Menlo Park resident and Freewheel Brewing Company owner Malcolm McGinnis dies at age 57

by Linda Hubbard on September 19, 2016

Malcolm McGinnis, known most recently as head brewer and co-owner of Freewheel Brewing Company, passed away on Tuesday, September 13,  surrounded by family and friends. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

malcolm-wth-lauren-and-duncanBorn in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on April 17, 1959, Malcolm came to the U.S. in 1977 to study at Johns Hopkins University, from which he received a BS in biology. After getting a Masters in forensic health at the University of Pittsburg, he moved to California to attend UC Berkeley where he received a Masters in public health and a PhD in biochemistry.

An All-American swimmer at Hopkins and captain of the swim team his senior year, Malcolm was proud of his swimming achievements — the team won men’s NCAA Division III collegiate swimming in 1978 and 1979 — and he formed life-long friends with his fellow swimmers. Malcolm was also a triathlete and played hockey as an adult.

Malcolm’s professional career centered around research into Histocompatibility Testing. He co-founded Atria Genetics with Pete Krausa. The company developed groundbreaking genetic tests which greatly increased the accuracy of tissue typing and consequently improved the survival rates following bone marrow transplantation. His work and that of the company’s was globally admired, becoming the gold standard technology for hospitals and research centers for many years.


Shortly after selling, and then retiring from Atria, Malcolm lived with his family in Paris before being diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Returning to the States, he was successfully treated at Stanford Medicine|Cancer Institute and developed close relationships with Drs. George Fisher and Brendan Visser. He was still cancer free last fall, six years after treatment; the new cancer was diagnosed in March, 2016.

A long-time home brewer, Malcolm started formulating the idea of a local brewery that would feature cask-conditioned ale with former colleague Pete Krausa (with Malcolm below) and fellow Menlo Park residents Gary Waymire and Larry Bucka.


Freewheel Brewing Company opened in January, 2013, at Marsh Manor and soon became a popular community gathering spot. It often hosted charity fundraising events along with photography exhibits. On the night following his passing, it was at Freewheel that people gathered to remember Malcolm.

An avid fly fisherman, Malcolm enjoyed the McCloud River, in particular. He delighted in an opportunity to combine travel and fishing, and recent trips to Alaska and New Zealand (top photo) were particular highlights. He was also an ardent follower of the San Jose Sharks and a beloved coach of Menlo-Atherton High School lacrosse.

Malcolm is survived by his wife, Irene Searles; his son Duncan and daughter Lauren McGinnis; parents Arthur (Bud) and Gladys McGinnis, along with sisters Brenda Reid, Heather Screaton, and brother Cameron McGinnis, and many nieces and nephews, all residents of Canada.

A celebration of his life will occur later this fall.

Knowing that he was going to die, Malcolm thoughtfully wrote letters to both of his children: “When I think forward to what is to come in your lives I am like any parent and I dream of success. At the same time I am a little different than many parents. I don’t think of success in terms of salaries, cars, houses or most other tangible rewards. Instead I think the greatest success will be for you to be happy and to love and be loved…At the end of the day, if you can say that you have truly been able to love people in your life then you will have been a proper success.”

For those interested in memorializing Malcolm, gifts can be made in his honor to Stanford University. Gifts will support Dr. Brendan Visser and Dr. George Fisher for their continued work in cancer research and patient care. Checks should be made payable to Stanford University. Please indicate “In memory of Malcolm McGinnis” on the memo line. If you would like acknowledgments sent to the family, please indicate your desire on a separate note. Mail to: Stanford University, c/o Ruth Vera-Cedro, 3172 Porter Drive, Suite 210, Palo Alto, CA 94304. Alternatively you may call 650-725-2197.

Photos courtesy of the family; the family portrait is by John  Freeman Todd


J. Mello September 19, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Such a beautiful family and such a loss for all who knew him. Soar high, Malcolm.

rob k September 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm

It was an honor coaching alongside you Malcom! You brought a joyful and encouraging presence to the field,you’ve left a legacy of love. Thank you for the delicious fare at freewheel too, God bless

Mary Hansen September 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm

What a beautiful gift of love he has left to to those he loved.

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