, funniest, smartest and most endearing person. He was a true gentleman. I will miss him everyday for the rest of my days.