It was a night that showed just how much Eastwood had impacted others’ lives, as people drank the beer he brewed and shared stories of the man, and friend, he was.
EUSTIS — Wolf Branch Brewing was packed at both locations Friday night as several dozen people gathered to raise money for the family of Matthew Eastwood, a popular Wolf Branch bartender who died tragically after attending a music festival in Boca Raton.
It was a night that showed just how much Eastwood had impacted others as people drank the beer he brewed and shared stories of the man, and friend, he was.
"When people say he was selfless, he was selfless," Eastwood’s mother, Tami Stephens said just before the beer was released at 7 p.m. "He would stop and pick old people up off the road and make sure people got home okay. If someone was a stranger or a friend, it didn’t matter."
One person who came to support the family said Eastwood was the kind of bartender who would make a newcomer feel like they’d spoken a hundred times, as though they were a regular, and always had been.
Another said "he never met a stranger," describing him as a person wholly dedicated to helping other people.
Jose Villafana Sr., father of head brewer Jose Villafana, said Eastwood and his family were their family as well, and they put the night together, releasing Eastwood’s last batch of Brew Suede Shoes — renamed "Beastwood," in his honor — so they could look out for their family in a way that honored his son’s best friend. All the proceeds from the beer and a few collection pools and tips were passed on to Stephens for funeral costs.
Jose Jr., who began his night at the Mount Dora Market location, said it was a complete coincidence that Eastwood’s beer was ready in time for the benefit, but it was perfect timing.
The beer, a peanut butter and banana brown ale initially made as a play on Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich, sold out quickly at both locations. Villafana said Eastwood loved brewing it, and that he was incredibly proud of the beer.
In Eustis, it was gone about an hour after it was opened. In Mount Dora, Villafana said, it felt like seconds.
In total, he said, the beer on its own raised about $4,000 for the family.
By all accounts, the response was incredible. At peak, around 7:30 p.m., there appeared to be between 70 and 80 people crammed into and around the Eustis location.
Paul Ryan, Daily Commercial photographer, simply said of the Mount Dora location: "...don’t tell the fire marshal."
Stephens said she was blown away by the massive draw the event had.
"I knew he was special from the day he was born," she said.
She was glad others saw it, too.