Michael Jackson, the beer hunter—not the pop star
Having just returned from a short jaunt to the east coast, it’s necessary for me to recognize the passing of a great figure in the world of drink: Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, died on August 30. He had been coping with Parkinson’s and was 65 years old.
Jackson was the premiere writer on beer, foremost, and on scotch whisky, as well. He had Robert Parker-like status in those industries, though his criticism didn’t wield the same life or death power that Parkers’ can in the wine industry. And his mission was slightly different. While Parker aimed from the beginning to be a consumer advocate telling the truth about which wines are good and which are bad, Jackson’s primary goal was simply to see that beer was treated as a serious entity, as deserving of attention as wine. And on this he succeeded.
I took my sophomore year off from college and traveled to Europe with friends during the spring and summer. Along with the “orange bible” (Let’s Go Europe), the only other constant was Jackson’s Beer Companion, which led my friend Michael and me to many a great brewery, where we tried bottles, which without his guidance, we never would’ve opened. As budding beer connoisseurs, we adopted his mission statement in that book as our mantra:
“No one goes into a restaurant and requests ‘a plate of food, please’. People do not simply ask for ‘a glass of wine’, without specifying, at the very least, whether they fancy red or white, dry or sweet, perhaps sparkling or still ... when their mood switches from the grape to the grain, these same discerning people folk often ask simply for ‘a beer,’ or perhaps name a brand, without thinking of its suitability for the mood or the moment ... beer is by far the more extensively consumed, but less adequately honoured. In a small way, I want to help put right that injustice.”
Jackson certainly helped to right that injustice, and his legacy will be long lived.