Tommy Keegan, the founder and owner of Keegan Ales, passed away at the age of 50 on Friday, April 30.
“Late Friday afternoon Tommy was out doing what he loved most in the world – riding his ‘Cappuccino Machine’ on the trails with his best motorcycle buddy when he suffered what appears to be a heart attack,” reads a May 1 post on the Keegan Ales Facebook page. “Despite the heroic efforts of his buddy and the speedy response by the Ulster County Sheriff’s dept and EMTs, they were not able to save him.”
Keegan grew up on Long Island, but was educated across the country. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at San Francisco State University. During his time there he worked at Anchor Brewing Company and then moved on to the University of California at Davis where he earned his master’s degree in brewing. Keegan added to his education locally, earning his MBA from the State University at New Paltz last spring.
After returning to New York after grad school, Keegan worked as a brewmaster on Long Island before seizing an opportunity to strike out on his own in early 2003 when he took over the former Woodstock Brewery on St. James Street in Kingston. Keegan Ales brewed its first batch of beers on August 1, 2003, and quickly established itself as a force in both the local and national beer communities. Keegan Ales began bottling its own beer in 2004 and opened a pub at the brewery three years later. Live music, brewery tours, and a commitment to the community were all part of the Tommy Keegan way.
Keegan’s standing in the community, both as a businessman and a human being, may best be illustrated by how difficult it was for this reporter to seek quotes from those who knew him and loved him, because it seemed like everyone knew and loved him.
“Tommy Keegan was a force of nature,” said New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill. “From his exquisite brews to his unparalleled community service, Tommy was one of Kingston’s greatest assets. As we all mourn his passing, may each of us be inspired by his passion and kindness to make our hometown and his adopted hometown a better, happier place.”
“I am saddened by the loss of one of our finest Kingston residents and a friend, Tommy Keegan,” said Kingston Mayor Steve Noble on the city’s official Facebook page. “Tommy had a big heart, was a huge booster for this community, and will be greatly missed by all who knew him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”
Kingston Stockade FC Chairman Dennis Crowley, like Keegan, was not a native Kingstonian. But he was welcomed into the community, perhaps no more enthusiastically than by Keegan himself. When Stockade FC won their conference championship in 2017, “there was no question where we’d keep it… ‘behind the bar with Tommy!’”
“Tommy was one of the first people I met as we were trying to spin up Stockade FC,” wrote Crowley on the Stockade FC Facebook page. “From the moment we met he was nothing but a champion for us and willing to help in any way he could. I later learned this is how Tommy is with everyone…he was one of the kindest and most generous souls you’d ever meet.”
The Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce paid tribute to Keegan on their Facebook page.
“Tommy Keegan, forever in our hearts,” said the post. “You made Kingston and Ulster County a better place for all of us to live and work. You started a business from scratch, grew it into an industry leader and along the way received numerous awards and accolades. But more than your business success, we will never forget how you made us all feel special, genuinely cared for everyone and generously gave to others. We will miss your smile, your laughter, your kind heart. May you Rest In Peace Tommy.”
In the week since first being posted, the Keegan Ales Facebook post paying tribute to Keegan has grown to over 460 comments and over 300 shares. The loss of Tommy Keegan has been felt in the community and beyond.
“He loved Kingston but was most at peace at Fire Island where he would while away summer days with loved ones, recalling past memories and creating new ones,” reads Keegan’s obituary. “He was happiest sharing the on-going magic of the beach with his sons nearby and watching the sun set over the Great South Bay.”
Keegan is survived by his sons, Tommy and Jack; his former wife, Christy Komazec Keegan; and his long-term partner, Lisa Hantes, all of Kingston. He is also survived by his parents, Peggy and Thomas “Tom” J. Keegan, Jr., of Patchogue; his sister, Kelly Keegan Desing, her husband Brett and their children Karly and Evan also of Patchogue; and his 98-year-old grandmother, Mary Mills, “who always made him a chocolate layer cake when he visited her in Patchogue.”
Funeral and memorial arrangements are under the guidance of the Joseph V. Leahy Funeral Home, Inc. at 27 Smith Avenue in Kingston. The public is invited to a wake at the brewery on Thursday, May 13 from 4-8 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at St. Joseph’s at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 14, followed by a procession to the brewery. Masks must be worn and social distancing may limit capacity at the church.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to People’s Place, Angel Food East or the Ulster County Community College Foundation.
Beyond that, we would all do well to remember Keegan’s personal credo, which the brewery chose to include in its official announcement:
“And in his own words: Have FUN. Play Nice.”