Michael Jackson, whose writing about beer literally changed what is in the glasses of beer drinkers around the world, has died. He was 65.
Jackson, universally known as The Beer Hunter, recently revealed that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was battling other health problems. He remained active, speaking at beer and whisky events around the world and most recently addressing British beer writers before the Great British Beer Festival. He wrote about the past year in his last column for All About Beer Magazine, now available online.
Jackson began working for a local Yorkshire newspaper in 1958, when he was 16, having even earlier submitted news stories and jazz reviews. Working as both a writer and editor during the next 20 years he contributed to dozens of publications and also made documentary films. In his frequent travels he became deeply interested not only in drinking a wider range of beers, but how they were made and their origins.
Shortly after the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) rekindled interest in traditional beers in Great Britain in the 1970s, Jackson began to write more about beer.
He recalled in a 1996 interview:
“I had nothing to do with the starting of CAMRA, but I joined early on. I’d already traveled quite a bit as a journalist, and I’d tasted interesting beers in other countries. Particularly, I was very aware of the Belgian traditions and to some extent the German tradition. I thought, it’s very good that CAMRA is fighting for British tradition, but what about the tradition of these other countries? I think the motivation was almost like the motivation of some of those musicologists like Alan Lomax who went down to the Mississippi Delta in the ’50s and recorded old blues men before they died. I wanted to kind of record Belgian beer before those breweries didn’t exist anymore. I certainly didn’t see it as a career possibility, but I think all, or many, journalists have in them a sort of element of being an advocate.”
He published his first book about beer, The English Pub, in 1976, but it was his second, the World Guide to Beer (1977) that dovetailed with a quite young beer and brewing revolution in the United States. The book became a bible for both brewers and drinkers reconnecting with traditional beer.
In the 30 years since his books about beer and spirits – he was as authorative writer about Scotch as he was beer, but this is a beer publication – sold millions of copies. His television documentary called The Beer Hunter remains a cult classic almost 20 years after it was compiled.
He considered himself a journalist first, but also took equal pride in the words he put to paper.
They are only part of what he left behind and that list is endless. The tributes have just begun. It is the only topic of import today in beer blogs, on beer discussion boards and in various e-mail lists.
Expect the flow of words to continue for months.
They won’t be enough.