Timothy Michael Hillman, who had been beer manager at The Wine Source in Hampden and its predecessor for two decades and was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic supporter of Baltimore's craft beer movement and microbreweries, died Sunday of a heart attack at his Timonium home.
He was 49.
"I've worked with hundreds of people in 22 years, and no one bears greater accolades for our success than Tim Hillman," said David Wells, owner of The Wine Source.
"He's our version of Cal Ripken. He came to work every day and never sought the limelight. He's both shy and very unassuming. Still waters run deep," said Mr. Wells, who owned Rotunda Wine and Spirits when he hired Mr. Hillman in 1992.
"Baltimore has lost a pretty big figure from the world of craft beers. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of beers," said Volker Stewart, owner of the Brewer's Art restaurant and brewpub on North Charles Street in Mount Vernon.
Mr. Hillman was born in Baltimore and raised in Woodlawn. He was a 1981 graduate of Woodlawn High School and studied at what was then Catonsville Community College, where he earned a degree in engineering. He then enrolled at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he studied business.
Mr. Hillman worked at liquor stores in Woodlawn and Cockeysville before being hired by Mr. Wells.
"I learned early on that Tim had his own way of doing things, and I gave him plenty of space," said Mr. Wells. "And while he was a man of few words, he had a wry, sharp sense of humor."
He said that when he and Mr. Hillman began working together, the craft beer movement and microbreweries were in their infancy.
"At the time, his job was mainly make sure that we had plenty of Natty Boh on the shelf," he said. "But he was smart. When the craft beer movement and microbreweries came along, Tim wasn't about to miss a trend. He applied himself. He took classes, went to tastings and did lots of reading."
Beginning in the early 1990s, Mr. Hillman began organizing craft and microbrewery beer tastings.
"He cultivated a lot of good will, and no matter how big or small a brewery you were, Tim gave you a good hearing," said Mr. Wells.
"For years, he organized the annual Oktoberfest and winter beer tastings for members of the media, myself included, pulling in dozens of beers from around the nation, putting them in brown paper sacks to hide their identity, then providing customers and the public, through the media, the ratings which served as a guide to the rivers of beer," said Rob Kasper, retired Baltimore Sun food columnist and author of "Baltimore Beers: A History of Suds City."
"Tim was a pretty super guy who was always very supportive of the craft business as a whole plus the local players, and has been conducting tastings for 20 years," said Hugh Sisson, founder of Clipper City Brewing Co.
"He was always looking for ways to get people to experience what was in the market," said Mr. Sisson. "Even though he was a back-of-the-house guy and pretty understated, you could rely on Tim. He knew the market, had his finger on its pulse, and managed to walk both sides of the street with equal respectability."
"He could appreciate the rare and unique beer, and, at the same time, a can of Coors," said Mr. Wells.
"Despite his encyclopedic knowledge of beer, Tim was not a beer snob," said Mr. Kasper. "When asked, he would tell you what he thought about a particular beer, but if you liked it and he did not, he recognized that tastes differ."
"I don't think he really had a favorite beer. He loved beer. Period," said his wife of 21 years, the former Judy Larsen, who met her future husband when she was working for The Limited in Towson Town Center and he was managing Towsontowne Liquors.
"He loved Dale's Pale Ale, Red Hoptober and seasonal beers. He loved going to Clipper City and tasting all of Hugh's seasonal beers," she said. "Tim had such a wonderful job and did it well."
"Tim was a gentleman from head to toe, and no one in the industry ever had an unkind word to say about him," said Mr. Wells.
Mr. Hillman was an avid sports fan and enjoyed participating in fantasy football leagues. He also coached basketball and soccer for the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 30 Melvin Ave., Catonsville.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Hillman is survived by his son, Samuel Hillman, a rising senior at Dulaney High School; two stepsons, Dan Wilson of Hunt Valley and Doug Wilson of San Mateo, Calif.; his father and stepmother, Eugene and Bernadette Hillman of Arbutus; his mother and stepfather, LaDonna Hillman and Frank Livolsi of Selbyville, Del.; a brother, Rich Hillman of Eldersburg; three sisters, Regina Hillman of Elkridge, Carol Keenan of Myersville and Helen Harper of Virginia Beach, Va.; two stepsisters, Renee Hagan of Eldersburg and Christine Duda of Pasadena; and many nieces and nephews.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun