Michael Jackson

Style Points

The late Michael Jackson finds himself at the center of a lively discussion within the beer blogosphere. The question is whether Jackson invented what we call “beer styles.” Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog says that the answer is “yes and no”.

McLeod points out that in 1977, in The World Guide to Beer, Jackson defined “categories,” “styles,” and “types” of beer. As far as McLeod can determine, Jackson used the term “types” to refer to what we call “styles.” He goes on to explain:

[T]hese days the general convention is that 100% of beer brands need to fall into one style or another. There is no room left over for un-styled beer. Back then, by contrast, styles were not all the wedges on a pie graph. They were classic examples arising from groups. And groups related to types. For Jackson, at the outset, “styles” were still something of a hybrid idea somewhere between “type” and a further fifth category which he went on to call “classics”…

What is clear to McLeod is that Jackson’s work laid the groundwork for the development of modern beer styles.

Writers Pay Homage to The Beer Hunter

Today would have been the 69th birthday of Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter. Members of the beer community will remember him in many different ways, one of them being Issue Number 139 of The Brewing History Society Journal. The issue is not available online (for the time being, you’ll have to go to England and buy a paper copy), but the society has posted the introduction by Pete Brown on its website. Brown sums up Jackson’s legacy in these words:

In the end, rather than making us throw in the towel and say ‘What’s the point?’ Michael’s writing inspires us to try harder. We can never match what he did, never have anything like the same impact, but we can explore and develop the themes he created.

The contributors to Issue Number 139 are an all-star group: Jeff Evans, Martyn Cornell, Tim Webb, Zak Avery, Carolyn Smagalski, John Richards, John Keeling, and Mark Dredge.

Occupational Hazard

As the authors of Michigan Breweries, Maryanne and Paul know first-hand about the perils of writing a book about breweries. Turns out they have company: no less a writer than Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter.

In 1995 and 1996, Jackson toured the United States researching a book on American beers and where to find them. That book never made it into print. By the time Jackson had written half of it, 50 percent of the material was out of date. It was time to cut his losses.

Hat tip: Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer.

The Friday Mash (WWW Edition)

On this day in 1969, the first-ever computer-to-computer link was established on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. The first message transmitted was supposed to be the word “login,” but the system crashed after the “l” and the “o” were transmitted.

And n…

I knew that would happen.

We begin with the frugal Dick Yuengling, Jr.. He drives a 2002 Ford Taurus–which he bought used–and refuses to spend money get it washed. But his cheapness has certainly helped his brewery survive.

The Lemp home and brewery in St. Louis, said to be inhabited by ghosts of deceased family members, is on the “Ten Scariest Places in America” list. What better place for a Halloween haunted house?

Martyn Cornell gives Michael Jackson credit for inventing beer styles. Before Jackson wrote The World Guide to Beer in 1977, nobody used the phrase “beer style.”

Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, urges you to build a bar in your home. Your friends will thank you, and you’ll never have to worry about getting busted for DUI.

Craft beer earned a seat at the table at The French Laundry, a Michelin three-star restaurant in California’s wine country. Ashley Rouston, The Beer Wench, describes her once-in-a-lifetime experience there.

Finally, what do you look for in a beer glass? Lew Bryson offers his criteria, and comes to the defense of the much-maligned shaker pint.

Mr. Oliver Goes to Washington

This evening, the National Geographic Society and The Brickskeller will hold their annual beer seminar. For the fifth year running, Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver will host the event, which was begun by none other than Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter. This topic of year’s seminar is “New Beers of Scandinavia.”

In case you haven’t gotten your hands on a ticket (the event is sold out), Tammy Tuck of the Washington City Paper has a story about her interview of Oliver.

Michael Jackson Remembered

Last Friday Andy Crouch, the Beer Scribe, wrote about a recent visit to England. The highlight of the trip was Michael Jackson’s archive in Oxford. It contained 30 large file cabinets filled with everything from tasting notes to his personal research into treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

Crouch’s post got the attention of Jack Curtin, who blogs at Liquid Diet. The fact that no one had visited the archive in two years prompted a blog post containing this comment:

We really need a good Michael Jackson biography written, and the sooner the better. It was something I ever so gently approached him about once and was going to make a more serious effort to present the last time we met, about five months before his death in 2009, but never managed to get to.

Curtin’s post also links back to his fascinating interview with Jackson’s personal assistant, Owen Barstow, who portrays “The Beer Hunter” as honest, intense, and dedicated to his craft. And, like most writers, underpaid.

Michael Jackson Documentary to Debut at GABF

It’s hard to believe that more than two years have gone by since Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter, passed away. Many of us who write about beer have a Michael Jackson story to tell. (Maryanne and Paul’s involves a Jackson-tutored vertical tasting at the New Belgium Brewery when we were in Colorado for the 2003 Great American Beer Festival. And yes, we still have the festival program bearing his autograph.)

Now comes word that a documentary about The Beer Hunter will debut at this year’s GABF. It was directed by John R. Richards of The Wine Travelers series fame, and produced by his production company, Maroon Studios. The website for The Beer Hunter: The Movie describes the film:

Filmmaker J.R. Richards traveled extensively with Michael throughout the United States and Europe, filming Michael as he got the story behind the world’s greatest beer and whiskey. Through this footage and interviews with leading brewers and beer enthusiasts, we are treated to an intimate picture of Michael: his enigmatic personality, his extraordinary life, his remarkable contributions, and his secret struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

. Here’s a preview of what festival-goers are going to see:


By the way, proceeds from the film will go to the National Parkinson’s Foundation.

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