A deserving toast to a helicopter pilot

July 30, 2012 by Mike Collins

It’s not often that my passion for aviation intersects with my interest in craft beer–but it did recently, in what turned out to be a rather sad way.

I was enjoying a can of G’Knight (yes, good beer now is available in cans), an imperial red ale brewed by the Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. (A rather tasty one, too, I might add.) On the can was a cryptic comment about the beer’s namesake–and an unassuming URL that looked like it could refer to an N number. As an aviation journalist I had to look it up.

Gordon Knight was a Nebraska native who flew Army helicopters in Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart. In 1988 he moved to Boulder and made the leap from home brewing to professional brewing. He also continued to fly helicopters–often as a aerial firefighter. Knight died 10 years ago today, at age 52, after his helicopter crashed while he was fighting a forest fire just outside of Lyons, Colorado. The registration of the helicopter he had been flying was N3978Y, anchoring the URL printed on the can.

Knight had worked at a number of Colorado breweries, but never Oskar Blues. Yet his peers in the brewery saw fit to name a beer for their colleague, who died while doing something he enjoyed–and while trying to make a difference. A gesture like that tells me a lot about a person.

Here’s to you, Gordon Knight. Even though we never had the chance to meet, it’s clear from what I’ve read about you that I would have enjoyed the opportunity. 


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