BUELLTON, Calif. - A Central Coast craft beer pioneer passed away over the weekend. Surrounded by family and friends at his bedside, 72-year-old Jim Dietenhofer lost his battle with cancer Saturday.
Dietenhofer’s legacy started with a micro-brew back in 2010. With his son Jaime by his side, the operation now spans six tasting rooms from Westlake Village to Arroyo Grande and as customers and employee’s that refer to themselves as the “Fig Fam” will tell you, there’s a list of people at every tasting room that Jim considered a close friend.
Flags were flying at half-staff along Buellton’s Avenue of Flags and in Los Olivos Monday.
Glasses were raised. Cheers of liquid gold for the man said to have a heart of gold.
“He treated everybody that walked through those doors of his brewery or that he met on the street like he had known them their entire life,” said Erika Tai James, Assistant Manager of the Figueroa Mountain Santa Barbara location.
“He’s just been a real leader, he’s the hardest worker I know. He’s always doing or always was doing something,” said David Esdaile, General Manager at the Los Olivos taproom.
The “was” cuts deep.
Jim Dietenhofer was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma last fall.
“His whole attitude was to fight through it until the very last day he was talking about how he wanted to continue fighting no matter what,” said Jaime Dietenhofer, Jim’s son and Fig Mountain President and CEO.
With a foundation of family, it was that hardworking, competitive and compassionate outlook that’s made Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company what it is today.
“You can’t start to describe the feeling of loss of not only a partner like that but of a best friend. I think I’ll miss his energy and his positive attitude,” said Dietenhofer.
Jaime says he can still hear his dad’s voice, cheering the Fig Fam on and yelling at them to get back to work. When asked what it’s like to be in the Buellton taproom without his dad, Jaime breaks down in tears.
“To be here without my dad is, it’s tough, I don’t know yet,” he says.
From a passion project to an empire, Fig Mountain’s patriarch tried to make someone smile every day.
“When I was a kid I was like ok whatever dad, that’s something that I’ll miss. How he would be able to go into a room and make people smile, he truly cared,” said Dietenhofer
Those smiles now emerge through tears, employees say everyone has a funny Jim story on how he made them laugh and those stories will continue to be told, over a home-grown beer and a legacy that reaches far beyond the Central Coast.
“Papa Jim isn’t there physically but he is still with us, he left a lasting impression that I believe we’ll all carry-on for a lifetime,” said James.
Jim’s service will be this Saturday in Los Olivos with a reception to follow at the Buellton taproom.
While the family says they don't need any flowers, if you feel like making a donation, you can do so in Jim’s name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Jaime says eventually they’ll make a special brew in his dad’s honor.