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Ex Novo Brewer Ryan Buxton Has Died

“He was a passionate and driven brewer, a loving father to two boys, a crucial leader for our company, a close friend, and we just aren’t sure what life looks like without him”

Ryan Buxton, wearing a cap and a My Morning Jacket shirt, poses for a photo.
Ex Novo brewer Ryan Buxton.
Ex Novo Brewing
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

The story mentions a death by suicide.

Ex Novo head brewer Ryan Buxton passed away over the weekend, according to a post from the Portland-based brewery. The brewer joined the company in 2016 and oversaw the expansion of the brewery as it opened locations in Beaverton and New Mexico. He was known for his warm personality and fierce dedication to brewing distinctive beers. He died by suicide, according to Ex Novo founder Joel Gregory.

“We got to have five and a half years with this beautiful human, who was so well loved in this community,” reads a post on Ex Novo’s Facebook page. “He was a passionate and driven brewer, a loving father to two boys, a crucial leader for our company, a close friend, and we just aren’t sure what life looks like without him.”

Buxton’s interest in beer started with home brewing; he worked as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor for at-risk youth before pursuing the beer industry as a career. He eventually started working for Denver’s Epic Brewing Company, at first washing kegs before climbing the ranks to brewing beer. At Epic, he was a part of the team that launched the brewery’s sour beer program, and became the head of blending operations.

“I had met him at a few industry events when he was in Salt Lake City working for Epic,” Gregory says. “He would continue to take time and passionately show you around his facility. I remember him being a really amazing host.”

When the head brewer position opened at Ex Novo, Buxton jumped at the opportunity to work there. “I have a brother in Portland and I always wanted to end up settling down in the PNW eventually,” Buxton told New School Beer in 2018. At Ex Novo, Buxton headed up the research and development program, experimenting with newly developed hops — especially those grown in the Pacific Northwest. But Gregory remembers his enthusiasm not just for up-and-coming styles, but for classic lagers and West Coast IPAs as well.

“We’d talk about seasonal stuff, but he was always coming back to our core beers, going, ‘How do we make this batch better than last batch?’” Gregory says. “It’s something a lot of people don’t do, but he’d say, ‘No one is going to complain if it’s going to be a better beer.’”

Buxton was also a known figure throughout the beer industry in Oregon, regularly hosting outside brewers and visiting breweries around town. He consistently sought out peer feedback on Ex Novo beers, sharing bottles and asking folks to “pick them apart,” in Gregory’s words. And he regularly collaborated with brewers from around Portland and Oregon at large, including Fort George and Culmination Brewing.

“Ryan was an easy guy to be around,” says Culmination founder Tomas Sluiter. “He was really talented but not ego-driven. I just texted him last week to compliment him on an Ex Novo beer I tried at a local taproom. I wish I’d been able to tell him in person.”

One of the last things Buxton did as a brewer was collaborate on Cobra Fang IPA with Gigantic Brewing. According to Brewpublic, the team at Gigantic has decided to release the beer, donating a portion of the proceeds to Buxton’s family and his favorite charities. “I met Ryan a number of years ago when he was at Epic Brewing running their Denver brewery,” Gigantic Brewing Company brewmaster Ben Love said in a statement. “From the very first time we met I could see the intense passion Ryan had for his craft.”

The circumstances surrounding Buxton’s death have spurred a conversation regarding mental health in the beer industry. “We’re in and around [alcohol] all the time, so it’s important to talk about the ways people use it that aren’t healthy,” Gregory says. “We’ve been talking about that with other industry folks, about how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

Ex Novo will share information regarding services on the company’s Facebook page.

Read the full statement from Ex Novo here:

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.