Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter, dies

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.

22 Replies to “Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter, dies”

  1. Just stumbled across this sad piece of news. I had the good fortune to meet and speak with Michael when he paid a visit to Edmonton too many years ago to participate in a tasting of Big Rock Ales, Alberta’s first “alternative” brewery. We met again at the Great American Beer Festival a few years later in Denver. A charming man, he will be greatly missed by all of us who enjoy the great variety that brewmasters in almost every corner of the world devise. And of course, we both shared a love for that other liquid that he so enjoyed and enlightened us on, whiskey. I shall certainly take time later today to toast him with a strong IPA, and then when I get home, a dram of the finest single malt in my larder. RIP Michael, to us, you will always be “the real Michael Jackson”.

  2. I am still in shock. What a terrible, terrible loss. Let’s hope the clouds of heaven are made of the foam of saisons…

    Mugs up to MJ–he was the best.

  3. A very sad loss. I saw the beer hunter television series years ago and became a fan. I have several of his books and had the pleasure of meeting him at last years GABF. I am now a member of the beer club that bears his name. So, I really do feel this loss.

    He will be missed amongst all those who love great beer (and scotch too.)

    I too hope he is finding happiness in the afterlife.

    My loved one and I now raise a Rochefort 10, in his memory.

  4. The Beer Hunter, The Great Beer Guide, Ultimate Beer, and Whiskey just a few of the videos and books that have helped shape my travels through a world of fine beers and a whiskey now and then. The Beer Hunter is a video I watch every few month, to remember the man with the job we all wish we had.

    Thank you, Michael. You have been a positive force for those of us that love good beer and a friend I could read every month.

    Bless you, I’ll raise a beer to you.

  5. He will be sorely missed. I first met him years ago and he invited my friend and I to tour the relatively new Old Dominion Brewing Co. with him. I still have the photos from that tour. Over the years I had him sign the many copies of his books that I have including a first addition to The World Guide to Beer that I received as a gift back in 1978. Michael was a very approachable guy and was easy to chat with. I have always thought of him as being the giant of our beer centered world. He was the Beatles of beer writers. I’ll treasure my old copies of the Beer Hunter series and the computer program. RIP Mr. Jackson.

  6. My wife and I have had the pleasure of attending Michael Jackson’s tastings every spring in Washington, D.C. for he past ten years or so.
    He was always witty, brilliant, outspoken, irreverent, hilarious, and a wealth of endless information one can only become by traveling around the world and gathering true knowledge by conversing with people from all walks of life. He was the ultimate reporter, writer, and author who actually LIVED his primary source material and experienced it like no one ever has or probably ever will.
    The Beer Hunter has moved on and left a void in the lives he has touched with his presence, but he left the world in a better condition by his successful education of the masses through imbibing better brews!!
    He probably had the best job in the world…and no one could do it better.

    During an audience Q & A, the question was “what do you consider the worst beer in world”? and the Beer Hunter responded by gruffly snarling “Corona, ’nuff said, next question”…

  7. A giant has fallen. As a Chef, I especially appreciate his fine writing on the art of pairing malt beverages with food. Instead of that yucky stuff made from grapes.

  8. May I raise a glass in tribute and memory of to one of the greatest beer ambassadors of this era Michael Jackson aka the Beer Hunter.

    I was fortunate to meet Michael Jackson a number of times as he was regular at a London Hotel where I was the cellar man and also fortunate to assist in some beer dinners he ran from the pub, to me he was an inspiration in beer. Previous to meeting Michael I picked up a copy one his many books on beer, the pocket guide to beer in a book shop in Olso. Having a love of beer and breweries I used this book on my travels through out Europe and it soon became the book I turned to visit for guidance instead of my Lonely Planet Guide to Europe. I regularly flick back through this book and try and decipher my drunken tasting notes along side his aliquant descriptions of a vast array of beers.

    Cheers To a Legend in Beer The Beer Hunter – Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace with a never ending pint of the finest amber nectar.

  9. After our first trip to Engand to drink real ale in ’95; we got the news that Michael Jackson would be in Richmond to taste Legend and Richbrau beers.
    There were some other beers he’d like to taste at the Taphouse. My partner Jim was as giddy as a school girl, I was just “knackered” but it was amazing just to watch his face as his tasebuds turned taste to words and added stories around it all. No one will ever mix beer, culture, and humor the way Mr. Jackson did. A pint of Pride to toast to you coz there is no Fuller’s Chiswick around here. Cheers!

  10. – though this a beer site, I know him mostly for his great writings about whiskey, but let’s just raise a whiskey or a beer (or both) for Michael Jackson – 65 years ain’t much – but I am sure they were well spent – so cheers in your favourite!

  11. I read Micheal’s ‘World Guide to Beer ‘ twenty-eight years ago and started brewing shortly thereafter. Since then I’ve progressed from bumbling home-brewer to brewing for a living. I plan to stay with it always and every step of the way will be inspired by your articles, books and Beer Hunter television series. Thank you, Micheal. I will raise my pint to you always, and always regret never having met you.

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