National Toast: Drink a Beer for Michael Jackson
No, not the one-gloved one, the late beer and scotch-drinking Michael Jackson. We are talking about The Beerhunter here.
As a fitting wake for the top writer of malted beverages, on Sunday September 30, at 9PM EST (OK, the USA is still on Daylight Savings, so maybe add or subtract one, or drink a beer for both? 9 EST = 10 EDT = 7 PDT I’ll hoist one at 9PM local myself, but somehow I suspect it doesn’t matter)
He is the modern day Patron Saint of Beer, the most incredibly influential force in brewing and beer drinking since beer’s invention nearly 10,000 years ago.
And most of us wouldn’t know him if he walked up and dumped a Redhook on our collective heads.
I would, having first met him at the Great American Beer Festival in 1997, when he followed me to a sampling table on industry night and exclaimed, “That is NOT a Belgian White,” as I was explaining to the volunteers that they had their taps swapped. VINDICATED! He then proceeded mumbling his notes into his recorder. I met a celebrity, sort of!
Jackson was revered around the world for his knowledge of beer and brewing, …Jackson wrote the seminal “World Guide to Beer.”
“He brought beer out of the dark ages,” says Charles Finkel, co-owner of Seattle’s Pike Brewing.
Jackson was 65, and suffered from Parkinsons Disease, and had many praying for his liver, but his heart gave out first.
Jackson is credited with establishing beer’s first nomenclature — identifying beers by their flavors and styles. He taught people to pair beer with particular foods and dishes — something that had previously been thought possible only with wine. In bringing beer a newfound respect, Jackson helped revive a stagnant global beer industry and provided the inspiration for the North American microbrewery movement.
“In just 28 years we have gone from no local craft breweries to 20, and nationally from two to 1,400,” adds Finkel.
Jackson began his career as the son of poor immigrants (Baltic Jews into England), and despite the burden of never having gone to journalism school, he got a job as a reporter at the age of 14, and overcame not finishing school to become a highly respected expert (yes, tongue in cheek). . I have several of his books. I frequently loan them out, and have to ask for them back.
“He was simply the best beer writer we’ve ever known,” said Tim Hampson, chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers. “He told wonderful stories about beer, breweries and far away places. He told the story of beer through people, and he was humorous and erudite at the same time,” Hampson told The Associated Press.
Jackson especially loved Belgian brews. His books “The Great Beers of Belgium” and “World Guide to Beer” introduced them to many export markets, including the United States.
By identifying beers by their flavors and styles, and by pairing them with particular foods and dishes, Jackson helped give birth to a renaissance of interest in beer and breweries worldwide that began in the 1970s, including the North American microbrewery movement.
His TV documentary series, “The Beer Hunter” – which popularized his nickname – was filmed around the world and shown in 15 countries.
He worked as a beer critic for more than 30 years, writing in newspapers and gastronomic magazines, holding seminars and giving speeches, appearing on U.S. talk shows and writing books about beer and whiskeys published in 18 languages.
Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson the rock star, and that was reflected on the beer critic’s Web site. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter,” it says.
His last published article, titled “Did I Cheat Mort Subite?”, is a bit of a chilling read, but appropriate, plus there is more about Mr. Jackson at the link.
Of course after watching his last interview on youtube, the suggested next video was “Thriller.” I have sympathy for anyone sharing a famous name.
Michael Jackson really is almost single-handedly responsible for elevating beer (and scotch) drinking to a fine but more importantly accessible art.