The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild is mourning the loss of one of its true pioneers, Phoenix Ale Brewery‘s own George Hancock, 71.

The brewery’s owner and general manager and the onetime chairman of Seattle, Washington-based Pyramid Breweries first came to Arizona following Pyramid’s sale in 2008.

Noting the smaller number of breweries and yet similar population numbers, he knew this area was poised for explosive growth, and he planned to be there when that explosion took place.

And “be there” he was. He was there for other brewers and Guild members who needed support and insight while establishing themselves in Arizona’s craft brewing industry, and he was there for his Phoenix Ale Brewery business partner Greg Fretz, who ultimately succumbed to sleep apnea following a long, yet finally successful battle with throat cancer.

He was there when Arizona’s craft breweries first began pushing their bottles through grocery stores, sport stadiums and restaurants, and he was there for friends far and wide who needed a shoulder to lean on or a kind word of support. His contributions across the state’s craft brew scene and his immeasurable impact on the industry as a whole will never be forgotten.

In 2007, The Brewers Association recognized Hancock as a defender the small brewing industry and named him the recipient of the F.X. Matt Defense of the Small Brewing Industry Award. This award is named for the late F.X. Matt, a tireless and outspoken champion for the small brewing industry who served as president of Utica, New York’s F.X. Matt Brewing Co. from 1980 through 1989.

His fight for small breweries didn’t stop there, however. He also served on the board of directors for the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild in both treasurer and presidential capacities.

“George was an industry icon before he ever came to Arizona, but in his time here, he became so much more than that to so many,” said Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. “He’ll be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

“George wasn’t the type of guy who would want a lot of sadness surrounding his passing,” Fullmer said. “He’d want us to fill up a glass and raise it up to him and Fretzy.”